Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

What is it?

FAD is the most common skin allergy disorder of dogs and cats in SE Qld, affecting at least 50% of dogs and cats that have fleas. It is caused by a reaction to the flea saliva and it only takes one flea bite every two weeks to cause continuous itching. The clinical signs are characterised by intense itching in front of the base of the tail, on top of the tail, flanks and the back of the hind legs. The itching then leads to a secondary bacterial infection and the development of hairless, greasy, scaly skin in these areas.

How is it diagnosed?

The diagnosis is based on:

  • location of the skin problem
  • problem occurring predominantly in Summer
  • presence of fleas or flea dirt
  • ruling out other possible causes. These are commonly other allergies (eg. Inhaled allergens, food, insects) or infection with mites.
  • flea elimination trial using Frontline Spray on Day 0, 10 and 20 or Capstar daily for 21 days


The main aim of treatment is to remove the fleas from the pet and their environment as they are the underlying trigger for the intense itching. For every one flea you see on your pet there is at least another 100 living in their environment. Flea control measures are:

  • Animal treatments
    • Monthly “top spot’s” - Frontline, Advantix, Advantage, Advocate, Revolution
    • Oral Tablets - Capstar, Sentinel
    • Body Sprays – Frontline, Fido’s Rinse
  • Environmental cleaning
    • Regular washing of bedding and hanging in direct sunlight to dry
    • Vacuuming focusing on pet’s favourite areas
    • Outdoor sprays
    • Indoor Flea Bombs
    • Isolating areas with high flea infestations

Other treatment involves treating the symptoms that are present and they may include:

  • Antibiotics – to treat secondary bacterial skin infections which are a major contributor to the scratching.
  • Medicated Shampoos and Conditioners – to aid treatment of the secondary bacterial infection and yeast infections.
  • Antipruritic (anti-itch)
  • corticosteroids – effective antiinflammatory treatment

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