There are some great flea control products on the market. However, flea allergy dermatitis is still a major problem for dog and cat owners. There are several reasons for that. The two most common reasons are: 1- Failure to properly apply flea control products 2- Extreme sensitivity to flea bites
So, let's talk about the failure to properly apply flea control products first. One of the most common problems is that owners don't understand when and how to apply the topical flea control products. A good rule of thumb is to remember to wait at least 2 days after a bath before applying the product and to wait at least 2 days after applying the product before giving a bath. The products use the oil glands of the hair follicle for absorption into the skin, so it is important to wait a few days after the bath for the oil glands to replenish. By the same token, it takes a few days after applying the product before it is completely absorbed, so it is important to allow it time to absorb before allowing your pet to get wet. This 2 day rule also applies to swimming. If your dog is a frequent swimmer, then I suggest using an oral flea control product and avoiding the topical products altogether.
Another application issue is to make sure that the product is applied against the skin. It is important to make sure to part the hair and apply the product directly to the skin. Don't touch it! I have had several clients who have told me they "rubbed it in." Don't! That only takes the product off your pet and onto you. Also, with cats, it is important to apply it to a part of the head they can't reach with their tongues. Cats are notorious for bathing the products off.
Next, there are some dogs and cats that are extremely sensitive to flea saliva. Some animals are so allergic that one flea bite can cause them to itch for an entire week! So, you may never even see the flea that is causing the allergy.
So, what are the symptoms? Flea allergy dermatitis in dogs has a very distinct pattern. They typically are very pruritic (itchy) on their rump near the base of the tail. The pruritis is accompanied by hair loss and red irritated skin. If your dog is showing these symptoms, then it is almost certainly fleas. Look very carefully and you may spot one.
For cats, they usually have hair loss accompanied by very small bumps under the neck and at the back of the ears.
What can you do? First, and most obviously, you need to make sure that you are properly applying the topical products. If you have done everything correctly with regard to application, then your pet may have an extreme sensitivity. These severe allergies can be very frustrating to treat. You will need to consult a dermatologist for treatment options.