Our pets’ skin can be itchy due to a number of factors – flea bites, food sensitivities, contact irritants, airborne allergens, and secondary bacterial and fungal infections – sometimes a combination of these are contributing to the problem. Pets often show itchiness by biting, chewing, licking, rubbing or over-grooming.
ATOPIC DERMATITIS is an inflammation of the skin caused by allergens from the environment – often hereditary in predisposition – often seen as seasonal itchiness of the feet, underside of the body and face, with self-trauma, thickening of the skin, and secondary skin and ear infections. Sometimes it can be also associated with sneezing and conjunctivitis.
Malassezia or yeast infections are common secondary to any cause of itching – Malassezia pachydermatis is a normal inhabitant of skin and ears but when the skin is irritated overgrowth occurs. Secondary bacterial infection also commonly compounds the itch.
The Itch/Scratch Cycle can be difficult to break – treatment that relieves many causes of itchiness to bring the pet down under the ‘Itch Threshold’ has the best chance of managing the problem.
MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR YOUR PET INCLUDE:
- Flea control – Advantix, Comfortis, Advantage, Frontline are amongst some of the best products for this. Shampoos, powders and short term adult flea killing products are not helpful as fleas can rapidly jump back onto the animal from their environment.
- Essential fatty acid supplementation – replaces omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which are often destroyed in commercial diets. These oils are known to improve the barrier of the skin against environmental allergens e.g. PAW Dermega oral liquid or Demoscent spot on.
- Anti-itch shampoo – PAW Nutriderm or Aloveen Shampoo & Leave on Conditioner (aloe vera and colloidal oatmeal base to help soothe and hydrate the skin, improving its defences).
- Food trial – 8-12 week trial on a ‘novel’ protein and carbohydrate based food. There are also prescription hydrolysed protein diets, which are unable to stimulate an immune response. If the trial shows an improvement in the itch, a dietary allergy is suspected. Only about 2% of itchy animals are responsive to dietary changes.
- Desensitising injections – Your pet may be referred to a skin specialist for intradermal skin testing. The results of these tests allow vaccines to be produced which can vaccinate your pet against their allergies. This is a long term approach and in times of flare up some other itch control measures may still need to be used. The results of intradermal skin testing can also be used to identify ‘flare factors’ in your pet’s environment, some of which may be able to be managed or removed.
- Topical ointment with antibiotics and cortisone to soothe local areas.
- Anti-histamines to reduce the allergic response your pet is experiencing.
- Medicated shampoo – PAW Mediderm and Malaseb (have antibacterial and antiyeast properties), Sebolyse (same with selenium for dry skin), Pyohex (medicated antibacterial wash).
- Oral antibiotics – to treat secondary skin and ear infections.
- Anti-yeast medications – to control secondary Malassezia infection.
- Cortisone – a potent anti-itch medication which, used in a tapering course, will break the itch-scratch cycle while other medications clear up secondary infections (which in themselves cause itchiness) and we remove initiating causes e.g. Fleas, specific plants in the garden.
- Ear medications to treat secondary ear infections – may also contain cortisone to soothe sore and red ears.
A multi-level approach has the best chance at succeeding in management of itchy skin disease so several of the above maybe recommended to you.