Watching your pet itch, scratch and pull his hair out because of bugs crawling on and biting his skin can be upsetting. Some animals become so itchy that they chew themselves to the point of bleeding.
This type of self-mutilation is called a "hot spot" and is generally related to a "flea allergy."
Most cats and dogs experience only mild irritation in response to flea bites. The flea-allergic pet, however, suffers a severe, itch-producing reaction to just one bite. After chewing or scratching himself to the point of producing open sores or scabs on the skin, a secondary infection often occurs.
The most common distribution of itchiness related to fleas on dogs involves the rump area in front of the tail. But on cats, the ear and neck area are more frequently involved.
Treatment involves stopping the itch, treating the secondary infection, and strict flea prevention to stop them from biting. Today's flea-control products work much better than those of old. Topical prescription products such as Advantage, Frontline and Revolution have extremely low toxicity toward the pet, but they work well to kill the fleas.
Environmental flea-control products like Flea Busters boric-acid powder work well in your carpet and produce a residual killing effect. Foggers work well in your home for a quick kill, but they are very toxic to you and to your pet, so you must leave the house — and be sure to follow all label precautions and directions.
Yard sprays are available through your local garden center, but having a professional treat the yard for you will generally provide a faster kill for fleas and might be safer for you and your pet.
Stopping the itch in your pet may require a visit to your vet for an "anti-itch" shot (cortisone) and topical treatments. You might need to set up a barrier to the itchy spot; for example, use an Elizabethan collar, or have your dog wear shorts. Antibiotics will be prescribed for any secondary skin infections.
As you can see, fleas can cause your pet a lot of discomfort. Remember that it's best to stop the problem before the bite occurs, so use your prescription prevention monthly.