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Flea Bite Dermatitis

Flea Bite Dermatitis

Animals who are allergic to flea saliva may develop a skin condition known as flea bite dermatitis. This article provides information about this condition, its symptoms, and treatment.
Leena Palande
Last Updated: Sep 25, 2017
Pet owners who take proper care of their pets are always surprised to see symptoms of flea bite dermatitis in them. The allergic reactions to flea bites can result in mild itchiness, severe hair loss, and even respiratory problems. Most dogs and cats are allergic to flea bites.

About this Condition

Most animals are allergic to flea saliva. Proteins (antigens) in the insect's saliva are responsible for triggering an immune system reaction, the release of immunoglobulin, which then causes itching. Due to their unquenchable appetite, fleas bite dogs or cats several hundred times a day, which forces your pet to scratch, bite, and clean to the point that hair falls out. These irritated spots or bald spots are known as allergic dermatitis. There is a great risk of these spots becoming infected, potentially causing further illnesses. Though pet owners can remove adult fleas, the eggs laid by the female flea remain on the host animal. These eggs then fall to the ground, carpet, sofa, dog bed, owner's bed, or chair, where they hatch in two-to-five days. Humidity plays an important role in their survival. Besides, fleas are able to leap 100 times their own height. Thus, the cycle begins anew.

Cat flea allergy is the main reason behind inflammation of skin in cats. Even one flea can cause dermatitis, as it feeds on the blood of the cat, like a mosquito. In the absence of common symptoms, dark specks on the coat help confirm an infestation. It is possible that your pet does not have an allergy to flea bites. Since summer and fall are the seasons which promote flea growth, the highest number of dermatitis cases are noticed during these seasons. A flea lives for less than two months, but a female usually lays over 2,000 eggs. Base of the tail, feet, stomach, and inner thighs are the most common bite sites. Inflammation of the skin and blisters are generally found in young animals rather than in puppies or kittens and older animals. A vet may perform an intradermal allergy test rather than a blood test, to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Severe itching
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Tiny red bumps on the skin
  • Swelling
  • Reddening of the skin in case of extreme sensitivity to flea bites.
Flea bites on humans are not uncommon and the symptoms are as mentioned above. Whether you have a pet or not, there are chances of flea bites if these insects are present in the surrounding environment.


Even in humans, itching is the main symptom, but scratching should be avoided because it increases the risk of infection. The symptoms in humans can be treated with antihistamine drugs, while creams may be applied on the skin. Severe dermatitis can be cured with antibiotics. Applying ice or calamine lotion can be the first step of treatment for humans, as it helps to control the itching sensation. Cleaning the house thoroughly is necessary to get rid of the fleas.

Treating your pet for this condition is essential to avoid further problems. Washing the affected area with cold water and antiseptic soap is beneficial. Hot water may increase itching. Checking the possibility of tapeworms is also necessary. Pesticides and flea traps can be used to control their infestation. Many over-the-counter products are available in markets, but most of them contain highly-toxic insecticides. So, cat owners need to consult with their veterinarian for advice on safe treatment. The vet may prescribe hydrocortisone for dogs and cats in order to help stop some of the itching and redness of the skin, but the owner needs to monitor the pet for secondary infections, as scratching tends to open up the sores further and leaves them open to other infections. If you are worried about getting rid of fleas on dogs, you can use diatomaceous earth in the carpet, dog's bedding, yard, and other areas of the house, and you can buy a herbal flea collar for your dog.

Untreated dermatitis may lead to chronic scratching and infection, which may result in hair loss and hot spots. Cleanliness is necessary to avoid this condition. Pet owners should regularly inspect their pets for fleas, and comb out any belly dirt or other dark spots. A medicated bath, use of flea preventives, antihistamine or injections, and prescription drugs can help control the infestation of these insects.