What is flea allergy dermatitis in dogs

Q-About every other year, my 12-year-old Japanese spaniel develops a terrible itch, mostly along her spine.

What is flea allergy dermatitis in dogs

She shows no signs of dry or scaly skin. I`ve been giving her some cooking oil with her food but see no improvement.

A-The most likely cause for this problem is fleas, which can cause an allergic reaction called fleabite dermatitis along the spine. Your dog may indeed not suffer from fleas every year, but could own them every other year. Search for them with a flea comb.

Other possible causes of such itching include other allergies, such as pollen.

The problem could be caused by boiling spots from the dog biting an area over an arthritic joint. For example, if your dog has arthritis in her hip, she might lick there, the source of her discomfort.

If you don`t discover fleas, consult a veterinarian.

Q-One of my dogs, a standard poodle, was diagnosed two years ago with autoimmune hemolytic anemia. The dog was placed on 40 mg. of prednisone daily and after six months was weaned off the drug. Three months later, the disease recurred and since the dog`s platelet count was below, the dosage of prednisone was doubled.

As a result, the dog`s weight went from 55 to 72 pounds and I was advised that unless we could wean him to a much smaller dosage, there was a possibility of liver damage and shortened life span.

About four months ago, I acquired a fifth dog, a giant schnauzer, and the breeder suggested I attempt the schnauzer`s diet for my ill poodle: raw liver, whole wheat bread with butter, and brown rice or carrots. She also suggested I give the poodle vitamin C and 400 units of vitamin E daily. Feeling I had little to lose, I took her suggestion. The poodle has now been weaned below to 40 mg. of prednisone every other day.

Her platelet count is almost normal. Her weight is below to 56 pounds and she looks and acts love a new dog. However, my vet doesn`t ponder this has anything to do with the new diet.

A-I ponder the improvement is coincidental. However, a nutrition specialist says the diet mentioned has too much phosphorous and not enough calcium. Depending on the type of liver, the diet could also be too low in fat. One of the chief roles of the liver is to remove toxins and impurities from the system.

Therefore, liver should never be eaten without being thoroughly cooked because of impurities and the possibility of contracting parasites.

Anyone who wants to cook for his dog using homemade recipes rather than commercial pet food should do the following:

Have the list of foods you`re giving your dog analyzed to make certain they provide a balanced diet.

What is flea allergy dermatitis in dogs

You can do this by writing to Woodsen-Tenent Laboratories, 3507 Delaware, Des Moines, Iowa 50313 (phone 515-265-1461). They will give instructions on how to send a sample of the diet you`re using as well as provide the cost of the analysis.

Q-Our 6-year-old chow (spayed female) started urinating on our new carpet. She had a bladder infection, which was treated, but the wetting started before this and has occurred since. We confined the dog to the kitchen but she got out and wet again.

What is flea allergy dermatitis in dogs

Twice she has also defecated on the carpet. We both work, so the dog is alone 7-8 hours a day.

A-I don`t ponder this is spiteful behavior on your dog`s part. I wouldn`t even label it mischievous behavior, because it occurs only occasionally and when no one is home. It`s more likely the dog simply had to urinate extremely badly. This is a dog with sufficient instinct about bathroom habits that she won`t wet in what she considers her territory-the kitchen. She needed to go so badly she chewed her way out and went in the other room, which she doesn`t consider her territory.

If you haven`t already done so, schedule an exam to check the dog`s urinary tract infection.

Just because your dog has been treated does not mean it was cleared up. Infections sometimes remain and cause a slightly increased need for urination.

Next, make certain your dog gets plenty of vigorous time exterior before you go to work and when you come home. Merely a few minutes exterior and a quick emptying of the bladder is not adequate. Take her for a brisk, 15-minute stroll, and you might even throw a ball so she`s likely to empty her bladder and sleep through the day.

Continue to hold your dog out of the room she`s chosen to use as her bathroom.

You could use a dog crate, although eight hours is extremely endless. If possible, attempt to arrange a midday stroll for her.


Dr. Huntington welcomes questions. She cannot reply individually, but she will answer those of general interest in this column. Record to Dr. Huntington, c/o the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611. You also may send electronic mail to us at screen name TribHome on Chicago Online.

One of the most common medical complaints that we see in our office is dogs with skin infections, “hot spots”, or allergic dermatitis, also known as atopic (atopy) dermatitis.

Unlike people who react to allergens most commonly with nasal symptoms and/or hives, dogs react with skin and/or gastrointestinal problems.

This is because there are a higher proportion of mast cells, which release histamines and other vasoactive substances in the face of an allergic challenge, in the skin of dogs. These problems may range from poor jacket texture or hair length, to itching and chewing, to boiling spots and self-mutilation, gastrointestinal pain and discomfort, diarrhea, and flatulence. Allergies may also frolic a part in chronic ear infections. The most common causes of canine allergic dermatitis are flea allergy, food allergy, inhalant or contact allergy, and allergy to the normal bacterial flora and yeast organisms of the skin.

To make matters more hard to diagnose and treat, thyroid disease may add to the problem as well.

Canine atopic dermatitis (allergic dermatitis, canine atopy) is an inherited predisposition to develop allergic symptoms following repeated exposure to some otherwise harmless substance, an “allergen”. Most dogs start to show their allergic signs between 1 and 3 years of age. Due to the hereditary nature of the disease, several breeds, including Golden Retrievers, most terriers, Irish Setters, Lhasa Apsos, Dalmatians, Bulldogs, and Ancient English Sheep dogs are more commonly atopic, but numerous dogs, including mixed breed dogs can own atopic dermatitis.

Atopic animals will generally rub, lick, chew, bite, or scratch at their feet, flanks, ears, armpits, or groin, causing patchy or inconsistent hair loss and reddening and thickening of the skin. The skin itself may be dry and crusty or oily depending upon the dog. Dogs may also rub their face on the carpet; ear flaps may become red and boiling. Because the wax-producing glands of the ear overproduce as a response to the allergy, they get bacterial and yeast (Malassezia ) infections of the ear.

In order to overcome these frustrating symptoms, your veterinarian’s approach needs to be thorough and systematic.

Shortcuts generally will not produce results and only add to owner frustration and canine discomfort.

Inhalant and Contact Allergies
Substances that can cause an allergic reaction in dogs are much the same as those that cause reactions in people including the pollens of grasses, trees and weeds, dust mites, and molds. A clue to diagnosing these allergies is to glance at the timing of the reaction. Does it happen year round? This may be mold or dust. If the reaction is seasonal, pollens may be the culprit.

Food Allergies
Numerous people don’t suspect food allergies as the cause of their dog’s itching because their pet has been fed the same food every its life and has just recently started having symptoms.

However, animals can develop allergies to a substance over time, so this fact does not law out food allergies. Another common misconception is that dogs are only sensitive to poor quality food. If the dog is allergic to an ingredient, it doesn’t matter whether it is in premium food or the most inexpensive brand on the market. One advantage to premium foods is that some avoid common fillers that are often implicated in allergic reactions.

Flea Allergies
This type of reaction generally is not to the flea itself, but rather to proteins in its saliva.

Interestingly enough, the dogs most prone to this problem are not dogs who are constantly flea ridden, but those who are exposed only occasionally! A single bite can cause a reaction for five to seven days, so you don’t need a lot of fleas to own a miserable dog.

Staphylococcus Hypersensitivity
Bacterial hypersensitivity occurs when a dog’s immune system overreacts to the normal Staphylococcus (Staph) bacteria on its skin. It appears that bacterial hypersensitivity in the dog is more likely to happen if other conditions such as hypothyroidism, inhalant allergy, and/or flea allergy are concurrently present. Bacterial hypersensitivity is diagnosed through bacterial culture and examination of a biopsy sample.

Microscopically, there are certain unique changes in the blood vessels of the skin in bacterial hypersensitivity.


Allergy testing is the best diagnostic tool and the best road to treatment for dogs that are suffering from moderate and severe allergies. There are several diverse testing methods available.

What is flea allergy dermatitis in dogs

The most common is a blood test that checks for antigen induced antibodies in the dog’s blood. Intradermal skin testing may also be performed. In this method of testing, a little quantity of antigen is injected into a shaved portion of the dog’s skin. This is done in a specific pattern and order so that if the dog shows a little raised reaction, the offending antigen can be identified. After a period of time (hours), the shaved area is examined to detect which antigens, if any, created a reaction.

Allergy testing is performed to develop a specific therapy for the allergic animal.


Medicated Baths
Numerous medicated shampoos own compounds in them that are aimed at soothing injured skin and calming inflammation. In addition, frequent bathing (weekly to every other week) of the dog can remove allergens from the hair jacket, which may contribute to skin allergy flare-ups. The medicated baths we recommend are those that actually contain antimicrobial and antifungal agents as well as ingredients that permit the skin to be bathed on a more frequent basis without drying it out.

Application of a rinse afterwards also helps to prevent drying out of the skin and hair coat.

Antihistamines can be used with excellent safety in dogs. About one third of owners report success with antihistamines. These medications tend to own a variable effect between dogs. For some allergic dogs, antihistamines work extremely well in controlling symptoms of allergic skin disease. For other dogs, extremely little effect is seen. Therefore, a minimum of three diverse types of antihistamines should be tried before owners give up on this therapy. Examples of antihistamines commonly used for dogs include Benadryl, Chlortrimeton, Atarax, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Clemastine.

However, antihistamines are considered to be worth trying in most cases since the side effects associated with antihistamines is low, and they are typically inexpensive medications.

Antibiotics and Antifungal Medications
Antibiotics are frequently needed to treat secondary skin infections. Anti-fungal medications are frequently needed to treat secondary yeast infections.

Flea Control
For dogs with this problem, a strict flea control regime must be maintained. The best flea control options include the use of products such as Advantage, Revolution, Frontline, Comfortis, and Sentinel.

The Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acid supplements work by improving the overall health of the skin.

These fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative agents. They reportedly are helpful in 20% of allergic dogs. My own experience puts this figure a little higher. They are certainly worth a attempt because they are not harmful and own virtually no side effects. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oils and omega-6 fatty acids are derived from plants containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). These supplements are diverse from those sold to produce a glossy jacket. Products that contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids include Allergen Caps and Halo.

Hypoallergenic Diets
Allergies develop through exposure, so most hypoallergenic diets incorporate proteins and carbohydrates that your dog has never had before.

As mentioned previously, the quickest and best way to determine which foods your dog may or may not be allergic to is through diagnostic allergy testing. As dairy, beef, and wheat are responsible for 80% of food allergies in dogs, these items should be avoided. Novel protein sources used in hypoallergenic diets include venison, egg, duck, kangaroo, and types of fish not generally found in pet food.

What is flea allergy dermatitis in dogs

Carbohydrate sources include potatoes, peas, yams, sweet potatoes, and canned pumpkin.

Hydrolyzed protein diets are diets in which the protein source has been synthetically reduced to little fragments. The theory behind feeding a hydrolyzed protein source is that the proteins in the food should be little enough that the allergic dog’s immune system will not recognize the protein fragments and will not mount an immune response resulting in an allergy.

Most pets with food allergies reply well when switched to a store-bought hypoallergenic diet, but occasionally an animal suffers from such extreme allergies that a homemade diet is the only option.

In this case, the diet should be customized with the aid of a veterinarian.

Corticosteroids and Immunosuppressive Agents
Cortisone products such as prednisone, prednisolone, and dexamethasone reduce itching by reducing inflammation. These medications are not without side effects, so they need to be used judiciously in treating skin allergies. Steroids should be considered only when the allergy season is short, the quantity of drug required is little, or to relieve a dog in extreme discomfort.

Side effects can include increased thirst and appetite, increased need to urinate, and behavioral changes. Long-term use can result in diabetes and decreased resistance to infection. In some dogs, endless term, low-dose alternate day therapy is the only management protocol that successfully controls the atopic pet. This protocol should be used only as a final resort after every other methods own been exhausted to avoid the potential long-term complications of the medication.

Cyclosporine (Atopica) is a medication, which seems to be fairly effective at reducing the inflammation associated with skin allergies and calming the immune system of the affected dog.

However, the pricing of cyclosporine may be prohibitive for larger breed dogs.

Immunotherapy (Hypo-sensitization)
Allergy shots are extremely safe, and numerous people own grand success with them; however, they are extremely slow to work. It may be six to twelve months before improvement is seen. Once the allergens for the dog are identified, an appropriate immunotherapy is manufactured for that specific dog, and treatment can start.

After the offending antigens are identified, then a mixture of these antigens can be formulated into a hyposensitizing injection. Depending on the type of agents used, these injections will be given over a period of weeks to months until the dog or cat develops immunity to the agents. After initial protection, an occasional booster may own to be given.

Environmental Control
If you know which substances your dog is allergic to, avoidance is the best method of control. Even if you are desensitizing the dog with allergy shots, it is best to avoid the allergen altogether. Molds can be reduced by using a dehumidifier or placing activated charcoal on top of the exposed dirt in your home plants.

Dusts and pollens are best controlled by using an air cleaner with a HEPA filter. Air conditioning can also reduce circulating amounts of airborne allergens because windows are then kept closed.

Thyroid Medication
Healthy skin and a normal hair jacket are the results of numerous factors, both external and internal. There are several glands in the body responsible for the production of hormones that are vital for the regulation of other body functions as well as a normal skin surface and hair jacket. Hypothyroidism may result in poor skin and hair jacket, including hair loss or abnormal hair turnover, dull or brittle hair, altered pigmentation, and oily or dry skin.

A blood test is a simplest and most direct way to tell if your dog is hypothyroid. Thyroid testing may include every or part of the following:

Baseline T4 Test or Entire T4 (TT4): This is the most common test.

What is flea allergy dermatitis in dogs

Dogs with a failure of the thyroid gland will own a lowered level of the T4 hormone. However, there are other conditions that can cause the T4 to decrease, so if this test comes back positive for hypothyroidism your vet should recommend an additional blood test, either the T3 Test or the Baseline TSH test.

Baseline TSH Test: Measures the level of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. In combination with the T4 or T3 test, it provides a more finish picture of the hormonal activity of your dog’s thyroid gland.

Free T4 by RIA (radio immunoassay): The Free T4 test using RIA techniques does not appear to be more or less precise than the above TT4 test.

Free T4 by ED (equilibrium dialysis): This test may provide more precise data on the level of T4 hormone in your dog’s bloodstream.

Baseline T3 Test: In combination with the T4 or TSH test, these two blood tests can give a clearer picture of the hormone levels found in the bloodstream.

This test is not dependable when used alone. The T3 Test should always be given in combination with one of the other blood tests.

TSH Response Test: In this test, the veterinarian takes an initial measurement of the thyroid hormones in your dog’s bloodstream and then injects Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) into the vein. After 6 hours, a blood sample is drawn and the level of T4 is checked.

If your dog has hypothyroidism, the level of T4 will not increase even after the TSH is injected. This is an expensive test and is being used less often due to decreased production by the manufacturers.

Hypothyroidism is treated with a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone called thyroxine (levothyroxine). Blood samples will need to be drawn periodically to assess the effectiveness of the dosage and make any adjustments necessary.

Successful management of the atopic, allergic dog is sometimes complicated and frustrating because multi-modal management is necessary in the majority of cases to control the allergic flare-ups.

Proper diagnosis by a veterinarian and owner compliance and follow up care is essential to maximize the chances of curing or at least controlling the severely affected allergy patient.

Canine allergic disease (atopy) often presents as a skin disease, or canine atopic dermatitis (CAD). Atopy can be defined as an inherited predisposition to develop hypersensitivity to substances present in indoor and outdoor environments, resulting in reactions such as eczema (atopic dermatitis), chronic hives, allergic rhinitis and asthma.

Pruritic dermatitis (itchy skin) caused by pet allergies are among the most hard and frustrating problems encountered in veterinary medicine today.

Solving these dermatology cases and establishing an effective dogallergy treatment plan can be challenging. Several dermatological disorders exhibit clinical signs similar to allergic dermatitis and must be ruled out before a diagnosis of allergy can be made.


  1. American Bulldog
  2. Jack Russell Terrier
  3. Labrador Retriever
  4. Cocker Spaniel
  5. English Bulldog
  6. Shih Tzu
  7. Lhasa Apso
  8. Boston Terrier
  9. Bull Terrier
  10. Dalmatian
  11. Chinese Shar-Pei
  12. Chihuahua
  13. West Highland White Terrier
  14. French Bulldog
  15. Boxer
  16. Miniature Schnauzer
  17. Pug
  18. Wirehaired Fox Terrier
  19. German Shepherd
  20. Golden Retriever
  21. Scottish Terrier
  22. English Setter
  23. Irish Setter
  24. Cairn Terrier
  25. Yorkshire Terrier

What Causes A Dog To Develop Allergies?

Think of dogs skin love saran wrap.

It covers and protects the dog. However, dogs with allergies are born with abnormal skin (like holes in the saran wrap). These abnormalities in the skin permit for the allergens, which are normal in every environments, to enter thru the skin layer and set off an allergic response which causes itching and redness. So, it is significant to understand that dogs who suffer from contact allergies do not own normal skin. Additionally, these dogs do not own a healthy immune response.

In addition, this inflammation in the skin will change the health of the skin and permit for secondary invaders such as bacteria and yeast to enter the dog’s system.

In addition, numerous of these dogs own a less than optimal local immune response to these secondary invaders making them more susceptible to yeast and bacterial infections. Yeast and bacteria are always present in low numbers on every dog’s skin. Unfortunately for dogs with allergies, their skin and immune response are inadequate to fight off these secondary invaders.


  1. Allergiesare generallya lifelong disease requiring continuous, hands-on management
  2. There will be some quantity of expense involved in managing an allergypet throughout its life
  3. All dogs with allergies own occasional flare-ups which will require a visit to the vet
  4. No single treatment for allergic dermatitis is perfect and often several modalities such as medications, shampoos etc are needed to assist a pet
  5. Dogs with allergiesare at increased risk of bacterial and/or yeast infections

Dog Allergy Symptoms

While not generally life threatening, allergies in dogs do cause discomfort.

Most symptoms are associated with skinproblems but some can also lead to gastrointestinal or breathingissues in some dogs.Sometimes an owner will bring their dog to a veterinary appointment, suspecting a serious medical condition and finish up finding out that their canine companion has an allergy.

Here are some allergy symptoms commonly found in dogs:

  1. Excessive licking
  2. Flaking/Dandruff
  3. Runny eyes or nose
  4. Frequent sneezing and/or wheezing
  5. Skin irritation
  6. Red itchy bumps
  7. Hotspots
  8. Compulsive scratching or rubbing
  9. Periodic chewing on the same or diverse body parts or areas
  10. Odor coming from the skin or ears
  11. Inflamed or uncomfortable ears
  12. Regularly rubbing body or body parts against the ground, walls, furniture, etc.
  13. Frequent shaking of the head
  14. Hair loss
  15. Diarrhea and vomiting

Most environmental allergies develop in the second year of life for dogs.

During the first year, a dog will be exposed to numerous types of allergens primarily through contact with the skin.

What is flea allergy dermatitis in dogs

A smaller number of allergies may be caused by food (usually the protein source) and inhalant (things they breathe in that are in the air). In the second year of life, the dog’s immune system will overreact to the antigen(s) causing release of immune cells which release inflammatory substances ( such as histamine) which lead to symptoms of itching. Rarely is a dog allergic to just one thing. Most allergic dogs are born with a less than optimal skin barrier which allows for antigens to enter the skin more easily.

Dogs that suffer from allergies own abnormal skin and a less than optimal immune response which allows for secondary infections to happen. Typically, dogs do not suffer from a single allergy, but instead, dogs with sensitivities to allergens own numerous sensitivities. You must understand that dog allergies are due to a complicated set of issues that tends to change as the dog’s environment changes.

Because these symptoms can own several possible causes, we recommend making an appointment immediately to speak with one of our veterinarians if you notice your dog exhibiting any of the above symptoms.

Early diagnosis and treatment of dog allergies not only increases the likelihood of your dog’s treatment being successful, but can also be less expensive than delaying treatment. The longer you wait, the more your dog suffers and more severe the secondary infections can become.

A food allergy is the most likely cause of allergic symptoms in animals under 1 year of age.

Food allergy symptoms can manifest in your pet as:

  1. Ear Infection or inflammation
  2. Generalized to severe itching
  3. Gastritis
  4. Excessive feet licking
  5. Vomiting and diarrhea in some cases.

Other clues your pet may be suffering from food allergies include year-round symptoms and poor responses to steroids.

Food-induced allergic hypersensitivity cannot be treated by immunotherapy, therefore, avoidance and elimination diets are the only form of treatment for your pet’s food allergy. If your pet test positive to specific foods, then we will provide your veterinarian with a list of commercial diets free of those ingredients to which your pet has tested positive.

Dog Allergy Testing

The first step to determining the cause of your dog’s symptoms is a thorough exam by a veterinarian. In addition to looking for external skin parasites such as fleas and mites, your veterinarian will desire to do some diagnostics to assist him/her determine what types of infections may be present.

After diagnosing and treating for external parasites and infections, your veterinarian may discuss blood work and recommend allergy testing. There are numerous potential causes for allergies in your dog. Dog allergens drop into the following groups:

  1. Contact allergy — including numerous grasses and plants, dust mites and molds
  2. Food allergies — including diverse types of proteins
  3. Flea allergies — numerous dogs are highly allergic to flea bites
  4. Inhalant allergy— allergens that are inhaled