Itchy Pet Awareness Month

itching dog

Have you noticed your pet itching from time to time and wondered if there is any cause for concern? For some pets this quick itch here and there may be harmless, like a puppy itching at its new collar. However, more persistent itching could mean something more significant is causing your pet discomfort, requiring treatment. Missing hair and red or irritated skin are signs of dermatitis and indicate that veterinary care is needed.

Common causes of itching that may require treatment include fleas and other external parasites, environmental allergies, bacterial or fungal infections of the skin, and less commonly food allergies.

Fleas are very common in our area as many know. Our climate is perfect for fleas to thrive year round. We recommend all pets be on a flea and tick preventative regimen to protect them from flea bites which can cause flea allergy dermatitis.

Environmental allergies are also very common to have in our area due to the different grasses, trees, pollen and dust or other indoor allergens. Western Washington is green most of the year and while we do see cases of seasonal allergies, it is also very common to have allergies for most of the year. Luckily, there are great medication options for the management of allergies formulated specifically for pets.

Infections of the skin can be caused by many things. Skin infections can be secondary to a pet scratching and itching and causing trauma to the skin, allowing for bacteria and other organisms to penetrate the skin barrier. These types of infections are commonly called “hot spots”. Other causes of skin infections include external wounds which can form abscesses; or fungal infections such as ringworm. Skin infections may require topical treatment in the form of medicated wipes, shampoos and ointments, or oral medications such as antibiotics and antifungals.

In the case of food allergies, a pet will typically have a sensitivity to a protein source in their diet. It is very rare for a pet to have food allergies and even more rare for a pet to have a non-protein food allergy. A pet with food allergies may require a prescription hydrolyzed protein diet or a novel protein diet to prevent dermatologic flare-ups.

If your pet is itchy, has red, irritated skin and/or hair loss, please call Rainier West Veterinary Hospital to schedule an appointment. Many causes of dermatitis and skin disease can be determined at the time of your visit and treatment can begin. For others, a diagnosis may require additional testing and a diet trial. Whatever the cause of your pet’s itch, there are medication options that can be initiated right away to help bring your pet relief.