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Itching and Skin Disease in Pets

 When your pet starts itching their comfort and quality of life decreases. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to reduce itch and improve comfort in itchy dogs and cats

 Generally, all skin disease has a primary cause - then secondary infections or symptoms. Controlling those secondary infections/symptoms is critical in managing itchy pets

 The three major causes of itch in animals are:

  • Parasite infections – fleas and mites
  • Bacterial, Yeast and Fungal infections – Staphylococcal infections, Malassessia infections, dermatophyte infections (ringworm)
  • Allergy to pollens, dust mites, plants, and food

 Before making a diagnosis of allergy all parasitic and infectious causes must be treated and resolved, and then to rule out food allergy a food trial of low allergen food is required.

 All this takes a toll on both pets and owners as treating and managing skin disease is rarely a once and done job.

 A key understanding for owners of itchy pets is that skin disease is likely to be an ongoing issue and the better you manage the triggers to itch the less frequent the need for veterinary intervention.

 Utilising many tools to reduce triggers to itch is necessary to keep itch and secondary infection away.

  • Regular effective flea and mite treatments are critical for itchy dogs and cats.
  • Sensitive skin foods help by improving the skin barrier function and providing Omega 3 and 6 provides anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Soothing skin washes and anti-inflammatory creams can all be used to minimise itch and thus decrease secondary infections from itching

 Recent advances in the management of itchy pets includes Cytopoint – a monthly injection to block the stimulus to itch and Apoquel – a daily tablet that reduces itch. These products are very helpful for true allergic skin disease (Atopy) as avoiding common allergens can be virtually impossible.

 For any animal that has ongoing skin issues, getting a diagnosis is really important to enable specific treatment of the problem. This can involve a food trial initially and if this identifies a food allergen, dietary therapy can manage the problem.

 If itch continues referral to a dermatologist for skin testing can identify pollens and plants your pet may be allergic to, and then desensitising therapy can be started to resolve the allergy. This can prevent ongoing itching and ultimately improve quality of life and be more cost effective over the pet’s lifetime.


About the author

Kate Anderson

Kate Anderson

North Canterbury Veterinarian

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North Canterbury Veterinary Clinics operates four clinics throughout the Hurunui region.