Every fall we see numerous dogs and cats for itching and hair loss. The two most common causes of this are fleas and allergies (also known as atopy). It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the two, and secondary yeast or bacterial infections can complicate the matter even more. Below is a list of do’s and don’ts for itchy pets.
- Use flea control every month- even if you do not see any fleas. Allergic animals often over groom and will remove all evidence of the nasty little bugs. We recommend Trifexis, Vectra 3d and Revolution.
- Use flea control on all dogs and cats in the house.
- Treat the house if you have seen any live fleas on your pet. Adult fleas are only a very small proportion of the total flea population living in your house.
- Wash your dog regularly. A common misconception is that washing your dog will remove essential oils and dry out the coat. While this may once have been thought to be true, we now know that the skin barrier in allergic dogs doesn’t function normally and allows bacteria, yeast and allergens to cross causing disease and itching. Bathing helps to remove all these. We can help you choose the best product for your pet.
- Seek medical attention as soon as you notice your pet is itching. Acting quickly can prevent major infections that are lengthy and expensive to treat.
- Help your pet avoid allergens- grasses, weeds, pollen. Keep your pet off freshly mowed grass, vacuumed rooms, and avoid using sprays and powders around your pet.
- Fall into the steroid trap. While small amounts of steroids used judiciously can help an allergic pet. Avoid long acting steroid injections whenever possible, and don’t increase steroid doses without talking to your pet’s doctor first.
- Stop medications too soon. It’s difficult to remember to take our own medicines daily, even more so for a pet. Stopping a medication too soon may make the infection continue and could even lead to antibiotic resistant infections. ( a big problem in human medicine)
- Mix non-steroidal drugs with steroids (rimadyl, previcox and metacam are examples of non-steroidal medications, the combination of steroids and non-steroidals can cause life threatening stomach and intestinal ulcers. ( also please NEVER give your pet aspirin- even if it says for pets)
- Mistake itchiness and discomfort for boredom or a habit. While some pets may develop OCD habits, most pets that lick or chew compulsively do so because they are itchy or painful.
- Give up and think your pet cannot be helped, that you and your pet just have to live with their itchiness, smell and skin disease. There are so many options for allergic pets and so many ways we can help them.
Chronic itching, ear problems and skin problems can be a challenge to handle, but with patience, perseverance and the right veterinary team-your pet can be happy and healthy again.