Do you need expert advice about your pet? Each week KATE HORNBY (BSc BVMS MRCVS), a vet at Grove Veterinary Centre, answers your questions
Q: “LAST year I took my dog to the vets because he was biting and scratching all over. The vet said he had fleas. This year he is doing the same and he is starting to go bald. I have bathed him in flea shampoo several times and have only ever seen one or two fleas. Why isn’t he getting better?”
A: ANIMALS can lose fur and itch for several different reasons, including fleas, other parasites and allergies. If fleas are the cause of the itch then the baldness normally starts above the tail, on the back and on the back legs. In cats the hair loss can be more generalized.
This type of reaction to fleas is called flea bite hypersensitivity or flea allergy. It is important you take your dog to the vets to be examined. Flea allergies occur when an animal who has fleas becomes allergic to the saliva of the flea and shows an exaggerated response to subsequent bites. Animals with this condition can bite and scratch themselves so severely the skin becomes damaged. This can lead to skin infections.
Animals in this condition often need antibiotics to treat the resulting infection and medication to stop them itching, as well as a good quality flea product. The key to treating and preventing flea allergies is good quality flea control applied regularly all year round.
It is important (and much cheaper in the long run) to make sure you seek advice from your vet about which type of flea control is best for your pet. If you have found fleas on your pet it is sometimes necessary to treat your home, again your vet will advise you on good products.
If needed, most vets will offer a free weight check so they can make sure you are getting the best advice and buying the right product.