Does your dog have Flea Allergy Dermatitis?

chiuauauby Nicola Perry, DVM

What is Flea Allergy Dermatitis?
“Dermatitis” means inflammation of the skin, and flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is the most common inflammatory skin disorder in dogs. Although all dogs can become infested with fleas if they are not treated preventatively, not all dogs will develop FAD. This condition only arises in certain dogs that have an allergy to the flea’s saliva.

When fleas bite your dog, they inject their saliva into his skin. In dogs that are prone to FAD, this sets off an allergic reaction, causing the dog to irritate the wound even more than expected. Dermatitis results and the damage to the skin allows for bacterial invasion. Now the problem snowballs even more due to this secondary bacterial infection of the wound. Although my little old Jack Russell terrier is no longer with me, I remember all too well the perils of his FAD!

5 Important Signs Of FAD

  • Scratching
  • Chewing
  • Licking
  • Hair loss
  • Reddened skin

4 Areas Typically Affected By FAD

  • Tail
  • Rump
  • Hind limbs
  • Back of the neck

The ABC’s of FAD
A – Attack the bacteria
Your veterinarian will no doubt prescribe some form of antibacterial agent to treat the secondary bacterial infection. This is especially important because even if your dog’s flea infestation is treated effectively, if the bacterial infection goes untreated, the problem will continue to snowball as your dog further traumatizes the affected area.

B – Break the cycle of itching and scratching
In addition to any pharmaceutical products prescribed by your veterinarian, there are 3 products that can help bring about some immediate relief.

Comfy Dog Oatmeal Shampoo helps to relieve the itching associated with allergies, and is ideal for dogs with FAD. For maximum relief, follow up on this shampooing with Fur Butter, an ultra-rich, deep conditioning treatment that also contains oatmeal. And last, but certainly not least, Itchin’ For Relief can be applied to your dog’s irritated skin. This fast-acting spray can help bring some immediate relief for your itchy dog.

C – Counteract flea bites
Flea The Scene is a safe 3-in-1 spray that is ideal for use on your dog, especially when outdoors. Its ingredients effectively help to ensure that fleas and other pests really do flee the scene, acting as a great complementary product alongside any pharmaceutical products that you might use in your fight against fleas.Remember too that the flea’s life cycle involves some time spent away from the dog’s body. So don’t forget to take the necessary precautions to treat his environment in the home as well! You could also try the Dirty & Harry trio of products. These products are formulated with citronella which fleas and other insects hate. But unlike other citronella based formulas, these products actually smell good!

Although fleas are a very common type of pest that you can’t prevent your pet being exposed to, you can, however, take some easy steps to alleviate the problems that they pose to him. If your dog is unlucky enough to be prone to FAD, it is important to remember that flea-control therapy alone will not be enough to combat this problem. This allergy causes additional self-inflicted trauma that can lead to increased redness, hair loss, damaged skin and secondary bacterial infection. So if you hope to effectively manage FAD in your dog, don’t forget your ABCs!

Nicola Parry is a veterinarian at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is ACVP board-certified and her career has taken her along various paths, including general practice and academia. She enjoys teaching veterinary pathology, as well as writing for the veterinary, medical and scientific worlds. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her oddball cat, Tiddles

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