Say ‘No’to Flea Allergy Dermatitis


Dr Arvind Sharma
Skin is the largest organ of the body and one of the most sensitive parts of a dog’s body. Not taking care of the skin can cause allergies and skin diseases. Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) is a common skin disease and can affect dogs of any age.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) is a very common disease in temperate climate. The other two common skin diseases are Canine Atopic Dermatitis (CAD) and Adverse Food Reaction (AFR).
What is Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)?
FAD happens as a result of hypersensitivity (allergy) to flea bites. Fleas are extremely common in warm and humid conditions. They can cause severe skin irritation due to frequent biting and the secondary host inflicted trauma scratching, biting and rubbing.
Flea saliva is allergenic as it contains a number of protein antigens to which the dog has been sensitized by prior exposure. This is the main cause of FAD or immediate and delayed hypersensitivity (allergic reactions) involved in this disease.
On careful examination one can also see flea feces among your pet’s hair. It looks like small dry black comma-shaped specks which leaves a red stain behind when rubbed on moistened white paper.
It is best to take your pet to the vet if you notice any of these signs and get a proper diagnosis done.
Time to eliminate flea allergy and make your pets happy and healthy

The only way to avoid the clinical signs is to eliminate the source of allergy i.e. prevent all flea bite by eliminating fleas. Even a single flea can cause terrible symptoms. And along with this, other appropriate measures to control pruritus, secondary trauma and secondary infections are required, for this your vet may use corticosteroids and antibiotics.
Understand the life cycle of fleas
Adult fleas are blood- sucking external parasites on your pet. They can leave your pet’s body but still survive in environment. Feeding flea can survive up to 100 days on their host. When well fed, a female can lay up to 50 eggs/day and up to 2000 during entire life time. Eggs are laid at night on pet and fall into the environment for development. Eggs hatch to larvae (3 stages).
Larvae are very active and after hatching they migrate down, away from light to go to cracks in the floor, planks, and deep in the piles of carpets. The third stage larvae pupate into an oval sticky cocoon. This stage is most resistant. Each cocoon contains a pre-emerged adult which can lie dormant for long period up to 3 or 4 months. In the presence of appropriate stimuli /environmental conditions, adult fleas emerge from cocoons. These stimuli can, of course, be provided by the presence of a pet.
This explains why a house where an infested pet lived, even if uninhibited for a long time, may remain an important source of flea infestation for newly arrived pet. The life cycle is typically completed in around one month. It may be accelerated to 3 weeks or less, or slowed to 6 months, depending upon environmental conditions. So point to note here is that the population of fleas is 95 percent in the environment, and only 5 percent is on the pet.
Prevention is better than cure: Control Flea Allergy with these tips
Flea control in the environment include destroying or disinfecting pet bedding by washing with hot water and dried out in sun light. Vacuuming facilitate eggs removal from the environment. Therefore, must vacuum under furniture, in all the corners and cracks.
• Insecticides are used as the adulticide to kill the fleas on the pet before eggs can be laid.
• Insect Growth Regulators also known as insect development inhibitors will prevent the eggs that are laid from hatching.
• Spraying of flea habitats in environment with chemicals.
Combination therapy using an insecticide and an insect growth regulator tremendously enhances the speed of success and the efficacy of long term prevention. As pet parents you need to be cautious and attentive. Keep an eye for these symptoms and regularly groom your pet to ensure healthy skin and coat.
(Dr Arvind Sharma is Rtd. Deputy Director from Animal Husbandry Department, Gurdaspur, Punjab)
Signs and symptoms you need to be careful about
Early signs of FAD consist of –
• Intense irritation
• Partial loss of hair
• Eruption of papules (raised, solid, circumscribed elevation of skin 1 mm to 1 cm)
• Lesions on lower back, base of the tail, and thighs