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Q: Our dog Maisie is scratching a lot and now has a bald patch on her back. She’s never had fleas and I can’t see any on her black fur. Also, will treatment sting her skin?

A:  It sounds like Maisie is suffering from Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), a condition that leads to the itchy, angry skin patches you mention. FAD can be caused by the smallest number of flea bites if your dog is allergic to the proteins in flea saliva.

The first reaction is severe itching (known as pruritis) and a once healthy-looking coat can soon become a patchy, scabby mess. Your vet can treat FAD with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories but prevention is always better than cure.

Checking for fleas is easy: use a fine-tooth comb to search for flea dirt, tap it onto white tissue paper and then wet it. Flea dirt is basically broken-down blood and has a reddish hue.

Treatment is usually applied between the shoulder blades, so it shouldn’t affect the patch on Maisie’s back, and is effective for one to two months. Buy it from your vet to ensure its effectiveness and safety.

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