Allergies – Flea

Although our pets can have allergic reactions to numerous stimuli, flea allergies occur the most in both felines and canines. Ctenocephalides canis, better known as the dog flea, is one of the most common. Cat fleas, or Ctenocephalides felis, are also quite common. This flea is not picky and will live on cats, dogs, and numerous other animals.

A flea starts out as an egg, hatches into a larva, pupates and forms a cocoon around it, and then finally emerges as an adult flea. The fleas then attach themselves to pets, feast on their blood, and reproduce. When the flea bites, they release saliva containing phosphorus, aromatic compounds, and amino acids, which cause hypersensitive reactions of the skin. Fleas commonly feast on the belly and backside of pets which is the location of most flea allergy dermatitis or eczema-like, irritated skin.

Flea allergy dermatitis can affect pets with an un-established immune system. Often, infants and young pets suffer from this condition. It causes the epidermis or top layer of skin to become inflamed, resulting in red, itchy bumps on the skin. It may also cause hair loss, a decreased appetite, weight loss, and anemia. Owners who suspect their pet has flea allergy dermatitis should take them to the veterinarian.

The veterinarian will conduct a test called a flea comb test to detect fleas. The process simply involves combing the pet with a fleaspecially made comb. The combings will be placed on a white paper towel and covered with hydrogen peroxide. In the case of a flea infestation, the paper towel will appear red. The red results from the breakdown of flea feces mixed with hydrogen peroxide. This test is very important to differentiate flea allergy dermatitis from other common skin conditions, such as mange.

Flea allergy dermatitis will be treated with antihistamines or steroids to reduce the inflammation. Topical shampoos, therapeutic ointments, and topical flea treatments are also other treatment options. Owners can consider many products to control fleas on their pets, including Frontline, Revolution, K9 Advantix, Advantage, Trifexis, Sentinel, Comfortis, and Capstar.