Animals will itch because of parasitic, infectious (bacterial and or yeast) or immunologic reasons. Frequently a pet will itch because of a combination of these causes which can make getting control of the itch difficult.
An itchy pet can be an extremely frustrating condition for both the pet and the owner. There is often loss of sleep for everyone in the home when animals are up all night scratching, mild to severe damage to the skin, secondary infections or there could be an underlying allergy (food, atopy or flea allergy dermatitis), which requires long term management for effective control. We cannot cure allergic dogs but we can work together to find the best combination of therapies which will minimize your pet’s discomfort.
Old thought – most pets ingest or breath in allergens (food or inhalant) that would then would then cause them to itch. The current research has shown that it is a defective skin barrier that is the prime route that allergens cause a pet to itch. If we can create a healthy skin barrier, we can minimize allergens affect and reduce itching. When a pet itches less then there will be fewer secondary infections.
Flea control is essential in any pet that has allergies. Allergic pets have a reduced threshold to fleas that will induce an itch reaction. The less often and shortest duration the flea gets to bite your pet, the less reactive your pet will be.
Reminder to all that indoor animals can also have fleas. This does not mean your house is dirty. Cats are fastidious groomers so you may not see a live flea on your cat.
There are many ways to help your pet. So before you start changing your pet’s food, adding things to their food and spending money on short term fixes, please come see us so we can help you design an effective approach that best suits you and your pet.
Author: Dr. Josephine Grant, DVM