Who doesn’t love Indian summer? Trick or Treating with no coat on, long walks or just being able to go outside when it’s not too cold or not to hot. What’s not to like? If you are a pet owner, there are about a million reasons not to like good weather, and they are called fleas and ticks.
By this time of year, most pet owners aren’t even thinking about fleas or ticks. When weather patterns are normal, we would have already had a frost or two that rid us of most of these pests that plague our pets during warmer weather. But this year, unfortunately for pet owners and the pets they care for, has been unusually warm and fleas and ticks are still a big problem.
Even if you treat your pets with a flea and tick preventative, they can still be bitten and suffer from allergies as a result. Pets itch when they have fleas. But your pet will be especially miserable if she happens to be allergic to the tiny pests.
Like people, pets can be allergic to mold spores, pollen, and dust mites. Animals with those allergies often struggle with fleas, too. What they are actually reacting to is the flea’s saliva, which contains all sorts of irritating things that can stir up the immune system. Cats tend to be a little less allergic in general than dogs. Certain dog breeds, such as terriers, Labradors, and golden retrievers, seem to be especially allergy prone,
Studies have shown that there are over 15 different antigens in the saliva of the flea. Each one of these is capable of causing an allergic response in a sensitive dog or cat. Despite recent advances in flea control, flea bite allergies and flea bite dermatitis still continue to be common problems.
Dogs and cats rarely become desensitized to flea bites once they develop an allergy. Dogs and cats that are not allergic to flea bites rarely develop lesions from the bites, but may bite or scratch at the flea when it bites them. Some studies have shown that up to 40 percent of dogs in any given area will test positive for flea bite allergies. Other studies show that many dogs with flea allergies also have inhalant allergies (atopy) compounding the problem. There does not appear to be a breed or sex predilection for this allergy.
Dogs that have flea allergies will bite at the base of their tail and scratch frequently. Even a few fleas can cause hours and days of intense itching. Many dogs have a characteristic loss or thinning of hair above the base of the tail. In addition, fleas or flea dirt (feces) can be found on the dog the majority of the time. The feces, or flea dirt will dissolve into a red color when moistened; this is because it is primarily digested blood. However, if the dog is bathed or treated regularly, very little evidence of fleas may be found. Severely affected dogs may itch over their entire bodies, have generalized hair loss, and red inflamed skin. Hot spots are often a result of flea bite allergies.
Flea bite allergy is characterized as a seasonal allergy that is worse during peak flea times in the summer and fall.
Diagnosis can be made by visual signs in combination with the presence of fleas or through intradermal skin testing. Intradermal skin testing is a very effective diagnostic tool for this particular allergy, although some false negative results can occur. Since many affected dogs also suffer from other allergies, many times the flea bite antigen is incorporated into a broader intradermal skin testing program.
Flea Treatment of Dogs: A number of both topical and oral preparations are available to use as flea control. It is best use an adulticide, which kills adult fleas, plus an insect growth regulator (IGR) as well. IGRs help to kill immature forms of the flea, preventing them from developing into biting adults.
Talk to your veterinarian about what flea product(s) will work for you. In choosing the product(s) your veterinarian will consider the severity of the flea allergy dermatitis, the severity of the flea infestation, how much your dog goes outside, whether there are multiple dogs in the household, how easy it is for you to treat your dog, etc.
If the problem persists and your pet seems especially distressed get to a veterinarian.