When Your Dog or Cat Has a Flea Allergy

When Your Dog or Cat Has a Flea Allergy

“If your dog or cat is scratching itself, get to a vet right away,” says Ari Zabell, DVM, a veterinarian and client advocate at Banfield Pet Hospital in Portland, OR. “Fleas and flea allergies are common, but it could also be another health problem, like a tick bite. It’s important to get the right diagnosis before your pet starts treatment.”

A vet will check your pet’s fur and skin thoroughly. They’ll check for fleas and “flea dirt,” which is flea poop that looks like pepper flakes. It often turns red when it’s wet. If the vet suspects another cause for your pet’s itching, they may order certain blood or skin tests to be sure. They’ll also make sure that your dog or cat doesn’t have any open wounds.

“If a pet is itching or chewing on itself a lot, bacteria or yeast can get into the skin and cause an infection,” says Elizabeth A. Layne, DVM, a clinical instructor of dermatology and allergy at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Step 2: Break the cycle. Putting an end to your pet’s flea allergy means getting rid of fleas. Though they’re more common in warmer months, fleas can live year-round indoors. Once they lay eggs, new fleas hatch and then lay more eggs, which means your pet is constantly exposed.

“Using year-round treatment with a flea preventative medication can help break the cycle and prevent future allergic reactions,” Layne says.

Spot-on (or “topical”) medications and oral meds kill adult fleas. Some flea collars work well, too. Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about which treatment is best for your pet.

Medication is only half the battle. Fleas don’t actually live on animals. They live in carpets, bedding, and other surfaces in your home and jump onto your pet to eat. That’s why it’s important to wash your bedding, your pet’s bedding, and your throw rugs with detergent and warm water.

To remove fleas, flea eggs, and larvae, vacuum your carpets, larger rugs, and chair and sofa cushions. Empty the vacuum bag or canister afterward. Make sure to do it outside, or they could get back into your living space.