Flea allergy dermatitis


What is flea allergy dermatitis?

Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is one of the most common skin diseases of both dogs and cats. FAD is an allergic reaction to flea saliva, which is injected into the skin when a flea bites. In animals with FAD, even a single flea bite can cause severe itchiness.

What are the signs of flea allergy dermatitis?

Most animals with FAD will be most itchy around the tail base and back, but can be itchy anywhere on the body. FAD is most common in summer but can occur at any time of year. Pets suffering from FAD will bite, chew and lick their skin continually. This can lead to many secondary problems, such as hair loss, skin pigmentation, sores and skin infections.

How can I prevent flea allergy dermatitis?

If your pet has never shown signs of FAD before, the best option is to use a product such as Sentinel Spectrum (a chewable tablet) monthly. This breaks the flea life cycle but does not actually kill fleas. The best way to prevent FAD is to allow low level exposure to flea saliva over time – Sentinel achieves this aim.

How is flea allergy dermatitis treated?

Initially we will prescribe an 'anti-itch' medication, but this is only a short-term solution. Long-term, the focus will be on preventing exposure to fleas.

If your pet does suffer from FAD, you will need a product that kills adult fleas. Frontline Plus (a spot-on) and Advocate (a spot-on) are good options, but sometimes we do see 'breakthrough' with these products. If this is the case, you should change to Comfortis (a chewable tablet), which provides highly reliable protection for a full month.

You will need to make sure that all animals in your household are on flea prevention products, and you should also vacuum the house and wash all your pet's bedding to get rid of as many flea eggs as possible. You might also consider 'flea-bombing' the house, or at least the rooms where your pets spend the most time.

Do I need to control fleas if my pet does not have flea allergy dermatitis?

Yes. High flea burdens are a problem even for pets that are not allergic, because each time a flea bites, it sucks a small amount of blood. If an animal suffers enough flea bites, it will become anaemic (have a low red blood cell count). Not only that, but fleas are easily transmissible from animal to animal, so if your pet is not protected against fleas any other animals with which your pet comes into contact will be at risk of developing FAD or anaemia.