Allergic Flea Bite Dermatitis in Cats (DAPP)

We all know how annoying fleas are, since they not only affect our kitties but they can also spread through our home causing a large infestation.

And not only can they bring with them other problems such as viral or bacterial diseases, but they can also cause allergic reactions in our cats, known as DAPP (flea allergy dermatitis). Let’s see in detail what they consist of and how to treat it.

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What is a flea?

It is important to know what kind of parasite the flea is and its life cycle, since despite being complex, understanding it can be of great help when it comes to avoiding infestations.

The flea is a parasitic and blood-sucking insect, the latter means that it feeds on the blood of the animals it infests. Fleas have a body structure that allows them to stay on their hosts’ fur without problems: they lack wings, they are flattened from the sides, and they have very long legs to be able to jump considerable distances.

The flea that we find in cats and dogs is the most common, and it is divided into two species: Ctenocephalides canis and Ctenocephalides felis, each one affects dogs and cats respectively; However, something that is curious is that cats tend to be more infested with the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis).


What is allergic dermatitis and how does the flea produce it?

Dermatitis is a multifactorial skin condition, this means that it can be caused by many things, such as hypersensitivities, autoimmune diseases or the presence of the same ectoparasites, such as fleas.

Inflammation of the skin is present, generally in the regions of the back, flanks and base of the tail, however, the distribution of lesions can be quite generalized. It is also possible to observe quite pronounced itching, which will cause our cat to scratch continuously , sometimes even getting to self-harm due to excessive scratching or chewing.

A cat infected with fleas will not necessarily have a flea bite allergy (DAPP). The flea bite is, in effect, the cause of the allergy due to its saliva, but the saliva when entering a certain organism is what can generate an allergic response, due to the antigens that are found in it, awakening the signs of a dermatitis.

For this same reason, a cat that is not allergic to a flea bite will not overreact to a flea bite. However, it is important to mention that a severe flea infestation in a non-allergic cat can also cause skin problems due to constant scratching, which can lead to injuries that require veterinary attention.


Symptoms of DAPP

The signs of flea allergy dermatitis are usually quite apparent, and they are not usually too severe, so they do not become systemic problems.


  • Inflammation of the skin tissue.
  • Crusted papules (usually on the back).
  • Secondary alopecia (sometimes symmetrical).
  • Hair breakage.
  • Granuloma in certain cases.
  • Peeling

DAPP usually causes itching or discomfort to the animal, this leads to constant scratching. When a problem of this type is not treated in time, our animal will be more prone to alopecia from scratching or licking itself , and possible skin wounds.

The scabs generated by DAPP can be removed by friction and leave the dermis exposed; It is an undesirable problem because they can bring you, not only more pain, but also possible infections that aggravate allergic dermatitis.

What is the treatment for DAPP?

Treatment of flea allergy dermatitis begins with treating the source of the problem: the flea. Deworming is crucial if we want to prevent the problem from continuing to linger.

Contrary to popular belief, fleas prefer a clean and well-nourished host , so despite good hygiene and a healthy life, fleas can present themselves in the same way.

The immune reaction occurs at the time of the bite, so as long as there are fleas in our cat, it will not stop showing signs. When noticing the signs that have already been described, it is essential to take our pet to a veterinary clinic or hospital.

He will prescribe a specific antiparasitic for fleas that must be applied topically, and he will recommend a control system to apply it in the environment where our cat lives; Fleas are parasites that take over, not only cats, but also the place they inhabit , flea eggs and fleas themselves can end up on beds, chairs, and even underneath and on rugs or carpets.


We must pay special attention to the environmental control of fleas inside the home, as long as we do not do it, the problem will persist. Along with the environmental parasite treatment and that of the cat, the veterinarian may also prescribe something for the itching, which usually requires prolonged therapy.



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