Flea bite hypersensitivity and flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in pets. And although the allergies usually develop when dogs are young (less than one and up to five years of age), flea allergies can begin at any age. It is the saliva from the flea that is actually believed to be the cause of the allergy or sensitivity.
The flea life cycle includes the adult flea, egg, larva, and pupa. Adult fleas do bite but cannot survive long if they are not on the dog. Once the adult flea lays its eggs on the host it will fall off, leaving the eggs to mutate through the rest of their life cycles. This cycle continues on the host pet until the flea population has been eradicated entirely. This condition described in this article can also affect both dogs and cats.
Symptoms: Most owners first notice frequent and severe itching and scratching, hair loss, and scabs on the dog's skin. Many times the hind end is affected more than the front of the body or the head, however, dogs that are being affected by an allergic reaction to the fleas can have lesions anywhere on the body. Moreover, fleas or flea dirt may or may not always be visible.
Treatment: Flea control and prevention is essential for all dogs especially those with flea bite hypersensitivity. There are numerous options on the market that kill the adult fleas for a period of time, but all should be repeated (as indicated) for continuous flea control. Insecticides often are applied as spot-on treatments - typically topical treatments that are applied to a small area, usually at the top back of the neck where the dog is unable to lick it off. Oral products are also available, some of which may be more useful and practical for you and your dog. Flea shampoos can also be beneficial for young animals or for an acute flea infestation, but continuous management with one of the long-term products is essential.
Dogs that are allergic to fleas may require steroids or antihistamines to combat their sensitivity to the bites. Likewise, if a secondary bacterial infection develops as the result of open sores, antibiotics may be prescribed. Follow-up exams are often necessary to determine how treatments are progressing.
The most important factor in managing a dog with fleas is the application of regular doses of flea treatment on a timely basis. Because it takes only one or two bites for a flea allergic animal to start itching, it is best that you be consistent with flea control products. Other factors to consider, such as frequent bathing, and whether you are using spot-on treatments or other topical products, will determine how long to wait between product applications.
(Information provided by www.petmd.com)
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