Itchy Skin








There are a number of causes of itchiness in our pets. The most common are fleas, food sensitivities, contact irritants and allergens, bacterial and fungal infections and airborne allergens. Sometimes a combination of these will be contributing to the problem.  Pets often show itchiness by biting, chewing, licking, rubbing or over-grooming.

ATOPIC DERMATITIS – is when inflammation of the skin is caused by airborne allergens – this is the most common form of skin allergy. It is hereditary in predisposition and is often seen as seasonal itchiness of the face, feet and belly with secondary self-trauma, skin infection, excessive sweating, thickening of the skin, ear infections, sneezing, and conjunctivitis.

CONTACT ALLERGY is often seen as itchiness of the feet or belly after touching grasses that your pet is sensitive to.

FLEA ALLERGY is common in all animals, but particularly those with other allergies.

We also see some FOOD ALLERGY in domestic pets – primarily to beef and lamb proteins.

Malassezia, or yeast infections, are common secondary to any cause of itching – Malassezia pachydermatis is a normal inhabitant of skin and ears but when the skin is irritated overgrowth occurs, causing unpleasant odour and further itching. Staph type bacteria are also common causes of infection.

The ITCH-SCRATCH CYCLE can be difficult to break. Treatment that relieves many of the different causes of itchiness has the best chance of bringing the pet down under the ITCH THRESHOLD and managing the problem successfully. Allergic animals can tolerate a certain amount of allergens – once they start scratching, they have begun to encounter too many ‘causes of itch’ and have stepped over the ITCH THRESHOLD.


  • Flea control – Bravecto, Nexgard, Comfortis, Revolution. Essential for ANY itchy pet.
  • Food trial – 8-12 wk trial on a prescription hypoallergenic protein and starch based food (eg. Hills Z/D, Royal Canin hypoallergenic or anallergenic)
  • Medicated shampooMalaseb (has antibacterial and antiyeast properties), Pyohex (medicated antibacterial wash) – these help to clear up itchy secondary skin infections.
  • Anti-itch shampoo – Aloveen Shampoo & Leave On Conditioner (aloe vera and colloidal oatmeal base)
  • Topical ointment with antibiotics and cortisone to soothe local areas
  • Oral antibiotics – to treat secondary skin and ear infections
  • Anti-yeast medications – to control secondary malassezia infection eg/Malaseb shampoo, oral Nizoral tablets.
  • Cortisone –a potent anti-itch medication which, used in a tapering course, will break the itch-scratch cycle while we clear up secondary infections (which in themselves cause itchiness) and remove initiating causes – eg. Fleas.
  • Ear medications to treat secondary ear infections – may also contain cortisone to soothe sore and red ears and decrease their itchiness.
  • Essential fatty acid supplementation –Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids – increases the moisture in the skin and coat – dry skin is itchy skin – so relieves itch. Also has direct anti-inflammatory properties. Megaderm, sardines.
  • Anti-histamines to reduce the allergic response your pet is experiencing – have variable efficacy in animals.

 A multi-level approach has the best chance of succeeding in the management of itchy skin disease, so several of the above may have been recommended to you.

Many problems with itchy skin are seasonal. If it becomes necessary to treat your pet with medications for more than a few months of the year to keep on top of their skin disease, then your pet may be referred to a skin specialist for intradermal skin testing. The results of these tests allow vaccines to be produced which can desensitise your pet to their allergies. This is a long-term approach and in times of flare up some of the itch control measures shown above may still need to be used.

We will advise on the most effective methods of itch control for your pet’s condition