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Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) is an allergy that develops in both cats and dogs when they are exposed to flea saliva. FAD is a common cause of canine and feline itching when fleas feed on their blood. Flea saliva has antigens and proteins which affects extremely sensitive dogs and cats, especially those that are prone to allergic reactions. In this factsheet, you will find out how Flea Allergic Dermatitis affects both cats and dogs, along with diagnosis and treatment.
What are the Symptoms of Flea Allergic Dermatitis ?
The first signs of FAD in pets are noticeable discomfort and itching. This is often more severe in warmer weather due to the increased number of active fleas, however given the use of central heating in the UK it is now considered a year-round problem. Dogs affected by Flea Allergic Dermatitis often experience thinning of the fur near the base of their tail, while cats can remove large areas of their hair anywhere by overgrooming. They can also develop small scabs and crusts along their backs referred to as Miliary dermatitis.. This can also lead to infections, serious pain and discomfort so it is important to work out the cause quickly to treat the problem effectively.
Other common symptoms of Flea Allergic Dermatitis include:
- Biting, licking, chewing and scratching at the skin and fur
- Inflammation of the skin
- Loss of hair
- Hot spots – Red oozing lesions
- Darkened or thickened skin
How is Flea Allergic Dermatitis Diagnosed?
FAD is typically confirmed by identifying the presence of fleas or flea poo (flea dirt). As it may only take a few fleas to trigger FAD, it can be difficult for both owners and vets to determine the cause of a pet’s discomfort. Diagnosis is sometimes made using treatment trials with antiparasitic therapy. All animals in the house must be included for this to work and the environment must also be treated. Allergy testing is available and can also reveal other allergies your pet may have.
For more information on allergy testing and diagnosis in pets, please visit our Dermatology & Skin Conditions page.
How is Flea Allergic Dermatitis Treated?
Regular flea prevention is required to effectively prevent flea infestation. Remember it only takes a few fleas! Prescription flea treatments work within hours and effectively kill all adult fleas. Certain products may also target other life-stages too. If you have more than one animal living in your home, they will also need to be flea treated to prevent or avoid the spread of infection.
Flea treatments are available in tablet or spot-on forms. Spot-on’s should be administered to the back of your pet’s neck as they will not be as effective if your pet licks it off (any may also cause salivation). A dry day is preferable to avoid the weather washing the flea treatment off before it fully absorbs into your pet’s skin.
It’s important to treat your home as well. Fleas do not live on our pets, they live in our house and they merely jump on your pet for a blood meal and jump back off. Sprays are available for the home, bedding should be washed or disposed of if unable to wash and carpets and soft furnishings should be vacuumed once to wake up any pupae fleas then vacuumed again 20 minutes later to remove any fleas.
Book an appointment with your veterinarian or nurse to discuss the different treatment options available and how to take care of your pet while it is recovering from Flea Allergic Dermatitis.