Clinical signs associated with Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) are variable and depend on frequency of flea exposure, duration of disease, presence of secondary or other concurrent skin disease, degree of hypersensitivity, and effects of previous or current treatment.
- In dogs, the pruritus associated with FAD can be intense and may manifest over the entire body.
- Classic clinical signs are papulocrustous lesions distributed on the lower back, tailhead, and posterior and inner thighs. Dogs may be particularly sensitive in the flanks, caudal and medial thighs, ventral abdomen, lower back, neck and ears.
- Affected dogs are likely to be restless and uncomfortable, spending much time scratching, licking, rubbing, chewing, and even nibbling at the skin.
- Hair may be stained brown from the licking and is often broken off.
- Common secondary lesions include areas of alopecia, erythema, hyperpigmented skin, scaling, papules and broken papules covered with reddish brown crusts. The rump and tailhead areas are typically the first, most evident, areas affected.
- As FAD progresses and becomes chronic, the areas become alopecic, lichenified, and hyperpigmented and the dog develops secondary bacterial and yeast infections.
- In extremely hypersensitive dogs, extensive areas of alopecia, erythema, and self-trauma are evident. Traumatic moist dermatitis (hot spots) can also occur.
- Flea-associated alopecia: As the disease becomes chronic, the dog may develop generalised alopecia, severe seborrhea, hyperkeratosis and hyperpigmentation.
- Localisation of skin alterations can also be seen.
FAD is a common cause of itchiness and scratching in dogs, but other medical problems can lead to similar symptoms. Other disorders that must be excluded are: food allergy, atopy, trauma or other cause of local skin irritation, Sarcoptic mange, Cheyletiellosis (a mite infestation),
Otitis externa (ear infection), primary keratinization defects, etc.
Treatment of FAD involves three phases:
- Prevention of flea bites: The most important part of protection is preventing flea bites with aggressive flea control on the dog and in the environment.
- Treatment of secondary skin infections: Antibiotics and antifungal drugs may be necessary to treat secondary skin infections triggered by the flea allergy.
- Preventative care: Use effective safe flea control product on the dog on a regular basis beginning one month before the flea season starts and continuing up until one month after the flea season ends. Besides, frequent grooming of the dog with a ‘flea comb’ may be helpful to remove fleas. Out of various flea control products, the Propoxur & Imidacloprid containing products are considered to be most safe and effective.
Attempting to control fleas on our dogs is a multi-step process. There is no successful ectoparasites’ control programme that does not involve treating the environment. To have a successful fleas control programme, one must follow steps to remove fleas from the indoor and the outdoor environment. For the same, usage of insecticidal product as water spray or mopping is suggestive in the pets’ surroundings.
(Dr Mandar Deshpande (Business Manager) & Dr Vishal Surve (Product Manager), Companion Animal Products, Bayer Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd)