Dog Allergy

Dog Flea Allergy – Everything You Need To Know


Michael Tarran


Having a dog or multiple dogs comes with big responsibilities. In essence, you have to take care of a living being and their welfare.  Sometimes, taking care of your pup is a piece of cake and all about enjoyment, right? Well, everyone knows that it’s not always like that, since there are some less pleasant ...

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Having a dog or multiple dogs comes with big responsibilities. In essence, you have to take care of a living being and their welfare. 

Sometimes, taking care of your pup is a piece of cake and all about enjoyment, right? Well, everyone knows that it’s not always like that, since there are some less pleasant things to take care of regarding our dog.

Those things would have to be your dog getting fleas. It’s not exactly dangerous, but fleas can be incredibly resilient and difficult to get rid of. What’s even worse, your dog can get dog flea allergy.

The name of this medical condition may not ring a bell, but believe us, it’s very real. So, what is Dog Flea Allergy and how can you diagnose it?

Continue reading to find out!

What Is Dog Flea Allergy?

Dog flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD for short, is a hypersensitivity to flea bites in domestic dogs. Also, flea allergy dermatitis in dogs is the most common dermatological disease in dogs all over the USA.

Dog flea allergy is a disease that occurs during the summer usually, but in the warmer areas, a flea infestation can happen at any time of the year.

So, not all dogs get dog flea allergy dermatitis, but some do. Fleas start feeding on the host – your dog, in a matter of minutes after contact. 

When the fleas start feeding on your dog, they inject their saliva into the dog’s skin. The fleas’ saliva contains peptides, amino acids, and enzymes, as well as a histamine-like compound.

That histamine-like compound can trigger a release from your pet’s immune system and cause an inflammatory reaction. Some dogs are hypersensitive to that compound, and they can have a strong reaction to it in just 15 minutes. Other dogs, however, can have a delayed reaction to the bite in a day or two.

Moreover, dogs that are continuously exposed to flea bites develop low levels of circulating antibodies.

Small wiener puppy with flea allergy

These antibodies protect dogs from getting skin reactions or getting mild reactions to flea bites later in life. Also, this can indicate that tolerance to flea bites develops naturally in dogs that are exposed to flea bites continuously.

Signs Of Dog Flea Allergy & Diagnosis

French Bulldog with wet eyes

Noticing the fleas immediately is not easy, and people usually notice them only after a couple of days. However, noticing the allergic reaction is fairly easy, and just one flea bite can cause dermatitis.

The easiest way to tell if your dog contracted fleas on his playtime in the park is to look if he’s chewing and biting at his rear by his tail. Also, when the dog feels the flea bites, he will jump up from a resting position.

If you see that your dog is feeling itchy, and he has hair loss on the middle of his back to his tail, he could have flea allergy dermatitis. Over time, the hair loss can extend to his entire body, all the way to the head and neck if the dermatitis is left untreated.

You may not be able to tell that your dog has contracted fleas, but the allergic reaction is much easier to spot. Because of the flea bite, your pup will scratch, lick, and chew on his skin, therefore breaking the skin barrier. That will create open sores and scabs, and with the additional chewing and licking, that can even lead to yeast and bacterial infections on the skin.

If you are worried that your dog could have flea allergy dermatitis, you should always take him to the vet. When your dog is very, very itchy, it’s important to get the true diagnosis because there are so many different reasons why dogs get itchy.

The vet will thoroughly examine your pooch, and they will start by looking for evidence of fleas. They will look for live fleas or flea dirt (flea excrement), and they might use a fine-tooth comb for this action.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been able to spot the fleas at home – it can be rather challenging to see them for the first few days. Luckily, the veterinarian is a trained professional that will have no issues spotting the fleas.

The vet might opt for some additional testing to figure out whether the flea bite has caused the allergic reaction. They will take some blood for tests and perform some skin tests for flea allergies, to rule out any other type of dog allergies.

The skin tests are called intradermal tests, and they are done by a veterinary dermatologist. After testing, if there is a reaction to the test, a wheal (a bump on the skin’s surface), will usually appear within 15 to 20 minutes.

Also, the vet may opt for a blood test, since they are done in most general veterinary practices. The blood tests will test the IgE against the salivary antigens found in fleas.

Do note that dogs can be allergic to lots of things, even food. You could be unaware of how exposed your dog is to various allergens each day. 

This is precisely the reason why 5Strands created affordable allergy testing at home. 

You can save your pup from any discomfort or inflammation with the 5Strands standard pet package – which actually works as advertised!

In just 7 days, you will get the results whether your pup is allergic to anything, even environmental allergies!

Treatments For Dog Flea Allergy

A small dog at a vet

The number-one step in treating dog flea allergy dermatitis is killing all the leas. Killing the fleas will stop the exposure to their saliva and that will help soothe the allergic reaction. 

Getting rid of fleas means getting rid of them from other dogs or cats in the house. Also, you will need to get rid of the fleas in the environment, too.

Oral Medications

Oral flea medications work fast and they will provide the quickest solution to your problems. The oral medication should help your dog get quick relief.

Your best bet is using a product with Spinosad to get the dog the relief he needs, as these products work in a matter of 30 minutes to an hour. Then, you can follow up the treatment with a product that gives your dog relief from fleas for the next one to three months.

Once you kill off the fleas with the product, it’s not the worst idea to wash the dog to get all the bugs and the flea dirt out of the fur coat. You can consult your vet on shampoos that could be useful in soothing the pet’s skin.

If not, you can simply get a dog shampoo that contains pramoxine and oatmeal, as these ingredients will help soothe the skin and offer relief from scratching. Just be wary of the dog allergy to shampoo, though.

Skin Treatments

Getting rid of fleas is just the first step in treating flea allergy dermatitis. If your dog got lucky and got a mild allergy, you can treat the poor pooch with Benadryl. Benadryl will help with the itch and stop the allergic reaction.

Of course, be wary about the dosage – the dog should take 1mg of Benadryl per pound of weight. If your dog weighs 50 pounds, you should give him two 25mg tablets, since Benadryl usually comes in 25mg tablets. Give the pup the tablets once every 8 to 12 hours.

However, do note that most dogs need more care when they get flea allergy dermatitis. Talk to your vet – they might prescribe the dog with steroids or other allergy meds like Cytopoint.

How To Prevent Dog Flea Allergy?

Dog laying on the floor

Prevention is the key to keeping your pup healthy. Of course, you cannot protect him from everything, but you can do your best to keep him safe from fleas, especially if he can develop dog flea allergy dermatitis.

Can dogs be allergic to cats? Read my article to find out!

Clean The House & The Yard

Treating the dog and other pets in the household and not the environment is doing the bare minimum. You need to clean up the house thoroughly – vacuum and clean. 

Vacuum all the carpets, beds, and sofas your dog frequents. Also, wash the dog’s blankets and their bedding with hot, soapy water to get rid of fleas.

However, that’s not it – you need to take care of your yard as well. Use premise sprays to get rid of the fleas inside and outside – use the spray in the shaded areas around the house or the dog’s favorite area for naps.

Use Monthly Flea & Tick Preventative Meds

Since the key to success is prevention, there are many preventative medicines on the market. Talk to your vet to find out what is the best one for your dog. 

The oral preventative isoxazoline meds have been the most effective of them all in recent years.

Talk to your vet first though, to rule out any contraindications like seizures before you give the meds to your dog.

Dog Flea Allergy – Bottom line

Small dog getting examined by vet

To conclude, dog flea allergy dermatitis is a medical condition that can unexpectedly hit your dog. Dogs can be allergic to various things, from environmental to food allergens, so it’s no surprise that they can be allergic to fleas, too.

Keeping the fleas at bay spares your pet from endless discomfort and potential infections. Do remember that getting rid of fleas can be incredibly annoying and expensive. So, it’s your best bet to prevent them from coming to your dog’s fur coat in the first place!

Similar reading: 

Environmental allergies in dogs

Dog allergy to shampoo

Dog allergies list

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michael tarran

Article by:

Michael Tarran

A devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time assistant pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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