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Ask the Veterinarian/Fleas, Food allergies, or Dermatitis?


Earlier this year I adopted a puppy from the ASPCA. She had ringworm that was being treated and I continued the treatment when I brought her home successfully and for a while she was fine and healthy. That was when she was about 3 months old. When she was about 6 months old I noticed she was scratching a lot despite having a bath once a week every week and not being around any dogs with fleas. I changed her food to one with no corn wheat or soy, 18% protein, expensive. It helped a little bit, but she was still scratching more than I was comfortable with. I hit some hard times and moved in with a roommate who has two dogs but hardly ever bathes them(actually I end up bathing them out of pity, but I can't do that as frequently as needed)and never does anything about the fleas. Of course, my dog has fleas now, as well as a cat I'm watching for my sister. The fleas don't seem to be the entire problem though, since when she scratches and bites, I can't find the fleas in that area and her skin gets scaly and inflamed with patchy hair loss. I have never seen this on a dog with just fleas, and so few of them since I bathe her often, pick fleas off her whenever I see them, and limit her time around the other dogs and their areas. I've been using a local over-the-counter  food supplement containing vinegar, garlic, and brewers yeast to prevent fleas which has worked well until I moved here, and am hesitant to try things with pesticides and poisons in them, however slow-acting they may be. Can you recommend anything that is easy on dogs with sensitive skin, safe, bath-resistant, and could take on a large-scale infestation like this? I can't afford to medicate all the dogs, only mine and the cat, and plan on moving soon, but I need to do something now and can't afford to go to the vet until my hours pick up at work. I don't know whether she has a skin allergy to the fleas or a skin allergy to something else or just is prone to rash-y skin, but the fleas are a big problem. I think I included all the really pertinent information here... Where do I start to fix this?

There are not many natural remedies for fleas.  Most shampoos will kill fleas, but that has to be used every day, which is not good for a dog.  Probably the safest non-toxic flea medications to use are selamectin, in REVOLUTION of fipronil, in Frontline.   Many other products work better, but they contain some more toxic pesticides.

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Dr. Louis N. Gotthelf


Dermatology and ear diseases of dogs and cats


I am the author of "Small Animal Ear Diseases; An Illustrated Guide" published by W.B. Saunders. I have over 25 years of clinical experience with a special interest in dermatologic conditions and ear diseases.

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