Ash Veterinary Clinic


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Coping with an itchy pet can be an extremely frustrating experience that can truly test the limits of the human-animal bond.  Persistent scratching and chewing by the pet can also result in injury and open wounds.  Here at Ash Veterinary Clinic and Emergency Center, we want to provide you, the pet owner, with a basic understanding of the most common underlying causes of itching and allergies in your pets.

The most common cause of itching in pets falls into two groups: external parasites and allergies.  The external parasite that most commonly causes chronic itching is fleas.  Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in dogs and cats.  For the flea allergic patient, 100% flea control is essential for the pet to remain symptom-free. 

We touched in our article on May 11th about the common misconceptions owners have about fleas. The moral of the story is, even though you may not see them that does not mean they are not there.  The allergy is caused by the flea’s saliva, and it only takes a few bites to induce the problem.  Also, the itchy pet often scratches so much that adult fleas are removed, making them hard to find. 

                In warm climates or in our homes, fleas may survive in low numbers year-round.  Because flea allergies are so common, we recommend that complete flea control be instituted before proceeding with diagnostics for other allergies and that year-round flea control be maintained for all patients.

An allergy is a state of hypersensitivity in which exposure to a harmless substance, known as an allergen, induces the body’s immune system to “overreact.”  The incidence of allergies is increasing in both humans and their pets.  People with allergies usually have “hay fever” (watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing) or asthma. While dogs rarely have respiratory allergies, too, they more commonly experience the effects of allergies as skin problems.  Though there are a variety of presentations, this can often be seen as redness and itching, recurring skin or ear infections, and hair loss.  This is sometimes called eczema or atopic dermatitis. 

                Some pets develop specific sensitivities to components of their diets.  The allergen usually is a major protein or carbohydrate ingredient such as beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat or soy.  Minor ingredients such as preservatives or dyes are also potential allergens.  The diagnosis of a food allergy is as easy as sending bloodwork out to a lab. The lab can test your pet’s sensitivity to certain food ingredients and environmental triggers.

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is an inherited predisposition to develop skin problems from exposure to variety of commonplace and otherwise harmless substances including the pollens of weeds, grasses and trees, as well as house dust mites and mold spores.  Diagnosis is made based on the results of intradermal skin testing or by in vitro blood testing.  Evaluating the results of these tests helps us compile a list of allergens for an allergy injection to decrease the pet’s sensitivity.  Sometimes multiple skin and/or blood tests are necessary to accurately assess the patient’s allergies.

Allergies are often the underlying cause of recurring skin and/or ear infections.  Bacterial and yeast infections, though secondary to the allergy, can cause an increase in your pet’s level of itching. Long-term treatment with antibiotics and anti-yeast medications is commonly required, along with medicated bathing programs.

Certain medications can help to reduce itching.  Steroids, such as prednisone tablets in particular, are often employed to stop the itch.  However, without addressing the underlying cause, the itching will return.  Long-term use of steroids can result in many health problems. 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies and it is usually a life-long problem. Here at Ash Veterinary Clinic and Emergency Center, we seek to control allergies and improve the quality of life for both you and your pet.  If you have any questions regarding allergies or need to schedule an appointment for your pet, please call us at 734-782-2827.

[4:06:25 PM] Dianne Raftopoulos: