Canine Flea Allergy Dermatitis: Fionna’s Itchiness and Skin Lesions

Do you believe that if you don’t find fleas on your dog, they can’t have a flea problem?

You’d be wrong. If your dog is allergic, all it takes is a single flea bite to trigger flea allergy dermatitis. The flea might be long gone, and the problem lingers.

How common is this? Skin inflammation due to flea bite allergy is the top cause of allergic reactions in dogs.

How can they diagnose it when there are no fleas present?

The area most affected by flea dermatitis is the back end—from the middle of the back to the tail base and down the hind legs. It even has a term; they call it the flea triangle.

The veterinarian can also confirm with a skin allergy test or specialized blood tests. However, because the problem typically quickly responds to treatment, testing is usually not needed.

Naturally, strict flea control is the key ingredient in keeping your dog from reacting to flea bites. Immunotherapy is another long-term option. However, some dogs need immediate treatment to alleviate their misery, such as corticosteroids.

Further reading: Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Canine Flea Allergy Dermatitis: Fionna's Itchiness and Skin Lesions

Fionn’s story

Fionn was a three-year-old Golden Retriever. He was sweet and a loving companion with a zest for life as you would expect from a Golden. However, he already had his share of health challenges—severe GI upsets that repeatedly landed him in a hospital.

Frequently, GI issues like that often go hand-in-hand with susceptibility to allergies. Fionn had to be on a strict diet to keep his belly from acting out.

A new problem crops up

Everything seemed fine until Fionn’s skin decided to give him a hard time. Poor Fionn became itchy, and his skin at the base of his tail was inflamed and raw. Yet, that was not the end of it. While the lesion was localized, his whole body was itchy, his eyes reddened—he was quite miserable.

Fionn landed at the veterinary clinic yet again.

At the veterinarian

The veterinarian examined Fionn but didn’t find any evidence that would suggest that the new problem is related to Finn’s allergies.

Fionn’s veterinarian prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, which helped almost immediately. The hope was that something seasonal triggered Fionn’s reaction—pollens and dust were plentiful at that time.

However, later in the year, the angry skin returned. Was Fionn going to need long-term medication? Before jumping to that conclusion, it is essential to rule out other possibilities.

Further reading: Common Dog Misdiagnoses: Skin Issues

Canine flea allergy dermatitis

The veterinarian examined every inch of Fionn’s body and revisited history of the problem:

  • the areas that were the most inflamed was Fionn’s lower back right the the tail base
  • Fionn’s underside featured papules that resembled bumps from a mosquito bite

Fionn’s signs pointed to a flea infestation. Yet, in twenty years of owning dogs, Fionn’s dad never saw a flea. Because none of his dogs ever had a flea problem, Fionn’s dad never used flea treatment. There was no flea dirt on Fionn’s skin—no evidence of flea infestation.

However, all it takes is a single flea to trigger a reaction. How does one find one flea? The veterinarian decided to keep looking.

The flea-hunt is successful

It took a long time and lot of looking, carefully parting Fionn’s hair inch by inch. But then, there it was, on Fionn’s belly, a single flea trying to escape the attention.

Where there is one flea, there ought to be more and Fionn got his conclusive diagnosis. Fionn won’t need long-term anti-itching treatment. He will, however, need life-long flea control which includes:

  • keeping fleas off Fionn
  • getting fleas out of his home

Quickly, Fionn’s itchy problem was solved for good.

Source story:
Fionn is a three-year-old Golden Retriever

Related articles:
Why Is My Dog So Itchy: Top 5 Causes Of Itching In Dogs

Further reading:
Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsDog health advocacyFlea dermatitisItchingReal-life StoriesSkin issuesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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