Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Flea allergy dermatitis refers to a dog's allergy to flea saliva, which is the most common dog allergy. Because fleas can live up to a year and survive in many conditions, a flea allergy, if not properly treated, can keep your dog feeling uncomfortable year-round.

Symptoms of Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Most dogs with flea allergies have few noticeable fleas on their body, so that's not a good indicator of flea allergy dermatitis. Because they are so itchy, flea-allergic dogs groom excessively, removing fleas from their body. However, one bite can cause general itchiness for up to two weeks, even if no new fleas are apparent.

Flea allergy dermatitis has the same symptoms as any other type of allergy: excessive itching and skin lesions or hair loss from over-grooming. However, flea allergy itching focuses more on the lower half of the body, near the tail, the genitals, the back and the rear feet.

Treatment of Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Reducing flea allergy symptoms involves eliminating fleas from your home permanently. To do so, give all dogs a bath with a citrus shampoo to kill fleas. A dog with flea allergy dermatitis may require a bath with soothing oatmeal shampoo or prescription shampoo weekly to cure skin problems.

Your dog may also have secondary skin infections from excessive itching that require treatment with antibiotics, antifungal medication or steroids. Unhealthy skin can attract yeast and bacteria that increases itching.

Because fleas can live for up to a year dormant in your carpet, it's important to thoroughly clean all carpets, furniture and bedding. Wash it and treat it with a flea treatment, which can be purchased at a pet store or exterminator. Vacuum frequently and remove contents from your house in an air tight bag. Flea eggs can hatch in your vacuum cleaner and reinfest your house.

Future treatment will then depend on prevention. Many types of flea preventative ranging from natural to prescription are available to repel and kill fleas. Veterinarians often recommend oral treatment in a flea allergic dog because such treatments are more reliable and effective. All dogs in the house must be treated to keep fleas from the environment.

Your dog's overall health and, thus, skin can be improved with a high-quality diet. Avoid foods with corn, wheat, meat byproducts, preservatives and other additives, all of which have no nutritional benefit to your dogs. Adding a clove of ground garlic or spoonful of brewer's yeast (teaspoon for small dogs and tablespoon for large dogs) can also help repel fleas.

Once flea allergies are treated, you may discover your dog also has food or environmental allergies that are also contributing to the itching. However, clearing up the fleas will go a long way toward making your dog more comfortable.

If your dog is excessively itching, it's important to visit your veterinarian or canine dermatologist to determine the cause. Constant itching creates an uncomfortable state for your dog that could be relieved with simple treatment in the case of flea allergy dermatitis.