Ask a Vet Online – “My dog gets frontline flee treatment ..”

Question from Tracey Newall

My dog dexter gets frontline flee treatment but recently he seems 2 scratch more i havent found anything but his skin flakey

Answer from Shanika Online Vet

It is good to hear that you are treating Dexter for fleas; fleas are definitely high up on the list of causes for an itchy dog. Dry flaky skin may well be as a result of scratching due to flea infestation but can also be affected by allergies and medical conditions.

It is really important to remember that a pet suffering from a flea allergy or irritation does not need to be full of fleas. All it takes is one flea to bite your pet to set off the allergic reaction cascade that leads to the skin being irritated.

What is a flea?

Ctenocephalides canis or felis (the dog and cat flea) are a small wingless parasitic insect that live on our pets and in the environment.  Fleas can jump but they can’t fly, they need blood feeds to survive and a large proportion of the flea population are in the environment as oppose to on your pet.

Where are the fleas coming from?

Fleas live on animals as well as in the environment. The flea population consists of adult fleas, immature larval stages, dormant pupae and then eggs, as you move down the list the numbers increase significantly which is why we refer to them as a pyramid.

Fleas in the environment, by this we mean anywhere a pet with fleas has been, the warmth of our homes provides a great breeding ground for fleas in carpets, pet bedding and just about any nook and cranny.

Cats can also carry the fleas and they do not even have to be your own cats, for example if a cat comes through your home or garden then the fleas can jump off or deposit eggs as they go. This is why we often advise treating the home environment and in-contact animals also.

So how can you tell if your pet has fleas?

Gently part your pets fur and search through close to the skin, fleas are a reddish/brown colour and quickly move away from the light. It can be easier to find fleas on the underside of your pet as the coat is naturally thinner here. It is often easier to see the flea dirt in your pet’s coat than the actual fleas.

So what is flea dirt and how can you tell if there is any on your pet?

Flea dirt is the waste product produced by fleas and when dry it looks like little black specs, however if you wet it these black specs turn red as they contain digested blood. This brings us to the ‘wet paper test’, we comb through your pets coat and collect the debris onto a piece of wet white paper, if there is flea dirt present there will be small red dots visible where the flea dirt has dissolved in the water. The wet paper test helps to distinguish between flea dirt and just dried mud that may be on your pet’s coat.

Can the fleas live on humans?

You will be relieved to hear that cat and dog fleas don’t tend to live on humans, fleas can however bite humans and cause an irritation at the site of such bites. Commonly humans find flea bites on their ankles, wrists or at their waist band as small itchy raised red areas on the skin.

How to treat the flea problem?

I would recommend using a veterinary flea product either in the form of a spot on (applied to skin at base of neck), impregnated collar or a spray directly on your dog. It is however really important to treat any in-contact animals not just dogs but cats too. Lastly do not forget to treat the environment; this is most easily done by use of an aerosol spray applied to the carpets, skirting boards and soft furnishing. Instructions often advise to vacuum carpets before you spray to help the chemicals to be more effective. Always read the safety information as the chemicals may be harmful to fish or birds and it is important to allow good ventilation after spraying also. In my experience it is best to treat half the house at a time so as to leave somewhere for pets and people to hang out without having to breathe in the spray. The chemicals in the spray are designed to kill or prevent further development of the fleas and their various life stages. The effect of the environmental sprays can last for a year.

Why is my pet still scratching even though I have treated him/her for fleas?

Provided a thorough approach to flea treatment using appropriate products has been undertaken then if your pet continues to scratch there are likely to be other factors contributing. These may include allergies or intolerances to food substances, cleaning products and or an underlying medical condition.

What medical conditions may be causing my pet to scratch?

The skin has its own inbuilt barrier to substances that can cause irritation this however can be weakened in conditions such as Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid gland), Cushing’s disease (over production of natural steroids) and bacterial skin infection.

What should I do if after treating my pet, in-contact animal and the environment my pet is still scratching?

It is likely you will need to discuss further investigations into your pet’s skin condition with your vet, to try and rule out some of the conditions listed above. The investigations may involve blood and or skin tests. There is also the possibility that an exclusion diet or low allergy diet may be suggested if diet is suspected as a contributing factor to the skin problem.

So in conclusion an itchy pet may well need more than flea treatment. That is not to say that fleas are not very high up on the list of things to rule out by taking a thorough approach to flea treatment. If you are in any doubt always talk to your vet as we are here to help you and your pet.

It is good to hear that you are treating Dexter for fleas; fleas are definitely high up on the list of causes for an itchy dog. Dry flaky skin may well be as a result of scratching due to flea infestation but can also be affected by allergies and medical conditions.
It is really important to remember that a pet suffering from a flea allergy or irritation does not need to be full of fleas. All it takes is one flea to bite your pet to set off the allergic reaction cascade that leads to the skin being irritated.
What is a flea?
Ctenocephalides canis or felis (the dog and cat flea) are a small wingless parasitic insect that live on our pets and in the environment.  Fleas can jump but they can’t fly, they need blood feeds to survive and a large proportion of the flea population are in the environment as oppose to on your pet.
Where are the fleas coming from?
Fleas live on animals as well as in the environment. The flea population consists of adult fleas, immature larval stages, dormant pupae and then eggs, as you move down the list the numbers increase significantly which is why we refer to them as a pyramid.
Fleas in the environment, by this we mean anywhere a pet with fleas has been, the warmth of our homes provides a great breeding ground for fleas in carpets, pet bedding and just about any nook and cranny.
Cats can also carry the fleas and they do not even have to be your own cats, for example if a cat comes through your home or garden then the fleas can jump off or deposit eggs as they go. This is why we often advise treating the home environment and in-contact animals also.
So how can you tell if your pet has fleas?
Gently part your pets fur and search through close to the skin, fleas are a reddish/brown colour and quickly move away from the light. It can be easier to find fleas on the underside of your pet as the coat is naturally thinner here. It is often easier to see the flea dirt in your pet’s coat than the actual fleas.
So what is flea dirt and how can you tell if there is any on your pet?
Flea dirt is the waste product produced by fleas and when dry it looks like little black specs, however if you wet it these black specs turn red as they contain digested blood. This brings us to the ‘wet paper test’, we comb through your pets coat and collect the debris onto a piece of wet white paper, if there is flea dirt present there will be small red dots visible where the flea dirt has dissolved in the water. The wet paper test helps to distinguish between flea dirt and just dried mud that may be on your pet’s coat.
Can the fleas live on humans?
You will be relieved to hear that cat and dog fleas don’t tend to live on humans, fleas can however bite humans and cause an irritation at the site of such bites. Commonly humans find flea bites on their ankles, wrists or at their waist band as small itchy raised red areas on the skin.
How to treat the flea problem?
I would recommend using a veterinary flea product either in the form of a spot on (applied to skin at base of neck), impregnated collar or a spray directly on your dog. It is however really important to treat any in-contact animals not just dogs but cats too. Lastly do not forget to treat the environment; this is most easily done by use of an aerosol spray applied to the carpets, skirting boards and soft furnishing. Instructions often advise to vacuum carpets before you spray to help the chemicals to be more effective. Always read the safety information as the chemicals may be harmful to fish or birds and it is important to allow good ventilation after spraying also. In my experience it is best to treat half the house at a time so as to leave somewhere for pets and people to hang out without having to breathe in the spray. The chemicals in the spray are designed to kill or prevent further development of the fleas and their various life stages. The effect of the environmental sprays can last for a year.
Why is my pet still scratching even though I have treated him/her for fleas?
Provided a thorough approach to flea treatment using appropriate products has been undertaken then if your pet continues to scratch there are likely to be other factors contributing. These may include allergies or intolerances to food substances, cleaning products and or an underlying medical condition.
What medical conditions may be causing my pet to scratch?
The skin has its own inbuilt barrier to substances that can cause irritation this however can be weakened in conditions such as Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid gland), Cushing’s disease (over production of natural steroids) and bacterial skin infection.
What should I do if after treating my pet, in-contact animal and the environment my pet is still scratching?
It is likely you will need to discuss further investigations into your pet’s skin condition with your vet, to try and rule out some of the conditions listed above. The investigations may involve blood and or skin tests. There is also the possibility that an exclusion diet or low allergy diet may be suggested if diet is suspected as a contributing factor to the skin problem.
So in conclusion an itchy pet may well need more than flea treatment. That is not to say that fleas are not very high up on the list of things to rule out by taking a thorough approach to flea treatment. If you are in any doubt always talk to your vet as we are here to help you and your pet.
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29 thoughts on “Ask a Vet Online – “My dog gets frontline flee treatment ..”

  1. My kittens were treated for fleas with broadline 4 weeks ago but a few days ago they are showing the same symptoms. One in particular lies with her bum in the air crying for it to be scratched. They are both showing this behaviour but one is worse than the other. I feel helpless I’m scratching them but they don’t seem to be getting much relief. I’m trying to distract them from the scratching and incessant crying by the laser toy but they soon start rubbing themselves of the floor and cry. Please help

    1. Hello, sorry for the delay in replying! You don’t mention their age or if they are girls – the crying could mean they are in season, if they have not been spayed, and completely unrelated to the flea treatment. Have you seen any evidence of fleas (dirt or live fleas) on them? Don’t forget only 5% of fleas live on your pets, so you need to treat the home and bedding too. David RVN @ VetHelpDirect

  2. My kittens were treated for fleas with broadline 4 weeks ago but a few days ago they are showing the same symptoms. One in particular lies with her bum in the air crying for it to be scratched. They are both showing this behaviour but one is worse than the other. I feel helpless I’m scratching them but they don’t seem to be getting much relief. I’m trying to distract them from the scratching and incessant crying by the laser toy but they soon start rubbing themselves of the floor and cry. Please help

    1. Hello, sorry for the delay in replying! You don’t mention their age or if they are girls – the crying could mean they are in season, if they have not been spayed, and completely unrelated to the flea treatment. Have you seen any evidence of fleas (dirt or live fleas) on them? Don’t forget only 5% of fleas live on your pets, so you need to treat the home and bedding too. David RVN @ VetHelpDirect

  3. hi my dog shih tzu has been itching and crying for days. He has been treated with flea shampoo, he has a flea collar on and also has spot on. how long shall I leave it till I take him to the vets? he’s eating and drinking as usual and is his normal self expect the itching and crying

    1. Hi Emily, it sounds as if your dog is still experiencing some discomfort. It could be fleas however there are many potential causes for skin problems. A vet will examine your dog, in particular his skin and advise you of the best way to go about making him more comfortable. Best wishes

  4. hi my dog shih tzu has been itching and crying for days. He has been treated with flea shampoo, he has a flea collar on and also has spot on. how long shall I leave it till I take him to the vets? he’s eating and drinking as usual and is his normal self expect the itching and crying

    1. Hi Emily, it sounds as if your dog is still experiencing some discomfort. It could be fleas however there are many potential causes for skin problems. A vet will examine your dog, in particular his skin and advise you of the best way to go about making him more comfortable. Best wishes

  5. hi , right my patterdale hes 12yr, and had op for his right eye removed though bad cataracts. now 6months down the line iv had to spend quiet a lot of money towards flea treatment. iv done everything you have said sprayed flat etc… you don’t understand how much this is driving me and the dog up the wall. iv asked my vet foe 6 months flea spot on however it wasn’t frontline she told me fleas are becoming used to frontline . so now 6months down the line and my dog still biting, scratching, no fur around tail and his back. what can i do next ?

    1. Hi Shay, we feel for you as once a flea infestation has taken hold, it can be a frustrating issue to sort. Firstly, it might be worth checking that it is indeed fleas that are causing your dog to bite and scratch at his skin. There are many causes of skin problems including a hypersensitivity to fleas but it could be another allergen altogether. If you haven’t already, it would be worth asking your vet to examine your dog for other causes. You may have actually seen fleas, if you haven’t, try combing through your dog’s coat and emptying the comb onto a wet piece of white paper. Black flecks of flea ‘dirt’ will have a brown/red ‘halo’ appear around them. It can take much persistence to rid of a flea infestation as 95% of the problem is in fact not on your pet but in the environment, using a prescription flea treatment is always a good start, spraying the house with a licensed house flea spray is also important. Hoovering regularly and washing bedding often (at at least 60 degree) is also key. Remember that flea eggs can live a long time in the environment which is why it can take a few months to be rid of the problem. You might find that as the weather warms up in the spring, you see more fleas. At least then, they will be killed by your various flea treatments. Really though, if your dog is suffering with persistent itches and making himself sore, I’d take him to be examined by your vet and to gain more advice on the matter. Good luck and best wishes

  6. hi , right my patterdale hes 12yr, and had op for his right eye removed though bad cataracts. now 6months down the line iv had to spend quiet a lot of money towards flea treatment. iv done everything you have said sprayed flat etc… you don’t understand how much this is driving me and the dog up the wall. iv asked my vet foe 6 months flea spot on however it wasn’t frontline she told me fleas are becoming used to frontline . so now 6months down the line and my dog still biting, scratching, no fur around tail and his back. what can i do next ?

    1. Hi Shay, we feel for you as once a flea infestation has taken hold, it can be a frustrating issue to sort. Firstly, it might be worth checking that it is indeed fleas that are causing your dog to bite and scratch at his skin. There are many causes of skin problems including a hypersensitivity to fleas but it could be another allergen altogether. If you haven’t already, it would be worth asking your vet to examine your dog for other causes. You may have actually seen fleas, if you haven’t, try combing through your dog’s coat and emptying the comb onto a wet piece of white paper. Black flecks of flea ‘dirt’ will have a brown/red ‘halo’ appear around them. It can take much persistence to rid of a flea infestation as 95% of the problem is in fact not on your pet but in the environment, using a prescription flea treatment is always a good start, spraying the house with a licensed house flea spray is also important. Hoovering regularly and washing bedding often (at at least 60 degree) is also key. Remember that flea eggs can live a long time in the environment which is why it can take a few months to be rid of the problem. You might find that as the weather warms up in the spring, you see more fleas. At least then, they will be killed by your various flea treatments. Really though, if your dog is suffering with persistent itches and making himself sore, I’d take him to be examined by your vet and to gain more advice on the matter. Good luck and best wishes

  7. Please can you help.i rescued a rabbit and I think he has fleas. He’s been scratching really bad, his fur has come off and he’s cut himself.im worried what to use incase it hurts his sores

    1. Hi Vikki, we’d recommend that you take your rabbit to be examined by a vet. He sounds very uncomfortable and this doesn’t sound like a straight-forward flea case, there are a number of potential causes. Treatment will be specific to the cause and the sooner you have him looked at, the better. Best wishes.

  8. Please can you help.i rescued a rabbit and I think he has fleas. He’s been scratching really bad, his fur has come off and he’s cut himself.im worried what to use incase it hurts his sores

    1. Hi Vikki, we’d recommend that you take your rabbit to be examined by a vet. He sounds very uncomfortable and this doesn’t sound like a straight-forward flea case, there are a number of potential causes. Treatment will be specific to the cause and the sooner you have him looked at, the better. Best wishes.

    1. Hi Debbie, there are a number of reasons dogs will have itchy skin, from fleas to allergies and a range of things in between. It is best to have your dog examined by a vet. It must be very distracting to be constantly scratching and nibbling and it can turn sore and infected. There is often much that can be done. Best wishes

    1. Hi Julie. Yes I’d recommend popping back to your vet or giving them a call to see what they’d recommend as next steps. If you haven’t treated your house with a household flea spray, I’d recommend doing that and washing his bedding on a hot wash – fleas can and will live in the environment, so to break the cycle completely it’s important that the home is treated as well as your pet.

  9. My toy poodle as come to me with a lot of fleas I’ve been to the vets and he
    Put flea stuff on and he as still got them he is due for another check up
    This pup as come from a breeder

  10. My shih tzu was suffering from itching and i sprayed frontline everywhere its already the 4th day but he is still itching 🙁
    my plan is to take him for grooming to short his cut and spray again so all his body parts absorb the liquid medicine.
    is that okay?or I should look for another treatment?:( im suffering alot plz help me everytime i see him scratching himself i cant stop crying.

    1. I can appreciate why you’re so worried, and you’re trying so hard to make him feel better! It’s worth treating for fleas regularly and also treating the house with a household flea spray and washing all of his bedding on a hot wash so that you completely break the cycle. If he continues itching, I’d make an appointment to see your vet in case there’s another cause of his itching – for example, an allergy of some sort.

  11. Hi there, I purchased frontline for my dog, and the one for cats, but have been told that if they lick each other, they will get sick. My cat and dog are best buddies and wrestle and play together constantly. Is it true that they will be toxic to each other?

    1. Hi Deborah, it is always best to make sure that the product is fully on the skin, rather than the fur. Keep other animals away from grooming as they can be very ill if a spot on is ingested, until the product has dried – and always speak to your vet for further advice.

  12. Hi my 16month old dog Bordeaux cross has developed a bad case of lunging and trying to attack any small dog that comes near hercshe never been bit or attacked by Amazon dog trued all-sorts will a DAP spray work ??

    1. Hi Pat, DAP may only help a little. It sounds like this is becoming a learned behaviour and as such you need the services of a qualified behaviourist. Please speak to your vet, as they might be able to recommend someone who can help with this behaviour. Dave RVN

  13. Hey urm so I have a bull mastif and I’ve not long ago bathed him, then treated him with the spot on and flea collar. The fleas seemed to had gone but now I’ve seen a few on his back end, and he is constantly itching and biteing but now where he is itching his chest and under his chin, he now has fresh sores that are bleeding a little and I haven’t a clue what to do, please help?

    1. Hi Chloe, you also need to make sure you treat the home and car etc. as these are places larvae live. If he is bleeding he may well need a vet visit, as there is the issue of a skin infection. as well.

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