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How to treat and prevent flea allergy dermatitis in dogs

Got It!Many people in the northeast have had a rough time with fleas this summer. A combination of a mild winter in 2012 and a humid summer have created the perfect storm for these tough bugs to thrive. The battle against flea infestations doesn’t end with the cooler weather of fall. In many areas, even here in the northeast, fleas are active until the dead of winter and can even continue living in your home during the cold winter months. Don’t let your guard down, the battle against fleas is never over.

Fiproguard MaxI use a topical “spot on” flea preventative on my dogs every month. If you want to get specific about it, I use Sentry Fiproguard Max (it’s a less-expensive generic brand of Frontline Plus). However, these preventative measures weren’t enough for me this year.

In July we took a family vacation, but had to send the dogs on their own vacation at the pet sitter’s for a week. When we returned home, we knew there was a major issue with all the dogs, but especially my border collie mix, Sara. Everyone was extremely itchy and Sara’s skin was bright red and hot to the touch. It didn’t take too long to see the little black bugs crawling over her skin or the flakes of dried blood (commonly referred to as “flea dirt”). It was only a few days early for their flea treatment, so I gave them their monthly application and a good comb through with a flea comb. A few days later I gave everyone a medicated anti-itch bath.

A Little ItchyThe war had begun. It was easy for me to see within a few days that Sara wasn’t going to get over this reaction as quickly as the other two dogs (they rebounded quickly). She was still bright red and itchy. She was downright miserable and even started developing a hot spot at the base of her tail. Off to the vet we went, I just could stand seeing her so unhappy.

I learned that Sara has a very common condition known as flea allergy dermatitis. Essentially she is allergic to flea saliva. An amazing 61% of dogs will develop this allergy! She was given a steroid shot to ease the itch and antibiotics to help heal the hotspot, but my vet was very informative about this condition and let me in on his secret to ridding your home of fleas.

First, preventing a flea infestation in the first place is your first defense against flea allergy dermatitis! Give your preferred monthly flea treatment to your pets so that you aren’t battling an uphill battle once an infestation does occur. However, most treatments aren’t 100% effective and an allergic reaction can be set off by just one flea bite! In some dogs, you’re unable to find even one flea on the animal, but they’ve clearly had an allergic reaction.

Ok, now my vet’s secret remedy to ridding your home and pets of fleas in 3 months. Yes, three months; those pesky bugs are tough to beat!

  1. Give your monthly topical treatment (we recommend Frontline or Advantage II)
  2. Vacuum your home several times a week
  3. (Optional, but effective) Sprinkle diatomaceous earth, available at home and garden stores, on your carpets and furniture and vacuum it off
  4. Wash all bedding and toys that your pet sleeps on or near
  5. Spray bedding regularly with a natural flea spray
  6. 15 days after the topic treatment, consider a prescription only flea killer like Trifexis. You’ll need to get this from your vet.
  7. Repeat all steps for at least 3 months (long enough to ensure any eggs that may be hiding have hatched and the fleas have been eradicated)

Itchy and scratchyIf your dog is having a flea reaction, you can try to manage minor irritations at home with a combination of medicated or oatmeal baths, Benadryl (check with your vet for dosage), and supplements for skin. A severe reaction will need treated by your vet, as steroids and anti-inflammatories will likely be needed for prompt itch relief. Remember, seeing your vet will get your pet the fastest relief, but prevention of fleas is the key to preventing a visit. No-one likes to be itchy – it’s miserable! Good luck in your battle against the fleas!


One comment

  1. avatar

    Excellent Article. Thanks for Sharing.

About hcrotsley

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Currently an owner of 3 dogs and 2 cats, I’ve gained a plethora of pet-related experience over the years. I strive to provide the best home I can for my little terrors, and you’ll read all about our trials and tribulations as I continue down the rewarding yet rocky road of pet parenthood.
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