For many pet owners, this is also the time when our cats and dogs can not stop scratching! Before going changing your pet’s diet or exercising for expensive supplements, you need to consider when the irritation began. These summer months are a parasite’s paradise! The mid to late summer months will be the height of flea season which may be an itchy scratchy nightmare for the cats and dogs with a flea allergy. Gremlin went through this, so I’ve been there! Here’s how to tell if that’s what’s happening.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs
The allergy is not to the fleas themselves, but their spit. In other words, the itchy reaction can happen after just one bite and can persist long after the flea is gone.
If you see your dog scratching, licking, and chewing at the base of their tail, haunches, under their legs, groin, and belly, they might be experiencing a flea allergy. The chewing can cause dry scaly patches of skin and if left untreated can result in open sores that are prone to infection. Some dogs will even have red bumps in the affected areas.
Just like dogs, many cats can be allergic to flea saliva. Cats have a similar scratching, licking, and chewing pattern as dogs and can develop a rash of small round bumps, called feline army dermatitis (because of their resemblance to millet seeds) over their back, neck, and face.
In Spite of a Monthly Preventative
You might think that your pet’s protected against fleas because of your strict monthly preventative program, but not every preventative is created equally. There are many preventatives both over the counter and prescription. Many over the counter approaches take days and some even need the fleas to bite before murdering them and since this is an allergy to their spit, this just will not do.
Prescription methods are your best bet, but even there you will realize that some are better than others.Some work quicker than others. For instance, based on Elanco, the manufacturers of Comfortis, Comfortis starts killing fleas within 30 minutes of government with an effective speed of 98-100% within four hours. Nexgard, the most popular preventative now, needs 24 hours to kill 100% of fleas.
Apart from speed, you and your veterinarian should think about how the preventative targets fleas. The active ingredient in Comfortis (and one of them in Trifexis, also an Elanco brand) is Spinosad. This medication attacks the nervous system of the flea. Nexgard uses the ingredient, afoxolaner, which over-stimulates the nervous system of fleas. Sentinel, a brand Gremlin knows and loves, uses lufenuron, which acts as a development inhibitor, killing fleas in the egg and larvae stage. Sentinel’s belief is that if there are no baby fleas growing up to be blood-sucking adult fleas, there will not be a flea issue.
When you discuss treatment with your veterinarian, ask about a combination of remedies. In New Orleans, where the flea population is radically out of control, our veterinarian (who I also worked for) recommended in her latest blog a Comfortis/Sentinel combo. This combination kills adult fleas on your dog and controls any larvae they pick up out and about. I strongly recommend asking your vet about this as soon as you can if your dog is fighting this summer.
Treating Your Home
You are not done yet. Fleas are tiny and their eggs are even tinier. You absolutely need to treat your home and yard if you are going to have an influence on your personal flea population.
For this, I urge Fleabusters. It’s far easier than you may think to use and not at all toxic to your family. Fleabusters is a borate powder that does not poison or attack anything. And it does so quite efficiently.
The application process is rather easy. It’s a really fine powder which you spread around your floors and yard (especially damp and shady areas). You will need to use a broom or foxtail brush to spread it around your flooring surfaces. You can vacuum and sweep normally since it has a static property that helps it cling to any surface. After using this powder, you’ll notice more than your flea population diminishing! This stuff works on most household pests! We are big fans!
A Tricky Issue
Flea allergy dermatitis can be a tricky situation to deal with. Many times there won’t be signs of fleas due to the preventative you’re giving, in which case you might be given a special diet or supplement.
As an example, once the biting and itching didn’t resolve itself after medications and supplements it was recommended to us that Gremlin begin a drastic and lifelong steroid program! If your dog or cat is over a year old and has been fine with their diet seemingly until now, then you should bring up what you’ve read here!
Consider how few variables have changed in your dog’s life and make that a stage. If you do end up with a new diet or supplement which does not do the trick, consider a second opinion.