Itchy Dog

A pet with itchy skin is more than just a minor annoyance. It can lead to real discomfort for both pet and owner! That’s why it’s important we try and identify the cause of the irritation if possible.
 
So what are the possible causes for Max’s itchy skin? 

Fleas and Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Fleas are a very common cause of scratching in dogs and over-grooming in cats.  The region most commonly affected is around the base of the tail.  Some animals are more severely affected, and develop an allergy to the flea’s saliva, which leads to intense irritation.  Effective flea control is essential to remove the cause of the problem, and if an allergy is present steroid anti-inflammatories may be required as well.

Atopy/Atopic Dermatitis

This common skin problem is an allergic response after exposure to a substance that is usually commonplace and harmless.  Two of the most common offenders are dust mites and pollen – which are incredibly difficult for pets to avoid.  Typical symptoms include paw chewing, face-rubbing and inflamed and thickened skin.

Food Allergy

Food allergies may come from the pet developing hypersensitivity to their normal food over time.  Some of the most common allergens are beef, dairy products, chicken, lamb, fish, corn, wheat and soy - all of which are common ingredients in dog food.  The symptoms are similar to those of most allergies in dogs and cats. The primary symptom is itchy skin affecting primarily the face, feet, ears, forelegs and around the bottom.
 
To diagnose if a food allergy is the cause of a skin problem the pet needs to be placed on a food trial for at least twelve weeks. This involves feeding either
 
  • A diet containing a novel source of protein and carbohydrate the animal hasn’t eaten before eg: duck and rice, fish and potato. There are a number of commercial diets available.

 

  • A diet which has had the proteins and carbohydrates broken down into such a small molecular size that they no longer trigger an allergic response, eg Hills Z/d, Walthams hypoallergenic.
If the symptoms resolve during the dietary trial, but then return on the original diet then this confirms the diagnosis.

Mange

There are two different types of mites that can cause skin problems in dogs.  These microscopic parasites live within the skin, and can’t be seen with the naked eye.
 
The Sarcoptes mite causes intense itching, particularly around the eyes, elbows and ear margins. This mite can affect humans, and is contagious between dogs.
Demodex mites cause mild itchiness, but extensive hair loss and thickened and inflamed skin
Skin scrapes are the best way to try and diagnose Mange, and treatment can be a lengthy process.

Contact allergy

A contact allergy can occur in dogs and commonly affects the paws, the belly or face. Anything from bedding, chemicals, plants, or household cleaning products can bring on a contact allergy. The plant Wandering Dew is a common cause of contact allergies
 
If the cause of your pet’s itch is particularly difficult to determine, or their symptoms difficult to manage your Vet may refer you to a Veterinary Skin specialist.
 
It can take time and effort to identify the cause of itchy skins, and then manage them successfully. 
The welfare of your pet is the most important aspect to consider, so make an appointment to see your Vet as soon as you notice your pet scratching excessively.