Dog Flea Allergy Symptoms

Dog flea allergy symptoms have some unique characteristics that set them apart from other canine allergies. These can help you determine the cause of your dog's allergy rather quickly, which can help him get the treatment he needs to be flea-free.

Identifying Dog Flea Allergy

Canine flea allergies resemble other canine allergies in several ways. Flea-allergic dogs scratch or lick at their skin constantly, they're often restless and they may have hot spots on their skin or hair loss. These symptoms can indicate several different canine allergies, but flea allergies have the following unique indicators:

  • Your dog may appear to have pepper sprinkled across his hindquarters
  • He may bite at the base of his tail
  • You may see a few fleas on your dog's body.

The pepper-like flakes are flea dirt, or the waste that a flea leaves behind after it feeds on your dog's blood. Symptoms of flea allergy tend to be the worst in the late summer, when flea season peaks in most parts of the country, and they do not usually occur before a dog is a year old. In severe cases of flea allergy, dogs may suffer hair loss all over their bodies, and they may have generalized itching and irritated skin.

Not Many Fleas Needed to Cause a Reaction

While you might think that a dog with a flea allergy would probably be infested with the parasites, it only takes one flea bite to create an allergic reaction in a sensitive dog. A sensitive dog is reacting to one of the 15 possible allergens contained in flea saliva. This same dog needs to be bitten only a few times during flea season to itch and scratch constantly. Flea allergies affect almost half of all dogs, and in some parts of the country, they are a problem all year long. They are the most common allergy for pet dogs.

Break the Flea's Life Cycle

Your dog and your home will need to be treated in order to relieve his flea allergy symptoms. Your veterinarian can prescribe flea-control medications that you place on your dog monthly, and in-home treatments can help kill flea eggs, which break the flea's life cycle and eliminate the chance of future generations of fleas dining on your dog.

Your dog may feel better if he receives regular baths in cool water to soothe his irritated skin. More frequent brushing or combing with a flea comb may also help relieve his symptoms, but brush carefully if your dog's skin is broken or extremely irritated.

Other in-home steps to take include vacuuming frequently (especially between and under cushions and in cracks and crevices), washing your dog's bedding weekly in hot water and rotating cushions and pillows in areas that your dog spends most of his time. The vacuuming and cushion rotation make it more difficult for flea eggs to become established and hatch.

One treatment that probably won't work is allergy shots, or desensitization. This type of treatment has been shown to be ineffective in most cases of dog flea allergy.