Flea Allergy Dermatitis Symptoms in Cats

Flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most common allergies cats suffer. It's caused by an allergy to the saliva of fleas. Cats with flea allergy dermatitis don't usually have a lot of fleas on their bodies, because they groom themselves so excessively. However, cats with flea allergy dermatitis can experience a tremendous amount of itching after only a few flea bites.

Symptoms of Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Cats with flea allergy dermatitis may not have many fleas on their bodies, but they will exhibit skin symptoms including:

  • Hot spots on the skin of the hips or face
  • Severe itchiness
  • Oozing lesions

Cats with flea allergy dermatitis may scratch, lick and bite themselves so hard and so often that they can seriously damage their own skin. They chew and bite most often at the back legs, tail and hindquarters. They may sometimes chew at the front legs as well.

Diagnosing Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea allergy dermatitis in cats can be difficult to diagnose, because so many other conditions produce similar symptoms. Conditions that can cause similar skin symptoms include:

Flea allergy dermatitis can lead to secondary medical problems including skin infections and hot spots. Hot spots, known to vets as acute moist dermatitis, occur when your cat causes severe damage to his own skin through biting and chewing.

Your vet will need a complete medical history and physical exam in order to diagnose flea allergy dermatitis. Blood tests, skin scrapings, allergy and other tests may be needed to help narrow down the cause of your cat's skin symptoms. Your vet may check a stool sample for tapeworms as evidence of flea infestation.

Treating Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Cats

The best way to prevent flea allergy dermatitis is to prevent flea bites. Use an effective flea control product during the flea season. Spot On flea repellents are generally considered the most effective in preventing flea bites and treating flea allergy dermatitis. You can use the flea product for one month before the flea season begins and for one month after it ends. 

Your cat may need antibiotics and antifungal drugs to treat any secondary infections of the skin that have occurred as a result of flea allergy dermatitis. If your cat is suffering from severe itching symptoms, a round of steroid medications can help relieve the itching while he undergoes treatment for his dermatitis.

If your cat's skin symptoms return after treatment, see your vet right away. Getting prompt treatment for flea allergy dermatitis skin symptoms can help prevent secondary infection.

Preventing Flea Allergy Dermatitis

You can prevent flea allergy dermatitis by keeping fleas off your cat. Use a flea product throughout the flea season, beginning use one month before the start of the flea season and continuing use for one month after the flea season. Remove fleas, eggs and larvae from your cat's environment by vacuuming and cleaning carpets regularly. Keep upholstery and curtains clean as well, since fleas can lay their eggs in these locations.