What is Flea bit hypersensitivity?

Flea bite hypersensitivity is one of the most common skin disorder affecting both cats and dogs. Affected animals are allergic to flea saliva and so when bitten become extremely itchy.  The dog or cat will then scratch and lick affected areas causing skin trauma, and potentially skin infections to develop.

To ensure your animal does not get bitten by fleas, they need careful ongoing management.  There are a number of effective topical and oral treatments available from your veterinarian.  It is best to talk with your vet to work out the best treatment for your pet.  To be effective, treatment needs to be consistent, and all pets need to be treated regularly, at the same time.

The adult fleas that you see are estimated to represent only 5% of the flea population that your pet is exposed to.  Eggs and larvae are present in the environment. They develop into adults and then jump onto your pet. Therefore, it is also important to treat your pets’ environment.

Treating your pets environment

  • Vacuum well before treatment to help remove eggs, larvae and adults and to stimulate pre-emerged adults
  • larvae mature in dark places so are commonly found under furniture
  • Flea control sprays are an effective treatment option for the environment
  • If a flea bomb is used, make sure you also use a spray under furniture
  • Areas to remember to treat are carpeted closets, seat wells (under cushions) and door mats
  • Rumpus type rooms often store many items which should be moved so that the area underneath can be treated
  • Cars should also be treated, but be careful with long acting insecticides, as cars can heat up in the sun, releasing fumes. Thorough, regular vacuuming may be better option for your car.

Treatment options

Environmental flea treatments should include two agents, one to kill adult fleas and a growth regulator to stop their development. Growth regulators include methoprene, fenoxycarb and pyriproxifen, so look out for these names on the ingredient list – the Indorex Range is a good option. The growth regulators generally act for around 6 months, however the adulticide should be repeated 2-3 weeks after treatment to ensure any newly developed adults are killed.  A fly spray is an adequate treatment.

With the right conditions, fleas can also develop outside. They like dark areas with moist soil and organic debris.

  • Protected outside areas (particularly those your pet likes to lie in) should be cleared of organic debris before treatment.
  • Areas to consider include, dog kennels, sheds, under decks, trees and scrubs, and under the house.

Fleas can start biting your pet within five minutes of jumping on – before flea treatments can act. Because of this, it is important to ensure your pet does not come in contact with fleas:

  • Be cautious of other pets visiting your home – they may have fleas
  • Exercise your dog in open spaces and don’t let them roam in shrubbery or bush where other animals may have dropped flea matter
  • If you are visiting places where you are not sure of flea control (especially around other dogs) you can treat your dog with a repelling agent before visiting. Permoxin is a pyrethroid spray that can be used daily to repel fleas (Pyrethroid can not be used on cats, as is highly toxic to them). Capstar, an oral flea treatment, has the fastest kill time of all the flea treatments so this can be given daily if you are concerned about contact with fleas.

Katherine Hansen BVSc