Dec 8, 2010 7:19 PM by Bonnie Markoff, DVM

Itch, Scratch, Lick and Chew!

Both Rachel and Jennie have asked about itchy pets recently.

Rachel has three Pugs that are so itchy that they scoot, chase their tails and are even aggressive towards each other.

Jennie's kitty, Dobbie, has dandruff and is itchy enough that it seems to hurt when she scratches his back.

There is no doubt that skin disease is the most frustrating problem we encounter at Animal Care Clinic. This is because the two most common causes of itchiness in pets are found in abundance on the Central Coast - fleas and pollen.

I believe the most common cause of itchiness in pets in this area is atopic disease, commonly known as hay fever. When we inhale pollens, molds, dust mites and other allergens, people tend to get itchy eyes and runny noses. Dogs and cats tend to get itchy skin. Dogs will often be itchy on their faces, in their armpits, at the tail base or on the bellies or feet. They may also develop anal gland infections (the cause of scooting) or ear infections. Cats will be more likely to develop small scabs all over the body and they may develop dandruff or itchiness on their backs.

The second most common cause of itchiness on the coast is fleas, and this is becoming more of problem lately. Fleas love our temperate climate and are particularly happy when we have a few warm days right after a rain. Since it never freezes hard on the coast, we have viable fleas all year ‘round. There are a number of very effective flea products on the market, and these seemed to have kept the flea numbers down for quite some time. At Animal Care Clinic we think we are seeing resistance to several of the most popular products and have been working hard to find safe, effective flea and tick control products to help both dogs and cats. There is no doubt that choosing a quality flea control program is a difficult task and we very strongly recommend that you involve your veterinarian in helping you with flea control. You will likely waste money by buying products online or in pet stores without understanding the nuances of how they work and how your particular environment will interact with each product.

There are other causes of itchiness in pets: food allergies; parasites other than fleas; ringworm; anal gland infections; contact allergies and many others. Determining the cause of itchiness can be very difficult and requires an excellent relationship between pet owners and their veterinarians. Perhaps the most important part of controlling itch in your dogs and cats is your veterinarian's ability to communicate with you. When you consult a veterinarian on skin disease, you expect to answer a lot of questions and see a very thorough physical examination of your pet. You should then expect follow up visits or phone calls from the veterinary staff. Without this follow-up information, it is often impossible to control itchiness in a safe and effective manner.

If you have an itchy pet or are seeing other skin problems in your dog or cat, make an appointment to visit with one of the veterinarians at Animal Care Clinic. We enjoy the challenge of determining what is causing the problem and seeing your pets restored to full health and happiness.



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