dog health

Freedom from fleas!

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) or flea bite hypersensitivity is the most common dermatologic disease of domestic dogs. It is caused by flea bites, specifically the saliva of the flea. It also predisposes the pet to development of secondary skin infections. Here’s more on this disease.


Clinical signs associated with Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) are variable and depend on frequency of fleadog health 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)

dog health

Understanding fleas for better control

The word ‘fleas’ often gives us nightmares – they can make life miserable for our furry friends. Since life cycle of fleas is complex, it is important to know about their life cycle to get rid of them.

The risks…dog health

Fleas are cosmopolitan ectoparasites with a large variety of hosts. For companion animals and humans, the cat flea Ctenocephalides felis and the dog flea Ctenocephalides canis represent the most important species worldwide. Apart from causing flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), the ability of fleas to function as vectors for disease pathogens, such as Rickettsia & Bartonella spp. bacteria, Dipylidium caninum (dog tape worm) and some viral pathogens is gaining attention. Consequently flea control with highly efficient ectoparasiticides supports prevention of the direct effects of flea infestation on the pet and reduces the risk of transmission of flea-borne diseases to both pets and humans.

Anatomy of fleas…

Fleas are small (1/16 to 1/8-inch long), agile, usually dark coloured, wingless insects with tube-like mouth-parts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts. Their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping: a flea can jump vertically up to 7 inches (18 cm) and horizontally up to 13 inches (33 cm). This is around 200 times their own body length, making them one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size), second only to the froghopper.

Flea control depends on their life cycle…

In order to understand how and why treatment options work, one must first understand the flea’s life cycle, since the various modern treatment and prevention products work on different parts of this life cycle. The flea developmental cycle can be completed in as little as 14 days or last up to 140 days, depending mainly on temperature and humidity.

Life cycle of fleas…

There are several stages to its life cycle: egg, larva or caterpillar, pupa or cocoon, and adult. The length of time it takes to complete this cycle varies depending upon the environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity and the availability of a nourishing host. Yes… the various flea stages are quite resistant to freezing temperatures. The flea’s host is a warm-blooded animal such as a dog or cat (or even humans!). The adult female flea typically lives for several weeks on the pet. During this time period, she will suck the animal’s blood two to three times and lay twenty to thirty eggs each day. She may lay several hundred eggs over her life span. These eggs fall off of the pet into the yard, bedding, carpet, and wherever else the animal spends time.

These eggs then proceed to develop where they have landed. Since they are about 1/12th the size of the adult, they can even develop in small cracks in the floor and between crevices in carpeting. The egg then hatches into larvae. These tiny worm-like larvae live among the carpet fibers, in cracks of the floor, and outside in the environment. They feed on organic matter, skin scales, and even the blood-rich adult flea faeces. Larvae can ingest tapeworm eggs which develop into adult in the adult fleas, which then becomes the carrier for tapeworm transfer to dogs if ingested.

The larvae grow, molt twice and then form a cocoon and pupate, waiting for the right time to hatch into an adult. These pupae are very resilient and are protected by their cocoon. Pupae can survive quite a long time, waiting until environmental conditions and host availability are just right. Then they emerge from their cocoons when they detect heat, vibrations and exhaled carbon dioxide, all of which indicate that a host is nearby. The newly emerged adult flea can jump onto a nearby host immediately. Under optimal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle in just fourteen days.

(Dr Mandar Deshpande, Business Manager & Dr Vishal Surve, Product Manager, Companion Animal Products, Bayer Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd).

All about fleas

All-about-fleasFleas are troublesome pests that most dogs and dog owners face sooner or later. In fact, a flea infestation is one of the most common but serious canine health problems. Fleas can torment dogs and cause a range of health problems in both dogs and humans. They can also be difficult to get rid of, however the good news is that now many products are available to make this process easier. Read on to learn about fleas, and how to prevent and treat them.

The lifecycle of the flea

Fleas are blind and flightless insects with very powerful hind legs that allow them to jump 150 times as far as their own body length. They are bloodsuckers with well-developed mouth parts that can pierce the relatively thick skin of dogs. When they feed, they secrete saliva to clot the blood. It’s the saliva that causes skin irritations and allergic reactions.

Fleas mate and the females lay eggs on a dog’s body. However, the eggs are not sticky and they can easily fall to the floor or on to bedding. The eggs become larvae after about a week, and the larvae feed on dead skin or hair. Larvae change into pupae, and the adult emerges from the pupae when conditions seem right.

Fleas can sometimes be seen as brownish-black dots moving through your dog’s hair, although they are difficult to spot.


Because fleas are difficult to spot, a flea infestation is usually diagnosed by the presence of flea dirt black flakes or specks that fleas leave behind. Flea dirt is actually flea excrement. Even if you can’t see them, if your dog has flea dirt, your dog has live fleas.

Fleas are usually found on a dog’s back, rump, stomach, and at the base of his tail. Your dog may scratch and bite himself if he has fleas, especially if the flea bites cause irritation or an allergic reaction. However, even if your dog does not scratch, the presence of fleas should still be of concern. If you suspect your dog has fleas, take him to your vet as soon as possible.

Health concerns

Flea allergy dermatitis : If your dog is allergic to fleas, one bite can be a misery to him. He may scratch and bite his own flesh in an effort to get relief from the itching. And, if he scratches enough to create an open sore, he is at risk of an infection. Flea allergy dermatitis, which describes the inflamed, itchy skin that results from a dog’s allergy to fleas, is the most common skin disease that vets treat. Even without an allergic reaction, flea bites can cause nasty skin irritations on both dogs and humans.

Tapeworms : Fleas also carry tapeworms and dogs can become infected with tapeworms if they swallow infected fleas while grooming. It’s also possible for children, if they accidentally ingest these fleas, to become infected with tapeworms.

Flea anaemia : A less common health concern is flea anaemia. Puppies are particularly at risk of flea anaemia, which results when fleas suck enough blood to cause a life-threatening condition. A dog suffering from flea anaemia will have pale gums. In advanced cases, the dog may become listless and cold. Check your dog’s gums regularly so you can recognize a change that may indicate a health problem.

Prevention and treatment

Prevention : A flea prevention programme will include keeping your dog’s bedding clean and vacuuming regularly. It’s also a good idea to use a flea comb regularly on your dog.

Talk to your veterinarian about flea prevention products, like a flea collar. An effective flea collar is one that is safe for your dog and will kill fleas, larvae and eggs.

Your vet may also recommend a monthly oral preventive medicine, which is sometimes combined with heartworm medication.

Take advantage of your vet’s expertise and the many new products available to prevent fleas. Remember, your dog is depending on your diligence to keep fleas under control.

Treatment : As mentioned, if you suspect your dog has fleas, take him to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will examine your dog and prescribe a flea control programme.

When treating a flea infestation, you will need to treat both your dog and his environment as well as any other animals in the household. Wash all dog bedding and vacuum all floors, rugs, base boards, and furniture thoroughly.

Fleas and dogs do not go together like salt and pepper. These pests can, and should, be discouraged through prevention and treatment. With the treatments available today, no dog should suffer from a flea infestation.