Common Parasite Signs and Dog Skin Allergies
It’s quite common to hear about parasite allergies for the simple reason that the signs of dog skin allergies in dogs (i.e. dog red skin) are often the same as the skin’s reaction to the presence of parasites.
Aside from the usual skin reaction to parasite bites, tick and fleas may inject allergen-laden saliva into the host’s skin and complicate issues more for hypersensitive dogs.
Both allergic dermatitis and parasitic dermatitis can present any of these skin reactions:
- Inflamed skin
- Intense itching
- Pimple-like bumpiness
- Scabbing and crusting
- Pus-filled lesions
You may need to refer to your dog’s veterinarian to correctly distinguish between the two types of skin irritation.
If you’ve seen dog allergy symptoms before (e.g.dog red skin), you’d find similar skin reactions in dogs infested with parasites. So before you go searching for the best dog food for dogs with allergies, try to rule out first if your dog’s skin condition is not the result of parasite infestation.
There are at least three parasites commonly found in dogs – fleas, ticks, and some types of mites.
To correctly identify which parasites are living off of your dog’s skin, let’s delve into the life cycles and behavior each of these parasites, and the telltale signs or marks that they leave behind.
A flea has four stages in its life cycle – egg, larva, pupa, and adult – which takes from 12 days to 6 months to complete, depending on temperature and humidity. After feeding on your dog’s blood, an adult female lays about 40-50 eggs every single day. Larvae hatch from eggs in 2 days to 2 weeks and feed on flea dirt. In 5-20 days these larvae develop into pupae. They then develop into adults when a potential host emerges. At any one time, eggs account for 50% of the total flea population in your home, 35% are larvae, 10% are pupae, and only 5% are adults.
The first signs of fleas are intense scratching by your dog on its head, neck, ears, armpits, groin, base of tail, and other hard-to-reach body parts.
Flea bites on dogs look like tiny raised reddish dots with reddish surrounding area due to scratching and biting. To dogs allergic to flea saliva, there will also be rashes, lesions, and other dog allergic reactions aside from the flea bite marks.
Anemia, which first becomes noticeable from pale gums in dogs, can also result from flea infestation. Flea dirt, which looks like dark specks on your pet’s body or on the floor, is one “footprint” that you can start looking for. Flea eggs, which look like tiny whitish sand-like particles, also provide another clue.
Like fleas, ticks also have four life stages – egg, larva or seed, nymph, and adult – but unlike fleas, ticks feed on blood in each of the last three stages. After an adult female tick attaches to the host, it buries its head into the dog’s skin and becomes engorged. After a full blood meal, it drops to the ground and lays thousands of eggs at a time.
These eggs hatch into larvae which will quest for hosts, feed on them and drop to the ground to molt and become nymphs. The nymphs will find other bigger hosts and get their fill of blood, drop to the ground to molt again, and become adults, and the cycle begins again.
Ticks take from 2 months to a year to complete their life cycle. At any of the tick’s blood-sucking stages, your dog can become its host and suffer the discomfort and risks associated with ticks. Some dogs bitten by ticks will experience fever, weakness, or lack of appetite. In a dog red skin marks surrounded by reddish ring patterns suggest tick bites.
Head-shaking in dogs, constant scratching on warm moist parts, such as ear canal and groin area, are likely signs of the presence of ticks. Ticks are notorious for transmitting Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and their saliva also causes allergies to some dogs.
Demodex canis and Sarcoptes scabei mites are the two most common types of mites that affect dogs. The first causes demodectic mange, and the latter type causes sarcoptic mange. Demodectic mange symptoms are often mistaken as puppy allergy symptoms because this condition is common in puppies and other dogs with weakened immune system. Demodectic canis mites lives inside the dogs’ hair follicles and are transferred by direct contact. Puppies usually get it from their mother.
Bald spots and patches of scabs on dogs, lesions and sores on the face often indicate demodectic mange.
In the case of sarcoptic mange, which is also called canine scabies, the adult female mite burrows under the dog’s skin where it lays eggs and then dies. The eggs then go through four life stages – eggs, larva, nymph, and adult – perpetuating the cycle.
These mites affect mostly hairless areas, such as chest, belly, elbows, ears, and groin, although they can spread all over the dog’s body. You will notice red bumps and crusting on the skin, and intense scratching, which often leads to sores, hair loss, and secondary infections.
Parasites Treatment for Dog Skin Allergies
As you may have observed, each of the mentioned parasites behaves differently from the other, although some of their symptoms are similar (ie dog red skin). Each parasite infestation calls for a different treatment, and that’s the reason why your dog needs to be properly diagnosed by a veterinarian when showing signs of dog skin allergies.
There will be history-taking, and your veterinarian will ask about your pet’s grooming regimen, vaccinations, places visited, and all those routine questions.
Symptoms will be noted, and some testing will be conducted, such as blood testing, urine and fecal testing, and microscopic examination of skin scraping sample.
Depending on the result of these tests and evaluation, your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate medication to get rid of the particular parasite that has found its home on your dog’s body. These medications can be oral, topical or drops, sprays, or even chemical dips which will generally disrupt the life cycle of parasites and eliminate them eventually.
The inflamed skin and sores will also have to be treated to prevent secondary bacterial or yeast infections. The itching from allergy to flea or tick saliva will be more severe for dogs hypersensitive to these allergens and will require stronger dog allergy remedies. In addition, the veterinarian may recommend steroids, antihistamine, antibacterial, or antifungal medications depending on your dog’s actual condition.
Special shampoos and disinfecting baths may help soothe and heal the sores brought about by the pests and aid in skin recovery. In the case of dogs with demodectic mange, enhancing the immune system will immensely help. Needless to say, your home will have to undergo pest elimination, too, to prevent re-infestation.