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Dog allergies – Flea allergy

Dog Flea Allergy

Flea allergy is common in dogs. Some dogs become allergic to flea saliva which is called flea bite dermatitis. Dogs with flea bite allergy are often frantic to ease the itching and may chew themselves raw, with removal of large amounts of hair. There will often be open sores or scabs on the skin, allowing a secondary bacterial infection to begin.

The areas most commonly involved is over the rump (just in front of the tail), around the tail, on his belly, and inside hind legs.

A normal dog experiences only minor irritation in response to flea bites, often without any itching. But the flea allergic dog has a severe, itch-producing reaction when the flea’s saliva is deposited in the skin. Dog owners should also use the same treatments that work for inhalant allergies to reduce the itching and ease the discomfort of irritated skin.

Treatments for flea allergy start with getting the dog away from all fleas.

In some cases, multiple products may be needed. Some are used on the dog and some in the dog’s environment.

Strict flea control is the backbone of successful treatment. Unfortunately, this is not always possible in warm and humid climates, where a new population of fleas can hatch out every 14-21 days.

If a secondary bacterial infection occurs, appropriate antibiotics must be used.

Use a flea comb through your dog’s coat and gather a bit of hair and “flea dirt”. Daily flea combing may seem like a tedious process, but you can trap some of them in the comb. Be sure to drown them in soapy water, because fleas can jump out of plain water. In addition, soapy water destroys all flea stages.

Use washable pet bedding that can be gathered up easily by the four corners and laundered frequently. Restrict pets to a regular sleeping space so you can focus cleaning efforts on fewer areas.

Dogs can be desensitized to the adverse effects of flea bites by injecting flea saliva extract into the dog in tiny amounts over a prolonged period of time. The dog’s immune system is reprogrammed and he no longer over-reacts to flea bites. If successful, itching no longer occurs or is less intense when the dog is bitten. However, this approach is only successful about 50-75% of the time.

When strict flea control is not possible, corticosteroids (“cortisone” or “steroids”) can be used to block the allergic reaction and give relief. Some dogs respond best to long-acting injections and others to oral medication. Dogs are more resistant to the side-effects of steroids than humans, but significant side-effects can occur, so the smallest amount is administered needed to keep the dog comfortable.

Successful flea control must rid the dog of fleas and it must rid the dog’s environment of fleas. In fact, environmental control is probably more important than what is done to the dog. If your dog remains indoors and you do not have other pets that come in from the outside, environmental control is relatively easy. However, the dog that goes outdoors or stays outdoors presents a significant challenge.

Many insecticides, flea powders, sprays, and shampoos that are applied to the dog have limited effectiveness because they are only effective for a few hours after application. In addition, these products just work against adult fleas, and they will only kill fleas on your dog at the time of application, with little or no residual effects. Not surprisingly, your dog may be covered with fleas within a day after having a flea bath or being sprayed or powdered.

The good news is there are some newer, more effective sprays that can be a valuable part of the overall treatment plan. They kill adult fleas rapidly and are safe enough to use daily, if necessary. Flea sprays containing insect growth regulators (IGR’s) are helpful in managing the overall problem because they help to break the flea life cycle.

Always read the label because some of the newer pet sprays with growth regulators are recommended for once weekly application instead of daily.

Other types of products are available that have residual effects lasting for several days. These are flea collars and flea dips.

Flea dip is poured over your dog after it has been bathed. The dip is not rinsed off and is allowed to dry on the skin and hair. This results in residual flea control for 4-5 days.

Flea collars are on the dog and working 24 hours per day. However, they are not very effective in very warm humid climates because a new population of fleas can hatch out every 14-21 days.

If your dog develops any irritated skin from the collar, then they cannot be used.

The latest products in the war on fleas are used once each month. Program is a tablet that sterilizes the eggs laid by the fleas. In effect, it kills the next generation of fleas. Advantage and Frontline Top Spot are monthly products that are applied to your dog’s skin. They are purchased in small vials that contain one dose for various sizes of dogs. They kill adult fleas, usually before the flea has the opportunity to bite your dog.

Environmental flea control usually must be directed at your house and your yard. Vacuuming and washing are the least toxic ways to control fleas. After vacuuming, place the vacuum bag in a large plastic garbage bag, secure the bag, and discard in an outdoor trash container.

A professional exterminator may be called to treat your house or you may use a house fogger or a long-lasting spray. These foggers and sprays are very effective for adult fleas, but they will not kill adults that are still in their cocoon. You should purchase a fogger or a spray that kills the adult fleas and inhibits development of the eggs and larvae. In climates with extended warm temperatures and high humidity, it may be necessary to treat two or three times with a 30-day residual product before all stages of the fleas are removed from the house. The second treatment is most effective if it is done two weeks after the first.

You will need to remove pets and their dishes from the house, cover aquariums and disconnect their aerators, close all windows and leave the house for several hours after setting off the foggers. Upon returning, all windows should be opened to air out the house.

With some of the new residual topical treatment (the spray and the liquid applied to the dog’s neck), environmental control may become much less a concern. In some cases, treating the dog with these new products will effectively control the environmental problem.

Flea-killing powders are available that are worked deeply into the carpet and are non-toxic to people. These powders are not removed by vacuuming.

Diatomaceous Earth is a non-toxic flea treatment, but doesn’t last as long as the boric acid products. You can usually purchase it at pet stores and pool supply stores where it is used in filters. Sprinkle it on the carpets, and then vacuum it up later. The tiny bits get in the breathing pores of the bugs and suffocate them. Monthly applications are recommended in areas with heavy flea populations, especially during the height of flea season.

Boric acid products, such as Flea Busters and Fleago, work in a similar fashion to the diatomaceous earth by dehydrating the fleas. When applied correctly, they offer protection for up to a year or more as they remain deep in the carpet fibers. The powder is non-toxic to people and is worked deeply into the carpet to prevent it from being removed by vacuuming. This treatment has proven very successful, even with very heavy flea infestations.

An old standby, 20 Mule Team Borax is sprinkled in the carpet and under the furniture cushions, leave a few days and then vacuum. The borax extracts all of the moisture and they die – eggs as well.

With all of the flea powder products follow package directions carefully. They are drying agents, and therefore irritate nasal passages and lungs if inhaled directly. Avoid vigorous shaking of the container while spreading it onto the floor so you don’t create clouds of dust.

A professional exterminator can be called in for yard control with various insecticides. Or you may use these insecticides yourself. Be sure that any insecticide used has a 30-day residual. Some of the newest products which contain the growth regulator fenoxycarb are labeled for use only once or twice a year.

Fleas love grass, which is where most dogs pick them up from in the first place! There are outdoor flea remedies that can be applied to grass by sprinkling the powder or with a hose sprayer for yards and gardens.

Beneficial nematodes that are flea parasites are another way to control fleas in the yard. They are tiny little bugs that prey on both adult fleas and larvae. They can be applied with a hose sprayer on a yard, or with a watering can on a garden.

Flea Traps is a safe and simple permanent appliance that uses heat and light to draw fleas from up to 25 feet away. Fleas are attracted to the trap and fall right through the grid and meet a sticky death on the replaceable capture pad. Adult fleas are killed by the thousands on the replaceable capture pad. Works year round without poisons, expensive pills, or visits to the vet. Capture pads last for 3 months or until filled with up to 10,000 fleas.

Other flea traps are electric and work by emitting gentle heat which attracts fleas and traps them on sticky paper.

Many dog owners swear by garlic and brewer’s yeast to keep fleas away, or plant herbs such as pennyroyal, southernwood, or wormwood around dog kennels and near doorways, use herbal flea collars, brush lavender or eucalyptus oil into the dog’s coat once a week, or sprinkle dried leaves of lavender, rosemary, sage, or eucalyptus in the dog’s bed to keep fleas away – but no evidence exists to prove these plant products are valuable preventives.

Unfortunately, complete flea control is not always possible for dogs that live outdoors in warm and humid climates, because new populations of fleas can hatch out every two to three weeks.

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