What is Flea Bite Dermatitis?
The most common allergy seen in dogs and cats is caused by fleas. Flea-bite dermatitis is a skin condition caused by an allergic reaction to the flea’s saliva, which contains up to 15 allergens! And the worst part is that it only takes one bite from one flea to set off an allergic reaction that will leave your pet feeling itchy and uncomfortable for anywhere between a couple of hours to many days.
In many cases, pet owners are not even aware that their pet has fleas because they are such difficult parasites to control. Also remember that allergic reactions can take between 3 and 7 days to appear after exposure to the allergen. Symptoms to watch out for are excessive scratching and biting at the skin or fur.
Your pet’s coat may also thin, especially in the area above the tail, and they may even experience a generalized hair loss all over their body. Other symptoms include red, inflamed skin, rashes, thickening of the skin and / or small bumps on the skin.
What Causes Flea Bite Dermatitis?
Just like mosquitoes, fleas bite their hosts and suck the blood for nutrition and when they do, they leave small traces of saliva under the skin. Sensitivity to any one of the 15 allergens present in flea saliva can cause an allergic reaction in a sensitive pet. Studies have shown that up to 40% of dogs have flea bite allergies, and it is something that can develop at any age.
Diagnosing Flea Bite Dermatitis
Diagnosing flea-bite dermatitis will entail a thorough examination by your pet’s veterinarian and a detailed description of the symptoms and when they occur. An allergy test may also help to determine if your pet is allergic to any other allergens. The veterinarian may also perform some standard blood tests and skin scrapings to rule out other conditions such as fungal, yeast or bacterial infections.
Help for Flea Bite Dermatitis
Obviously the first course of treatment is to get rid of the fleas, but this is easier said than done. One female flea can lay over 2000 eggs in her life span which means infestation can occur rapidly. It is therefore essential to regularly treat your pets for fleas, as well as treating their immediate environments. Once your pet is on a good flea control program, it is not uncommon for them to still get the occasional flea bite which can then be treated.
The conventional methods of treating flea-bite dermatitis usually include using antihistamines, or in severe cases oral steroids which can be used to help manage the itching. If a hot spot develops as a result of the dermatitis, then oral antibiotics may be prescribed. Some of these pharmaceutical medications may have unwanted side-effects so be sure to ask your veterinarian of any known risks and explore alternatives.
Many pet owners are turning to natural ingredients to treat their pets in order to avoid the side effects of many prescription medications. Luckily there are a number of gentle and soothing herbal ingredients that can help to soothe your pet’s skin and support overall skin health.
German Chamomile is one such herb that has been used for centuries to soothe and cleanse the skin. Other herbs such as Cleavers, Marigold and Witch hazel have also shown to be beneficial to skin health and have strong soothing and restorative properties.