August is here and summer is in full swing. The heat is sweltering, the cicadas are deafening and the summer storms are at their peak. For many pet owners, this is also the time when our dogs and cats can’t stop scratching! Before you go changing your pet’s diet or running out for expensive supplements, you should consider when the irritation began. These summer months are a parasite’s paradise! The mid to late summer months are the height of flea season which can be an itchy scratchy nightmare for your cats and dogs with a flea allergy. Gremlin went through this, so I’ve been there! Here’s how to tell if that’s what’s going on.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs
Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common allergy in dogs over a year old with symptoms flaring in mid to late summer. The allergy isn’t to the fleas themselves, but their saliva. This means the itchy reaction can happen after only one bite and can persist long after the flea is gone.
If you notice your dog scratching, licking, and chewing at the base of their tail, haunches, under their legs, groin, and belly, they might be suffering from a flea allergy. The chewing can cause dry scaly patches of skin and if left untreated can result in open sores that are prone to infection. Some dogs will even have red bumps in the affected areas.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis In Cats
Just like dogs, many cats can be allergic to flea saliva. Cats have a similar scratching, licking, and chewing pattern as dogs and can develop a rash of small round bumps, called feline miliary dermatitis (because of their resemblance to millet seeds) over their back, neck, and face.
Even With a Monthly Preventative
You might think your pet’s protected against fleas because of your stringent monthly preventative schedule, but not every preventative is created equally. There are numerous preventatives both over the counter and prescription. Many over the counter methods take days and some even require the fleas to bite before killing them and since this is an allergy to their saliva, this just won’t do.
Prescription methods are your best bet, but even there you’ll find that some are better than others.Some work faster than others. For instance, according to Elanco, the makers of Comfortis, Comfortis starts killing fleas within 30 minutes of administration with an effective rate of 98-100% within four hours. Nexgard, the most popular preventative currently, needs 24 hours to kill 100% of fleas.
Besides speed, you and your vet should consider how the preventative targets fleas. The active ingredient in Comfortis (and one of them in Trifexis, also an Elanco brand) is Spinosad. This drug attacks the nervous system of the flea. Nexgard uses the ingredient, afoxolaner, which over-stimulates the nervous system of fleas. Sentinel, a brand Gremlin knows and loves, uses lufenuron, which acts as a development inhibitor, killing fleas in the egg and larvae stage. Sentinel’s belief is that if there are no baby fleas growing up to be blood-sucking adult fleas, there won’t be a flea problem.
A Combination of Treatments
When you discuss treatment with your veterinarian, ask about a combination of treatments. In New Orleans, where the flea population is radically out of control, our veterinarian (who I also worked for) recommended a Comfortis/Sentinel combo. This combination kills adult fleas on your dog and controls any larvae they pick up out and about. I highly recommend asking your vet about this as soon as you can if your dog is struggling this summer.
Treating Your Home
You aren’t done yet. Fleas are tiny and their eggs are even tinier. Carpets, rugs, wood, laminate, and tiled floors are all safe havens for flea eggs. You absolutely need to treat your home and yard if you are going to truly have an impact on your personal flea population.
For this, I recommend Fleabusters. It’s much easier than you might think to use and not at all toxic to your family. Fleabusters is a borate powder that doesn’t poison or attack anything. It’s actually a desiccant, meaning it dehydrates it’s victims to death. And it does so very effectively.
The application process is pretty easy. It’s a very fine powder that you spread around your floors and yard (especially damp and shady areas). You’ll need to use a broom or foxtail brush to spread it around your flooring surfaces. You can vacuum and sweep normally because it has a static property that helps it cling to any surface. After using this powder, you’ll notice more than your flea population diminishing! This stuff works on most household pests! We’re big fans!
A Tricky Problem
Flea allergy dermatitis can be a tricky situation to deal with. Many times there won’t be signs of fleas because of the preventative you’re giving, in which case you might be offered a special diet or supplement.
For instance, when the itching and biting didn’t resolve itself after medications and supplements it was recommended to us that Gremlin start a drastic and lifelong steroid course! If your dog or cat is over a year old and has been fine with their diet seemingly until now, then you should bring up what you’ve read here!
Consider how few variables have changed in your pet’s life and make that a point. If you do end up with a new diet or supplement that doesn’t do the trick, consider a second opinion.