What to do if your pet has a flea allergy

Flea bite hypersensitivity and flea allergic dermatitis are the most common skin diseases in pets. The saliva from the flea is believed to be the cause of the allergy or sensitivity.

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How to spot if your pet has a flea allergy

  • Frequent and severe itching and scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs on the skin
  • Affects the hind end more than the front of the body
  • Fleas or flea dirt may or may not be visible.

How are flea allergies diagnosed?

If your pet has any of the symptoms above, use a flea comb to inspect their hair for fleas or flea dirt. If you can’t find any, your vet may recommend a skin test for mites or bacterial skin diseases. Often the best way to diagnose a flea allergy is to simply treat for fleas.

How do I treat my pet’s flea allergy?

Flea control and prevention is essential for dogs and cats with flea bite hypersensitivity. There are numerous options on the market that kill adult fleas for a period of time, but all should be repeated (as indicated) for continuous flea control.

Spot-on treatments are applied to a small area, usually at the top of the back of the neck where the pet is unable to lick it off. Oral products are also available - these may be more useful and practical for you and your pet. Flea shampoos can also be beneficial for young animals or for an acute flea infestation, but continuous management with a long-term product is essential.

Cats and dogs who are allergic to fleas may require steroids or antihistamines to combat their sensitivity to the bites. If open sores get infected, they may need antibiotics. Follow-up exams are often necessary to determine how treatments are progressing.

It’s a good idea to discuss costs with your vet before you start any treatment.

How do I avoid flea allergies reoccurring?

If your pet has a flea allergy, the most effective thing you can do is give them regular doses of flea treatment. It only takes one or two bites for a flea-allergic pet to start itching, so make sure you’re consistent with their flea control products.

Other factors, such as how frequently your bathe your pet and whether you’re using spot-on treatments or creams will determine how long you should wait between doses. Your vet will discuss suitable effective flea products with you – prescription products are more effective than over the counter treatments.

If you’re thinking of adopting a pet with a flea allergy

Make sure you review the clinical history of your new pet and ask for more details on how the fleas have been treated. You’ll need to sign a disclaimer to confirm you’ve been made aware of the condition. Any pet who’s had treatment is likely to have pet insurance exclusions, so it’s worth discussing potential on-going costs with your vet.