Dealing with your pet’s constant itchiness

There can be many causes for your dog's persistent itchiness

One of the most puzzling and frustrating conditions that we as pet owners may face is a dog that keeps scratching. This scratching often keeps both pet and owner awake at night staring into the darkness in frustration. Besides the inconvenience and discomfort, continuous scratching in one area can damage your pet’s skin and lead to a possible infection. The most immediate thought that often enters the mind, among the many possible causes, is that your dog could have something crawling on the skin. This leads to possibly over-medicating the pet with topical or oral flea medications and the subsequent loss of confidence in the product’s ability to protect against infestation when your pet continues to scratch.

The reality is that itchy skin can simply be caused by the skin becoming too dry.  Although the itchiness could be the result of fleas or other parasites, it can also be caused by a variety of other factors that may have nothing to do with fleas.

It is very common for dogs to get itchy skin because, although dogs may have a large amount of fur, they only have one layer of skin. There are many factors that can cause the dry skin and some of these can be treated and the condition relieved or cured, while other conditions are potentially caused by something that cannot be cured but only managed. In those cases, managing the condition day-by-day or week-by-week does sometimes allow the dog to be as symptom-free and as comfortable as possible.

Oatmeal and aloe vera shampoo can help moisturize the skin

Let’s start with one of the most common causes for itchy skin, which is dry skin. Identifying the cause of your pet’s dry skin may help lead to an effective treatment option.  For example, weather can be a contributing factor in preventing the skin from getting hydrated properly and in drying out too much. Regularly using a mild shampoo that contains ingredients intended to moisten the skin can help. Pet shampoos that contain aloe vera have been used successfully in moisturizing the skin and preventing it from getting itchy. Grooming the dog helps prevent the hair from clumping together, which could potentially create an environment where bacteria can flourish and spread. Another advantage to grooming is it allows you to keep on top of any developing skin problems before they get bigger and more difficult to manage.

Besides the weather, diet can have a significant effect on a pet’s health. Feeding your dog a pet food with good nutrients, as well as supplementation with Norwegian fish oil are also ways to keep the skin supple and moist. One of the products that has been extremely helpful in keeping the skin healthy and prevent it from becoming too dry is Omega 3. The Norwegian fish oil and d-alpha tocopherols in the product have been shown to maintain both skin and joint health in cats and dogs.

Although not always the cause, sometimes parasites do cause or contribute to skin problems including dry skin. Treat properly with flea and tick prevention to keep these little unwelcome parasite visitors at bay and make sure to treat the environment as well. Many times the pet is treated properly but without treating the environment and the home, parasites cannot be eradicated. Even though a topical or even one of the new oral flea and tick medication appear to be a treatment failure, the cause of the recurring problem is in the yard or the carpeting.

Treat your environment with a product such as Advantage yard and premise spray

Advantage Yard and Premise spray is one example of a product that can be used in conjunction with pet treatment when an infestation is discovered. Flea and tick prevention such as Frontline Plus does not require a prescription since it does not contain an additional heartworm preventative. Products such as Revolution, however, do contain a heartworm preventative and therefore requires a prescription from your veterinarian. These parasite preventatives may be required year-round depending on the region you live in, as well as the recommendation of your veterinarian, who knows the situation in your geographical region and the requirements of your particular pet.

Bravecto is the first oral chew to provide 12 weeks of flea and tick protection in one dose

The latest thing has been the use of oral medication for the treatment of flea and ticks.  Bravecto is the first oral chew that provides up to twelve weeks of protection against both fleas and ticks. One chew will generally start to work effectively within 2 hours and continues to prevent against fleas along with the black-legged tick, the American dog tick, the brown tick, and the lone star tick. This product does require a prescription but has the great benefit of lasting up to 3 times longer than the topical treatments. For the full twelve weeks the fleas are not only eradicated, but this long-lasting effect provides protection against new re-infestation.

Sometimes we find ourselves in the situation where the skin is properly hydrated, supplements are given, the pet is eating the highest quality foods, and there are no fleas or ticks for miles but the itching continues. This can be extremely frustrating and stressful for both pet and owner. The other possibility in these situations is that the pet could be suffering from allergies. Just like humans, pets can develop allergies to anything in the environment, to food, or to medication. Very often, allergies cause the dog to keep licking the skin or scratching at the itch which could end up resulting in dermatitis. The first way to treat allergies is to attempt to identify the causes and eliminate them. It’s not always possible to eliminate the causes, however, when the pet is allergic to the front lawn for example. The way to treat or manage allergy symptoms such as those is with the use of antihistamines.  Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine are over-the-counter and provide almost immediate relief from itching if the cause is a physical allergy.

Anytime you are faced with a pet who is suffering from a condition that developed out of nowhere or seems to be getting worse instead of better it’s time to make an appointment with the veterinarian. The veterinarian has generally seen the exact symptoms that your pet is suffering from and has an arsenal of treatment options including medications like corticosteroids that can be extremely helpful with certain skin conditions. Drugs like prednisone are sometimes prescribed for a short period of time to help relieve symptoms if they become unbearable. It’s always better to be cautious and take the dog to the veterinarian rather than wait too long until the situation become uncontrollable.

As always, if you have a medication related question you can call a 1800PetMeds pharmacist who will be happy to answer those for you.

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