The flea allergy department.

The flea allergy is probably the most common allergy found in pets today. It is characterised by severe itching, infammed skin and often hair loss (due to the persistant scratching).This hair loss together with papules and pustules is classically seen at the base of the tail and running up the back (dogs and cats) as well as around the neck (cats).

The allergy is caused by a hypersensitivity reaction to flea saliva which penetrates the animals skin while the flea feeds on the animal. The allergic response is fairly swift and can remain quite intense even after all fleas have been removed from the animal.

Because it is an allergic reaction,each individual animal will react differently. There is thus not necessarily any correlation between the number of fleas on an animal and the clinical signs seen. Thus it is not uncommon to have 2 pets in a household, one looking serene and pristine, the other looking bedraggled and scratching like mad! The flea load in the environment will be the same for both animals, but their response could be quite different.

Usually, like atopies , this condition will start off seasonally.

Fleas breed more during summer than winter, hence the environmental load of fleas tends to be heavier in summer. The exception to this is of course if the animal is kept indoors all year and heating prevents the environmental temperature from falling to any significant degree during winter.However, as sensitised individuals grow older, the condition tends to persist for longer until, especially in sub tropical climates, it can persist all year round.

A flea allergy has to be confronted on a number of fronts. Because fleas are an environmental problem, it is impossible to successfully treat a flea allergy by only treating the affected animal. All animals and the environment have to be taken into account for there to be any chance of success.

For more information on fleas, click here.

Although a flea allergy is fairly easy to diagnose, especially if presented in the early stages of the allergy, the management of the condition can be challenging due to the complexity of allergies and the multiple factors that need to be addressed to rid an environment of all fleas. Unfortunately, in very sensitive individuals, just one little flea bite can blow months of effort straight out the window! So be prepared.