Itchiness is a problem that lingers year round especially in dogs
Hola. Welcome, welcome! As always, I am grateful to have you reading my monthly column! This time around, we will address an issue that we see very commonly in Texas with dogs and cats, but mostly dogs. Unfortunately, it is a problem that seems to linger year round, and that is itchy pets. This topic is quite extensive, but I will do my best to simplify it in this column. Please keep in mind there are different causes of itchiness, but I will be focusing on the more common ones.
The first thing to be aware of is that it does not matter whether our babies are strictly indoors or go outside only for a brief time, they are all exposed to these causes of itchiness and can present similar issues to the dogs and cats that may spend more time outside. When we mention itchiness, we are referring to excessive licking, chewing, and/or scratching. It can be normal for dogs and cats to itch once in a while during the day, but if we are seeing something out of the ordinary, that is when we start contemplating the possibility that an issue may be present.
Itchiness caused by allergies ranges from mild to severe and can be seasonal, nonseasonal or even year round, based on the cause. Dogs and cats usually show allergy symptoms through skin issues more commonly, as opposed to respiratory issues. The causes of itchiness can be generally divided into three main categories: skin parasites, environment allergens and food ingredients. Please be aware that these categories focus on the most common causes of itchiness.
The most common skin parasite in Texas that will cause our dogs and cats to be itchy is the flea. These bugs can also transmit diseases and other parasites like tapeworms (intestinal parasites). Fleas can affect humans as well, but fortunately not often. I recommend prescribed, medical grade flea (and tick) prevention year round, even with strictly indoor pets. There are some over-the-counter anti-flea products that may work for some pets, but they may not be effective enough for all pets.
Environmental allergies are by far the most common allergies that we see with our pets, as dogs and cats can be allergic to anything in the environment, especially here in Texas. We can test our pets to see if they suffer from environmental allergies, and, if they do, we can also determine what specifically they may be allergic to. However, most of us veterinarians may not recommend testing as the first step nowadays because we have amazing medical options that can be used and can lead to positive responses very quickly.
That being said, testing may be needed in order for your veterinarian to recommend the best approach possible. Pets can sometimes respond to some over-the-counter anti-allergy medications, but if they are too itchy, they will likely need to be prescribed anti-allergy medications. We have prescription medications that are safer than steroids and we even have safe and novel injections that help dogs fight these common environmental allergies.
Food allergies are not as common as people may think. In fact, they are not the first thing that come to your veterinarian’s mind when it comes to the possible cause of allergies. Needless to say, if different approaches have been implemented and there is no resolution seen, then a specific, prescribed food trial may be recommended by your veterinarian. A common myth is that expensive diets do not cause allergies when, in fact any diet that is not prescribed for the treatment of food allergies can cause food allergies. Many people claim that their dogs are allergic to chicken and while chicken is certainly a common protein used in diets, once again, food allergies are not that common at all. It is important to mention that even pets that have always had the same food can develop food allergies, as they can develop after several years.
Allergies (especially environmental and food allergies) are known to cause ear infections, so it will be vital to have a thorough ear care routine, as well as appropriate, long term medical management of allergies. Please be mindful that if we stop treating environmental allergies, they will return, as they do with us humans. This means that constant communication with your doctor will be vital to prevent major complications seen with allergies that are not well managed.
Your veterinarian may also recommend bathing with certain medicated shampoos or giving specific skin supplements or diets that are engineered to help with environmental allergies or food allergies. Your veterinarian may also recommend performing blood work to rule out other issues that may lead to skin/ear problems, like thyroid disease. I recommend to act sooner rather than later with skin issues, as these problems can get out of hand very quickly!
Please consult with your veterinarian if you are seeing any signs of itchiness or skin/ear issues with your doggy or kitty! If you do not have a veterinarian, feel free to call my hospital and we will gladly help you. As always, thank you for reading my Woof column and stay safe. Abrazos!!
Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital at 14380 Marsh Ln. Ste. 110 Addison, TX 75001 (Next to Tom Thumb).