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How to help your itchy dog

By June 10, 2024 Greenbay Vet News

We commonly see itchy dogs, especially in the spring and summer.

If your dog is itchy, one of the first things to check is for any evidence of fleas. You can read more about fleas in other articles on our website.

Some dogs will be itchy due to infections caused by bacteria or yeast, and although these do need treating they are usually secondary to an underlying cause, the most common being an allergy.

Just like us, animals can suffer from allergies.  An allergy is a reaction of the immune system to a common substance, known as an allergen.  The most common pet allergens are fleas, foods, tree pollens, grass pollens, moulds and mites e.g. house dust mites or food storage mites.

Allergens enter the pet’s body by being inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin.

Common symptoms of allergies in pets are manifested as skin disease and include:

SKIN PROBLEMS – itching, scratching, rashes and redness.  In dogs allergies commonly manifest as persistent licking, face rubbing, paw chewing and skin irritation/itching.

EAR PROBLEMS – swelling, itching and soreness.  If your dog suffers from repeat ear infections, there may be an underlying allergy.

HAIR LOSS – commonly on the back/rump in dogs with flea allergy.

These symptoms can be seen with a variety of other problems, but allergies are one of the most common.  If your pet suffers with these signs, we would advise a check-up with the vet.  They may advise tests including checks for fleas and other skin parasites; food trials; and blood tests to identify allergies.  With the results of allergy blood tests, the vet can then provide you with options for managing your pet’s condition.

There is no quick fix to managing allergies in pets, but usually a combination of the following are used for skin disease:

  • Strict flea control with effective prescription products
  • Shampoos to prevent secondary skin infections and improve the skin barrier.
  • Anti-inflammatory/anti-itch drugs
  • Immunotherapy – these are injections used with the aim of de-sensitising the pet to their allergens
  • Antibiotics/ear drops – these are sometimes needed to treat secondary skin/ear infections
  • Allergen avoidance and management.

The role of diet in helping your itchy dog

Some dogs are allergic to something in their diet, and in those trying a food with a novel protein source can help. Sometimes a prescription hydrolysed diet is used as a trial – this is where the protein in the food is made too small to cause a reaction.  Some diets and/or supplements are formulated especially for skin disease which help to improve the skin barrier and reduce inflammation.  Getting nutrition right can help reduce the amount of medication needed to control your dog’s symptoms. For advice, book a nutrition consultation with our RVN Laura Sproul (£47.50 to include a full diet recommendation report and feeding calculations, £30 for an advice consultation and discussion only).

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