Dog Flea Allgery, Prevention and Treatment.

Dog Fleas are bad enough but when your dog is allergic they are twice the problem. It is very common for dogs and puppies with flea allergy to have secondary infections. Let's face it, they are just plain unhappy.

Here in Orange County the climate is ideal for fleas much of the year. Even when the climate isn't ideal fleas are able to live and multiply. Keep in mind, your house or apartment is ideal for fleas all of the time.

Fortunately, if your poor dog and or puppy are faced with (Flea Allergies) it is a pet health problem we can deal with it. The following information will help you to understand what actually happens in dog flea allergy.

My dog's skin has always been itchy and every summer he has to be treated. After a recent series of tests and I was told that he has flea allergy dermatitis. The problem is that I have never seen a flea on him. Is this diagnosis correct?

In an allergic reaction, the immune system overreacts and produces antibodies to a substance that it would normally tolerate. Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is the leading cause of itching in dogs. Adult fleas require a blood meal in order to reproduce. However, they do not usually remain on the dog except when they are feeding. When they feed, they inject a small amount of saliva into the skin. Proteins in the saliva cause an intensely itchy response to sensitive dogs.

Dogs with FAD do not have to be infested with fleas to be itchy. In fact, a single fleabite can cause itching for days.

Are only certain dogs allergic to fleas?

FAD can affect any adult dog although some breeds appear to be more prone than others are.

How is flea allergy dermatitis diagnosed?

Clinical signs often give the first clue that your pet may suffer from FAD. Itching and hair loss in the region from the middle of the back to the tail base and down the rear legs (the "flea triangle") is often associated with FAD. Intradermal allergy tests (skin tests) or specialized blood tests (IgE blood tests) can confirm flea allergy in your dog.

What does treatment involve?

Since the injection of flea saliva causes the allergic response, it is important to prevent fleas from biting your dog. Strict flea control is essential. Even though you have not seen fleas on the dog, it is important that you continue rigorous flea treatment and maintain environmental control. Outdoor dogs pose a particular challenge.

What about steroids or other drugs?

Corticosteroids, "cortisone" or "steroids" are widely used to treat FAD. They often bring about miraculous relief from the itching. However, there are significant potential side effects to steroid use. The long-term use of corticosteroids can ultimately result in more harm than good. Steroids can be safely used for short-term relief while flea control is being implemented. Combining corticosteroids with antihistamines and/or Omega fatty acid supplements is an ideal regimen for many patients. The goal is to use the lowest dosage of corticosteroids as possible, as infrequently as possible, preferably on an alternating-day basis. If your dog has developed a secondary bacterial skin infection because of the scratching, antibiotics may also be necessary.

Your veterinarian will discuss the pros and cons of the various treatments for FAD with you during the examination, and will recommend the safest and most effective treatment plan for your pet's individual needs.

Needless to say, the biggest component to dealing with flea allergy in your dog or puppy is flea control. The better this is handled, the less medication is needed. Our doctors will not just treat your dog's flea allergy, they will give you an entire plan to deal with it and prevent it. Give us a call as our AAHA Accredited pet friendly staff would be happy to assist in all your pet health concerns.

Our Pet Health Mission

Our mission at Newport Harbor Animal Hospital is: "To provide the highest quality veterinary care for our patients and the best service for our clients. Our goal in every case is a healthy pet and a happy client."

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