Flea bites hurt, no doubt about it, but some pets have a hypersensitivity to flea bites and this leads to the condition known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis. It’s called an allergy because that’s exactly what it is - a pet’s nervous system overreacting to the bite. Today I will discuss exactly how the dermatitis develops, how to tell if your pet has it, and if it does, how to best treat it as quickly as possible. We’ll also talk about developing a flea control plan that gets rid of the problem at its core.
Warning: I do include one picture of an animal with flea allergy dermatitis. It is not graphic, but might be uncomfortable to see.
How It Happens
The reason why flea bites itch is because they have a special type of saliva that allows them to draw blood for feeding. It’s much like a mosquito in the way the chemicals work. In any case, some pets can start to develop reactions to the saliva from fleas. This tends to happen at a much younger age for the pet - from around one to four years old. So if you have a lot of fleas in your area and your pet is on the younger side, be especially vigilant when it comes to flea control.
How To Tell Your Pet Has A Flea Allergy
Some of the most common symptoms of flea allergies are hair loss (where the pet has been scratching a lot) and skin rashes. These make some sense - the pet is trying to soothe the itching due to it being very sensitive to the bite. Some other common shows include redness of the skin, bumps where the bites were, scabs, and pus filled bumps.
In dogs, you will also see skin rashes all along their body and neck. In cats, you will see hair loss on their head, raised red bumps on their skin, and rashes of bumps all along their body.
As you can see, some of these can get pretty serious. So you will want to treat it! The question is how.
How To Help Your Pet
When it comes to flea allergies, the best thing you can do is get rid of the source: the fleas. However, it can become a bit more complicated than you might think. This is because fleas have a life cycle that means you have to be focusing on killing not just the adults doing the biting, but the maggots and cocoons that are going to grow into adults. For ease of use, I’ll divide this into two sections: taking care of the fleas, and then taking care of the actual skin issues that developed.
If you want to get relief for your pet (and for yourself), you need to start by eliminating the fleas that are causing it to itch and scratch itself so much. For this, I recommend purchasing nitenpyram. Nitenpyram starts working in as little as 30 minutes, and inhibits a flea’s nervous system, causing it to suffocate and die. You really can’t do better than this in immediate, short term relief. There are two types of nitenpyram: 12mg and 57mg. You’ll use 12mg for pets from 2 to 25 pounds. Use 57mg for pets over 25 pounds. For flea control, I recommend these items:
- Clean out the house. Start by laundering your pet’s bedding, blankets, and anywhere else that your pets tend to hang out during the day - like your bed. This will kill off any fleas and any eggs or larvae living there.
- Buy a Dehumidifier. Fleas have to have a certain amount of humidity to live and thrive. By reducing the amount of humidity in your home, they will have a much tougher time living. As a nice byproduct, it will make your home cooler and your AC won’t have to work as hard. They can be pricey, but it’s great for peace of mind as well as for comfort.
- Buy Diatomaceous Earth, and look for “food grade”. D-Earth is super effective versus fleas, as it sucks out the moisture of everything it’s placed on, including from fleas. I recommend using the minimum of gloves and a mask when applying it, as it can be an irritant. Sprinkle it onto areas that are dark or damp.
When it comes to treating the actual skin issues, I tend to prefer more natural methods. This means using aloe vera on irritated areas to soothe your pet. Coming from someone who has been stung and bit by insects more times than I would like, I also recommend using a paste of Apple Cider Vinegar and Baking Soda. The ACV acts as a disinfectant and counteracts chemicals, while baking soda helps to neutralize the chemicals in the flea saliva. I’ve used these all in conjunction with the flea control methods above for my cat that had flea allergy dermatitis, and she’s all back to normal now.
In conclusion, we talked today about how bite hypersensitivity happens, how to tell if your pet has it, and the flea control methods of nitenpyram and natural methods will fix your problems.
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