Flea allergy dermatitis: Treatment options
If your pet has extensive skin damage, and is constantly biting, licking and scratching, your veterinarian may have diagnosed the condition as flea allergy dermatitis—an inflammation or infection of the skin due to sensitivity to flea bites. What follows are possible treatment options your doctor may discuss with you:
Fleas are active any time of year, so year-round, lifelong control is essential, based on your pet’s lifestyle, health and home environment. The key to preventing disease and reinfestation of fleas is a once-a-month regimen using a topical (spot-on) or pill product. Spot-on products generally contain ingredients such as selemectin, fipronil or imidacloprid. The topically applied residual spot-on formulations containing these ingredients take 12-42 hours to be effective. Nitenpyram is usually found in a pill form that will eliminate fleas within three to four hours (it starts working within 30 minutes). Nitenpyram is optimal because it works right away, is short-acting and therefore can be given once per day, if necessary. It’s good for a kick-start. It does not provide long-term protection for continued exposure to fleas.
Spinosad, a chewable tablet, also starts to work within 30 minutes and elimates fleas within four hours. It provides prevention from flea infestation for an entire month.
Plan of action
The easiest thing to do is to schedule a time for flea treatment for your pet on a particular date each month. Marking it on your calendar will help you remember. Your veterinarian can recommend appropriate flea control based on your pet’s needs and your lifestyle. Besides treating your pet, it’s important to treat your environment because fleas can live off of your pet in places such as a pet bed, for example. Treating your home/environment can be done by:
- Applying a topical residual insecticide that kills newly acquired fleas (within 24 hours) before they can reproduce
- Administering a topical, injectable (cats only) or oral insect growth regulator (IGR) to stop flea reproduction
- Repeating the application of insecticides and/or the IGR to the environment or combinations of the above
Although collars are often used for controlling flea infestation, more aggressive therapy is usually required for treatment.
Be very careful when using any product and make sure it is labeled for use for your pet. Some products can only be used for dogs or cats, but not for both. If you have any questions, contact your veterinarian before using any product on your pet or in the environment.
For the inflammation of your pet’s skin due to the dermatitis, antibiotics or corticosteroids may be prescribed by your veterinarian. The use of shampoos and/or lotions may be appropriate in some cases, but are generally only effective in mild cases or when combined with other products.
Flea bites can occur in anyone who has contact with an infested dog, cat or home. Chances are if one cat or dog in the house has fleas, then the others will too; therefore, all cats and dogs should be treated. Year-round, uninterrupted prevention is the best approach for all.