August is officially Itchy Pet Awareness Month. How has your pet been feeling this allergy season? Itching (or Pruritus) is an incredibly common symptom in our companion animals. It can be seasonal or non-seasonal, and can manifest in a number of ways:
- Chewing, licking, biting at skin
- Rubbing on floor
- Hair loss
- Body or ear odor
- Secondary rashes/sores/redness on the skin
My Pet is Itchy… Now What?
If your pet is exhibiting any of these “itchy” behaviors or symptoms, it is important to call to schedule an examination with your veterinarian. The exam can show us many things – secondary infections on the skin, presence of parasites (fleas, etc), localization of itching/lesions (which can direct us towards certain diagnoses), etc. Sometimes, further diagnostics are needed to diagnose infection and/or parasites – such as skin cytology (collecting superficial swabs of the skin to look for bacterial or yeast infections), skin scraping (collecting deeper samples of skin to evaluate for skin mites), etc.
So Why is My Pet Itchy?
Sometimes, itching can be solely related to infection or parasites on the skin, though there is typically an underlying allergy of some kind. The most common allergies in animals include ENVIRONMENTAL or FOOD allergies.
Environmental allergies are the most common that we see in pets. It involves an immune response/allergy to pollens, grasses, weeds, trees, storage or dust mites, fleas, etc. Most pets that have environmental allergies have a combination of allergens that play a role in their itchiness.
Food allergy is MUCH LESS common than environmental allergies, but we do still see them in our companion animals. The more common food allergen is CHICKEN; less commonly beef or dairy. ***NOTE: Grains are NOT an allergen in our companion pets, and grain-free diets have actually been recently linked to cardiac disease.***
Skin allergies can get in the way of our pets’ daily activities, happiness, and the bond and relationship they have with their owners and surroundings. It is important to monitor for the symptoms listed above, and report them to your veterinarian; discussion, history, and examination can help to establish a diagnostic plan and obtain a diagnosis, as well as determine the best treatment option(s) for your pet.
How Can I Make My Pet Less Itchy?
Treatment options are tailored to your pet’s specific symptoms and diagnosis, but may include:
- A food trial to eliminate all food allergens from your pet’s system. This can be both diagnostic (to evaluate for specific food allergens) and therapeutic (to eliminate those allergens that are triggering an itch response). There are unfortunately no successful blood tests for food allergies at this time.
- Environmental allergy testing to create allergy VACCINES, to desensitize the body to allergens. Allergy testing is most effective when intradermal SKIN testing is performed by a Veterinary Dermatologist. Though we do have BLOOD tests that can be helpful, as well.
- Antibiotic or antifungal medications (oral and/or topical) are often needed to treat secondary infections that occur from self-trauma and itching.
- Anti-allergy/anti-itch medications are often used to give immediate relief for allergic itch. There are two medications that we typically reach for, that effectively target allergy molecules/pathways in the body:
If you believe your pet suffers from itching, infection(s) and/or allergies – please do not hesitate to reach out so we can start making your furry friend more comfortable!