Your cat or dog is scratching herself like crazy, but you aren't sure whether or not it could be a flea problem. The microscopic bugs are hard to see underneath your pet's hair, after all. If you believe that your cat or dog may be having issues with a flea allergy, make sure you look into the symptoms and treatments for it.
Flea allergies in dogs
A flea allergy in a dog or a cat is called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). When your dog or cat has an allergic reaction, their body's immune system is hypersensitive or is overreacting to an antigen, or a substance, that is otherwise harmless.
When fleas feed on your dog, their saliva goes into your dog's skin, and the antigens in the saliva lead your allergic dog to have an intense itch. One flea bite can make your dog feel itchy for many days at a time. Usually, dogs between the ages of two and five experience FAD. If your dog has other allergies, they're going to be much more susceptible to FAD as well.
Some of the symptoms of FAD are hair loss and scratching of the flea triangle. On your dog's body, the flea triangle includes the area from the middle of your dog's back to the base of the tail and down the rear legs.
Treatment of flea allergies in dogs
If your dog is scratching the flea triangle or losing hair there, your vet may perform intradermal allergy tests or blood tests to see if there is an allergic reaction occurring. Your veterinarian may have to give your dog allergy injections for a short period or time or for the rest of its life. Your vet may also use steroids or cortisone to treat FAD.
The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to use flea medicine. It can be oral or a topical treatment that you put on your dog every month. Make sure all areas of your home are flea-free by washing dog beds regularly and vacuuming where fleas may be hiding.
Flea allergies in cats
FAD operates the same in cats as it does in dogs; it's caused by a flea's saliva. Your cat may chew, lick or scratch the area over its rump, right near the tail. You may notice your cat losing hair in this area and developing scabs and open sores on its skin. This is dangerous, as it can cause your cat to have a bacterial infection.
Your vet may order intradermal allergy tests or blood tests in order to properly diagnose FAD. Subsequently, FAD can be treated with allergy shots, cortisone or steroids.
Just like with dogs, you should try to prevent FAD by giving your cat an oral or topical flea medicine. You can also wash your cat with specialized flea shampoo.
Flea prevention tips for dogs and cats
Along with keeping your dog and cat clean, making sure your home is flea-free and giving your pet topical or oral treatments, you should ask your vet for additional tips on preventing FAD. For example, he may recommend that you buy yard spray for your grass, limit your dog or cat's time outside and ensure flea-ridden stray cats and other animals aren't getting into your yard.
If you don't want to use too many chemicals, you can utilize natural flea remedies to rid of these pesky creatures as well. Water and dish soap can trap fleas, spreading and vacuuming up baking soda around your home and using a citrus spray on your furniture may all be effective. Make sure you ask your veterinarian before taking any action, however, to guarantee that what you're doing is safe and won't make your dog or cat's FAD worse.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.