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
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.
Fionn is a three-year-old Golden Retriever
Why Is My Dog So Itchy: Top 5 Causes Of Itching In Dogs
Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs