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Dog Flea Allergies

Dog flea allergies (flea allergy dermatitis) are common in dogs and are caused by a hypersensitivity reaction to flea bites. What are the signs and symptoms of flea allergies? How can we treat this skin problem? Read on and find out!

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Flea allergy dermatitis, aka flea allergies, or flea bite hypersensitivity, is an extremely common allergy in dogs. It is caused by an allergic reaction to one or more substances in the saliva of fleas.

Some dogs may have an immediate reaction to flea bites, i.e. they feel itchiness immediately after the fleabite. Such dogs are said to have "Type-I hypersensitivity". Other dogs do not start feeling itchy until a few days after the bites and sometimes the fleas may already have been chewed up and killed by the dog. Such dogs are said to have a "Delayed-type hypersensitivity".

In many cases, dogs suffering from flea allergies also tend to have canine atopy.

Symptoms of Dog Flea Allergies

Fleas are usually found at the base of the tail, along the lower back, the inside of the stomach, thighs, and the groin area. Symptoms of dog flea allergies are usually worse in the summer when fleas are more abundant. It is of course possible for a dog suffering from fleabite allergies to show symptoms all year round if he lives inside the house which is infested with fleas.

A dog with flea allergy dermatitis usually will chew, bite, scratch, and lick such areas due to the intense itching caused by the fleabites. He may also scoot on the floor. Very often, the incessant biting and scratching will result in skin lesions which are usually small red bumps (papules) that may be crusted. Hair will also fall out and the skin will become dry and scaly.

If left untreated, the skin will eventually become thick and darkly pigmented.

Diagnosis of Dog Flea Allergies

Dogs with flea allergy dermatitis may or may not have fleas on their bodies. However, by standing your dog over a sheet of white paper and brushing him, you may see black and white grain-like materials dropping onto the paper. These are flea eggs and excrement.

Flea excrement is black and grain-like. To test whether the black grain-like materials are flea excrement or just dirt, put the materials on a white piece of paper and add a drop of water to them. Nothing changes if the materials are just ordinary dirt. However, flea excrement will turn red in a minute or so because it contains dried blood and the drop of water will turn it red.

If fleas or flea excrement cannot be found on the dog's body but the dog shows signs of flea allergies, an intradermal skin test is the next tool for diagnosis.

Treatment of Dog Flea Allergies

The best way to treat flea allergy dermatitis in dogs is of course elimination of fleas on the dog and control of fleas in the living environment.

To relieve itchiness and irritation caused by fleabites, conventional medications used include antihistamines such as Benadryl and corticosteroids. However, since corticosteroids cause serious side effects, they should only be used for short periods of time, preferably as a last resort. There are other remedies for dog allergies such as the use of herbs and supplements. These are milder and safer and do not cause side effects. Consider using them to treat your dog's allergies.

In addition, switching to an all-natural, high-quality diet with supplements such as fatty acids is recommended.
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