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Itchy Pets? Let’s Talk Why & How to Treat Them

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Does your dog or cat itch? Are they obsessive about licking paws or scratching other areas? Seem to have numerous ear infections?

Occasional itching is a fact of life for pets – especially dogs. Frequent or constant itching, however, may be a sign of a skin disease or allergies. If treatment is not started early, dogs and cats can have a much harder time battling this issue. Pets have 4 common allergic skin diseases: Flea Allergy, Food Allergy, Contact Allergy and Atopic Dermatitis (a chronic itchy skin disease associated with environmental allergens)

Fleas. Flea bite hypersensitivity causes severe itching of pet’s skin. Most often the hind end is affected more than the front of the body and fleas or flea dirt may or may not be visible. We recommend year-round flea prevention (Valleydale Animal Clinic recommends Nexgard for dogs and Advantage Multi for cats) to limit flea allergies on your pet.

Food. In about 10% of allergy cases, a food trial will be recommended to determine food allergies. In this trial, pets will be fed a diet with one protein and one carbohydrate for 10 weeks. No other foods or treats are allowed. If symptoms disappear, food allergies are likely to blame.

Contact. Allergic contact dermatitis is rare but occurs when a pet’s skin overreacts to certain molecules in the environment such as nickel, rubber, wool, dyes and chemicals. Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when the skin is exposed to severely irritating chemicals such as the sap in poison ivy and salt on the road.

Atopic dermatitis. A more common diagnosis among pets is atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory skin disorder brought on by environmental allergens such as grass, mold, pollen, and even cigarette smoke.

Previously, the only available treatment that would provide dogs with rapid relief from itching was steroids. But steroids come with potential side effects when used long-term. New oral treatments are now an alternative. Immunotherapy is also available to treat environmental allergies that cannot be avoided by creating a serum, based on the results on the serum allergy test, which is injected on a decreasing schedule as the pet’s immunity grows. Other options for pet itch relief include: antihistamines combined with essential fatty acids, anti-itch conditioners, topical steroid sprays and oral steroids in low doses to treat sporadic outbreaks.

Don’t let your pet suffer or annoy you with their constant itching. Talk to your veterinarian about ways to treat their skin issues now before they become worse. Learn more at

Jeff Falone, DVM 

Valleydale Animal Clinic



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