Itching is a very common issue in all animals including dogs and cats. Itching can cause your pet to scratch and lick one spot or their whole body frequently. You may notice broken hairs, missing hair, saliva (red/brown) staining, or scabbing on certain areas. The most common cause of itching is allergies, however, things like fleas, infection, trauma, and behavioral issues can also cause similar symptoms. If your pet is itching it is important to have them seen by your veterinarian to determine the root cause.
Our pets can be allergic to one thing or a multitude of things varying from food to environmental allergens. Food allergens often include proteins such as chicken or beef or fillers such as wheat. Common environmental allergies include pollens, molds, grasses, house dust or insects (such as fleas, spiders). Allergies usually cause dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), which can lead to secondary bacterial or yeast infections. They can also be responsible for chronic ear infections and anal sac disease.
The first step in treating allergies is first to identify the allergens that are causing the problem and remove them if possible, such as candles or laundry detergent. A detailed history is very important. If a food allergy is suspected a food trial is recommended. Food trials consist of feeding your pet a hypoallergenic food and nothing else for at least 2 months. Prescription foods are the only true hypoallergenic diet, be careful about over the counter food marketed as hypoallergenic. If environmental allergies are suspected a simple blood test can identify which specific allergens are affecting your pet.
The effective treatment of allergies depends largely upon which allergens your pet is allergic to and how severe those allergies are. Food allergies are treated with a hypoallergenic or limited ingredient diet while environmental allergies can sometimes be treated with allergy injections such as cytopoint. Certain oral medications may be given on a regular basis or seasonally and can greatly reduce the body’s reaction to the offending allergens. Routine flea/tick prevention is important to protect against insect allergens, we recommend oral preventatives like Nexgard as some dogs with allergies can have adverse reactions to topical medications such as frontline. Supplementation with essential fatty acids and medicated bathing will help reduce allergen exposure and help to relieve discomfort. Wiping your pet’s feet or abdomen with medicated wipes after they are exposed to the allergens can also help to minimize itching. Treating rashes and infected areas, including the ears, with antifungals or antibiotics is often necessary until the underlying cause is resolved. Associated anal gland problems can often be controlled with routine expression of the anal sacs and supplementation. The treatment and control of allergies is extremely difficult and varies widely from pet to pet. It is important to remember that although there is no cure it can be managed fairly well. Repeat trips to the veterinarian may be necessary at first to fine-tune your pet’s treatment protocol.
If you suspect that your pet is suffering from allergies or you have any questions about your pet’s itching please contact Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at (201)-646-2008