Ash Veterinary Clinic


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Itchy, Itchy, Itchy


                Why are pets so itchy lately?  That seems to be the most frequent question asked over the past 3 weeks and will most likely continue until November or December.  More often than not, the itching is related to allergies.  Allergies to what you may ask?  That is the million dollar question.  General allergies are some of the most frustrating disorders for owners and doctors to diagnose, treat and manage.  It obviously is difficult at home to listen and watch your dog (and cats too) scratch, thump, lick, rub, and in many cases smell bad.  On the medical side of things, allergies can be caused by tons of things and without in depth diagnostics done by a dermatologist in most cases, there is no way to know exactly what is causing the itching and many times there is a combination of a few or many things.  On the other hand, there are some things owners of itchy dogs or cats can do to reduce the itching that drives everyone crazy in the house.

                One of the most important things to understand is many pets can have both environmental allergies and food allergies combined.  Environmental ones may include grasses, trees, pollens, weeds, parasites (fleas, flies, ticks), and can be worse in certain seasons over other seasons.  Pets that are itchy all year around are likely to have some allergies to any number of foods which also include the ingredients we don’t always think of like yeast, bran, soy, wheat, etc.  In these cases, many clients keep changing the pet’s food to try and find one that helps the itching, but this is exactly what we do not recommend to do.  When you do this, you are introducing your pet to new proteins and ingredients in small amounts which can make them allergic to more things.  When we suspect a food allergy in a patient, we recommend what is called and elimination diet where the food is prepared by the owner and fed only this food to remove all other sources of possible allergens.  Even the diets on the market that say “Duck and Potato” for example, have been found to have traces of other proteins such as beef, pork, etc. which only confuses the matter worse.  Of course, they also have to have preservatives in them which could also pose a problem.  If your doctor feels food allergies are playing a role in the scratching, they can guide you and advise you as to how to do this correctly to get the best results.

                Many of the environmental things, outside and inside, we have no control over; however, there are some that we can prevent.  The ultimate, sneakiest culprit is the flea.  Flea allergies can be very mild to severe.  Some pets can have fleas and the owner never knew because the pet never itches.  You see, it is the bite of the flea the pet is allergic to.  The flea jumps on, gets a meal, and jumps off.  You may not have ever seen a flea on your pet but one bite from one flea can cause a mass effect of itching, hot spots, secondary infections from the scratching, etc.  All of this can be prevented by using topical flea prevention every month, all year around (yes even in the winter months).  Each doctor has a preference of which product they like to use, but the take away message is it MUST be a prevention you purchase from your veterinarian.  Any of the products that are in the grocery stores, pet stores, and club stores are not going to be as protective as your pet needs, have no guarantee, are ineffective, and in many cases are more expensive than the products you can get from your pet’s doctor.  Because we have the ability to give free doses, rebates, etc. the amount per month is cheaper than any of them in the store or on the internet.  The key is to prevent the flea from ever getting on your pet at all and if they do, prevent them from biting.  Being consistent is so important and I recommend to all of my patients to give their flea prevention when they do their heartworm prevention every month, all year around. 

                Depending on the severity of the allergy, your doctor will determine whether your pet needs steroids or antihistamines or other treatments.  Following up with your doctor is also a necessary part of your pet’s allergy treatments even if you think things are cleared up.  There are things we can suggest to help prevent a relapse or to be proactive.  Do not give any medications over the counter unless your doctor has approved it and has given you a proper dose.  Animals are not humans and metabolize medications differently.  Most importantly, do not wait until your pet is so bad that their skin has become infected too which will cause a longer treatment course and will be more expensive than if you sought treatment early on. 

                Finally, we understand how frustrating it is to have an allergic pet.  Many of us have them too.  Diagnosing them and treating them are based on so many different things including financial, responsiveness to treatments, and amount of allergens that your pet has.  Some breeds are more prone to allergies than others; nevertheless, any pet can have allergies.  Just like allergies in people, some medications work better than others and in some cases, it takes time to try different ones to see which works best.  If your pet has the “Itchies” or if you have any questions or need assistance, feel free to call us at Ash Veterinary Clinic in Carleton at 734-782-2827.  We will be more than happy to help you in any way we can and are able to see your pet in a timely manner. 

[4:06:25 PM] Dianne Raftopoulos: