Fleas and Flea Allergy

posted: by: AAC Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Q.        What is FAD?

A.         FAD or Flea Allergy Dermatitis is a common skin disease of animals.  When fleas feed, they inject saliva into their host's skin. Some dogs and cats develop hypersensitivity to components of the saliva and experience intense itching and a rash.


Q.         Does FAD affect both dogs and cats?

A.         Yes. FAD is extremely common in both species.


Q.         How do I know if my pet has FAD?

A.         The most obvious sign of FAD in dogs is severe itching on the rear half of the dog. Affected dogs may rub themselves against walls or furniture. Cats tend to groom excessively and develop crusty skin lesions. Both dogs and cats may suffer hair loss from excessive scratching.


Q.         I don’t see any fleas on my pet - how can my pet have FAD?

A.         Since pets with FAD are so sensitive to flea bites, they don't have to be covered with fleas to feel effects.  What's more, pets with FAD are better than other pets at removing the fleas, and they may scratch and groom themselves so much that they rid themselves of visible adult fleas. Your veterinarian can use a flea comb to detect other sings of fleas, like flea dirt (feces) and eggs.


Q.         How do fleas cause FAD and how many fleas does it take to cause FAD?

A.         Flea saliva contains over 15 different allergy-causing components - any one of which may cause an allergic reaction in a pet.  When a hypersensitive dog or cat is bitten by a flea and exposed to its saliva, the pet's immune system triggers an allergic skin reaction and severe itching that can last for days.


Q.         What are the sources of fleas?

A.         Pets can get fleas when they go outdoors; however, even indoor pets are at risk, particularly in homes with multiple pets. Flea eggs, larvae, and pupae from earlier infestations can develop into adults and re-infests pets, even after the adults are killed. Active flea infestations can thrive in areas as small as a welcome mat in your garage. Even when pets are totally indoors, owners can bring fleas into the home on their clothing.  This is especially true in areas of high flea populations.


Q.         If I think my pet has FAD, what should I do?

A.         Visit your veterinarian.  He or she can diagnose FAD and recommend an integrated flea control program to limit your pet's flea exposure. This usually includes treating the pet with a product that kills the adults, eggs, and larvae.


Q.         What about my house and yard?

A.         Complete eradication of flea infestations may necessitate treating your house and yard in addition to all the pets in   your household.  Adult fleas - as well as eggs, larvae, and pupae - can live in carpeting, flooring cracks, crevices, and under furniture indoors, and in shady areas where pets rest outside your home.  However, routine application of  modern flea control products to your pet is usually sufficient.


Q.         Can I control fleas just by treating the affected pet?

A.         No. All pets in the household must be treated.


Q.         How long will I need to continue to control fleas so my pet will not get FAD again?

A.         Since even fleeting exposure to fleas my cause more FAD flare-ups, it's important to continue treating your pets for fleas year-round.


Q.         How long will it take to eliminate fleas from my house and yard?

A.         Adult fleas can be killed rather quickly, but it's the future generations of fleas that must be targeted consistently to ensure that your home stays flea-free.  Your veterinarian can recommend products that target different stages of the flea life cycle.


Q.         Since my dog had FAD, bathing can be a weekly event.  How might this affect topical control products?

A.         It depends on which flea product and shampoo you use.  While most topical products - often labels "water resistant" may become less effective when a dog is bathed, a few products are truly waterproof.  These products remain effective no matter how often a dog or cat is bathes or gets wet. Ask your veterinarian which product works best with your pet's bathing or grooming regiment.