The Itch

Itching pets are one of the top three complaints owners come to my practice for (and one of my favorite problems to solve). Itching is not only annoying to the pet owner, but pets tend to hurt their skin, pull out their beautiful hair, become irritated, and exacerbate their condition.

Although there is a long list of potential reasons why your pet is itching so much, most cases fall into two major categories that are treatable.

  1. Pets can develop allergies to many things in their world, but they tend to fall into two categories; food allergies (primarily to proteins like beef) and environmental allergies such as pollens, grasses, trees, fleas and more.
  2. Parasites can lead to extreme itching, but fleas and mites are two primary offenders. Adult fleas can be spotted by the naked eye, but mites and all other flea stages cannot.

Once a diagnosis is made, your veterinarian can determine your pet’s treatment plan or if your pet needs further diagnostics to get to the bottom of the itch.  For starters, parasites are a bit simpler. We have amazing options for parasite control that are easy to administer and are very safe. With allergies, treatment can come in many forms.  Many environmental allergies respond well to immunotherapy (shots or oral drops that are custom made to help build your pet’s tolerance to the things they are allergic to) that can reduce or resolve the actual allergy over time. Otherwise, there are many “control the itch options”. Steroids have been the age-old classic but come with many, dangerous side-effects. I now prefer products like Apoquel or Cytopoint that control the itching and inflammation symptoms without the long-term, damaging, side-effects of steroids. Food allergies can be significantly more challenging but have no fear, veterinarians have excellent prescription diets that possess ingredients to help identify and manage food allergens.

No matter the cause of the itch, your veterinarian is your best resource (not the internet) for safe, effective options and a proper diagnosis!

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