Just like humans, dogs can suffer from allergies.  Instead of watery eyes and runny noses, allergies in dogs manifest in scratching, licking feet or rubbing their faces on the carpet.  These behaviors can often result in secondary problems such as sores, skin infections, hair loss and hot spots.   Canine allergies come from a number of sources - primarily fleas, foods and environmental irritants such as pollen and dust mites.   

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

This is a very common allergy in dogs and is actually a reaction to the saliva of the flea. Because this allergy causes extreme itching, it often leads to the development of secondary skin infections.   Surprisingly most dogs with a flea allergy will have very few fleas.  They will groom themselves excessively trying to relieve the itching and, in the process, eliminate evidence of the fleas.  However, just a few flea bites over a week or two are sufficient to make a flea allergic dog itchy all the time.  

Symptoms of flea allergies include:   

Severe itching

Chewing and biting of the tail, rump, back legs and occasionally front legs

Oozing lesions also known as lick granuloma.  These are caused by chewing.

Hot spots on the hips or face.  These are severe skin damage from scratching.


There are three key elements to treating flea allergy dermatitis.   

Most importantly, prevention of flea bites.  This will require aggressive flea control measure on both your dog and in the environment.

Treatment of secondary skin infections. Antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs may be necessary to treat secondary skin infections triggered by the flea allergy. 

You may also need to stop the itch cycle.  If your dog is suffering from extreme itching your Vet may need to prescribe steroids.

Preventative Care

Use a flea control product that is safe and effective on your pet.  The life span of a flea is influenced by environmental conditions and can vary from two to three weeks up to a year. Optimal conditions include humidity of 75 to 85 percent and temperature of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity is more important than the temperature.  Let's face it, Florida can be flea heaven so you will probably use flea control products year-round.  Remove flea larvae and eggs from the indoor environment by frequent vacuuming and carpet cleaning.  Don't hesitate to use a professional service if you think it is necessary.  You might also want to use a "flea comb" and groom frequently.

As always, consult your Vet for diagnosis of the allergy.  Make sure to see the doctor if your dog develops sores.