It’s that glorious time of the year again! The weather is warming up, the flowers are blooming. It’s a lovely time of year… unless you’re an allergic pet. Unfortunately, spring and summer can be a particularly challenging time of the year if you own a pet who suffers from a skin condition. The familiar sound of persistent scratching and chewing by your pet is normally the first tell-tale sign. This then leads to open wounds, infection to the skin and pain to your pet. Implementing strategies prior to this stage and limiting the possibility of risk factors can help to reduce the severity or likelihood of your pet suffering this season.
Itching in pets can involve not only scratching but also chewing, licking, and rubbing. The most common causes of itching are external parasites and allergies. We all know what it’s like when you get a super itchy mozzie bite and will do just about anything to stop that itch. Allergies like this are the pet equivalent to hay fever in people, which normally presents with such signs ans symptoms as sneezing and runny eyes, however pets tend to show red/itchy skin, hair loss, skin or ear infections. Understanding what causes itch can help to put some strategies in place to help stop the itch.
This is the most common cause of itchiness in pets. A single bite from a flea will cause much distress for a flea-allergic animal, so strict year-round flea control is essential to remain symptom-free. The warm weather can reignite fleas living in the environment that have been lying dormant in the cooler months. You may never see a flea on a flea-allergic animal, but once they jump on and bite they have already set off the itch cycle. Flea control on the pet and in the environment is vital to keep them itch free. We can help with the best recommendation based on your pet’s lifestyle.
A small percentage of pets may develop a sensitivity to various components of their diet, similar to food allergies in people. If we suspect that food may be a contributing factor to your pet’s allergy/ies, then we will work with you on a food elimination trial to check the effect of food on their itching.
Atopic dermatitis (Atopy)
If your pet has persistent allergy issues and all of the above have been ruled out then they may be suffering from Atopic dermatitis (AD). This condition is an inherited predisposition to developing skin problems from exposure to a variety of commonplace and otherwise harmless substances. These substances include the pollen of weeds, grasses and trees, as well as house dust mites and mould spores. Diagnosis is made by elimination of other causes and if Atopy is suspected then intradermal skin testing or vitro blood testing can identify which allergens your pet is reacting to. Depending on the reaction, the pet can have a longer term specific vaccine administered to reduce their sensitivity to the allergens.
This is where a red rash develops on unhaired skin because of direct contact with parts of a plant or other irritant. Often removing the offending plant (if you can identify it) will resolve contact allergy signs, but atopy is much more difficult to manage as the offending particles are airborne and may be from plants growing many metres from your property.
Allergies are often the underlying cause of recurring skin and/or ear infections. Bacterial and yeast infections, though secondary to the allergy, can increase your pet’s level of itching. Repeated treatment with antibiotics and anti-yeast medications is commonly required, along with medicated bathing programs.
Can allergies be cured?
Unfortunately, allergy is normally a life-long problem. With treatment we hope to control the symptoms and improve the quality of life for both you and your pet. Each pet is very different so your veterinarian will tailor an approach to suit your pet’s symptoms.
Can treatment help?
There are many anti-allergy medications to reduce itching. These medications do not cure allergies but can help decrease the symptoms. However, without addressing the underlying cause of the allergy, the itching will return when the medication is stopped. Long-term use of some anti-allergy medications, such as steroids, can result in many health problems. Working with your veterinarian to diagnose the underlying cause of the allergy and itching may reduce the need for medications or enable your veterinarian to use more specific and targeted allergy treatments.
Advances in treating skin disease are happening all of the time so please call us anytime for more information or ask us how we can help next time your visiting. Small changes can make a huge difference to your pet’s comfort.