Flea allergy dermatitis is an itchy skin disease that affects both dogs and cats. It is the most common skin disease found in dogs in the United States of America. The affected animals exhibit redness in the affected area, papules or slight protrusions on the skin, pustules (where the bumps are filled with pus), crusts and hair loss in severe conditions. A majority of the dogs affected are in the age of 1 to 3 years, while it is uncommon in dogs less than 6 months in age. The disease is most prevalent in summer in most parts, although in warmer climates the disease may be found throughout the year.
The problem begins when fleas bite dogs exposing the body to allergens. In some cases hypersensitivity leaves the skin exposed to common bacteria causing infections. The resulting discomfort and itching makes a dog scratch the affected area leading it to become hyperpigmented, lichenified and devoid of hair.
Flea allergy dermatitis is diagnosed based on the age of the patient, distribution of the affected parts and observation of fleas. Vets use an intradermal skin test with flea antigen to confirm the diagnosis of flea allergy dermatitis. Most dogs would not have fleas on them as excessive grooming ensures removal. The resulting ingestion of the fleas may cause many dogs to suffer from recurring tapeworm infestations.
The treatment is based on the history and severity of the disease and may include topical treatments, medicated shampoos, antibiotics, anti-allergy medication and steroids. Some vets also suggest the use of fatty acid supplements for hastening the recovery process. These are symptomatic treatments only that would provide temporary relief to the patient. A permanent solution to the problem revolves around keeping the dog free from fleas, a task easier said than done. This task involves not only ensuring a flea-free atmosphere but also sanitizing the area of the eggs of fleas that are deposited on the bedding and other areas. Regular washing of the bedding, vacuuming areas where the pet sleeps or rests, spraying flea control products into crevices where flea or feces may drop and accumulate may help the cause. Pet owners should restrict movement of the pets in areas where wild life or feral dogs are active as fleas are most likely to be present in such spots.
A responsible pet owner cares for the dog and should not neglect when a dog seems to be scratching or grooming excessively. Maintaining good hygiene also helps as does regular visits to the vet where a thorough physical examination would result in detection of the problem.