Making pet parenting easy
AN ITCH YOU CANNOT SCRATCH
This entry was posted on 2021-08-17.
During summer, it's quite common that almost every second pet parent that goes into a vet's practice will complain about their pets that itch, scratch, rub or lose hair. Animals will lose their winter coat as the season changes. If the hair loss is patchy and the animal is also experiencing an itchy skin, it is better to bring the animal to the vet, as Pruritus(itching) is a symptom and not a diagnosis. One has to delve deeper to find the cause, with the most common being parasites, infections and allergies.
The first thing to exclude is parasites. Your vet will examine the animal and look for signs of fleas and ticks. He or she might make a skin scrape to look for mitesl ike sarcops (“brandsiek”) and demodex. If the animal is rubbing his or her anus, worms or impacted anal glands might also be a cause. Sarcops is severely pruritic and affects the ear margins, elbows and hocks primarily. Demodex’salopecia (hairloss) is usually located on the forelegs and face (“it looks like the dog is wearing glasses”). Flea bite allergies are typically on the tail base region and lower back.
The next step would be to exclude skin infections - either bacterial or yeast infection. Your vet will prescribe an appropriate antibiotic or antifungal if needed. Once they are sure that there are no parasites or infections present, they can assume that the animal is suffering from an allergy. Allergies can be divided into:
1.Food allergies (present all the time; primarily affects the face, ears, feet and tummy)
2.Contact allergies (e.g. to the grass on which the dog lies; primarily seen on the hairless areas like the ventral abdomen and feet)
3.Atopy (an allergy against some airborne substance like pollen; house dust mites and other environmental allergens). People tend to get hay fever, while animals tend to get an itchy skin. Pruritis and alopecia as a result of atopy typically present on the paws and lower legs up to the elbows, face and ear flaps (not ear margins).
Treatment (and outcome) will differ between these three causes. Food allergies will not respond to cortisone and can only be confirmed with a food trial (feed food containing hydrolysed protein for about 8 weeks and monitor the animal's response).
Contact allergies and atopy always respond well to cortisone, but one must remember that cortisone has several side effects and therefore it is better to try and remove the cause. Your vet will prescribe one (or more) of the following:
Antihistamines, food supplements (e.g. fatty acids), shampoos, cortisone orcyclosporine and even a vaccine against what your animal is allergic to.