The doctors at Earlysville Animal Hospital see itchy pets every day. This is why we’re happy to carry new medications designed to stop itching and help pets get comfortable quickly.
Pets can develop itchiness for a variety of reasons including fleas, mange mites, and infections. However, the most common cause is allergic skin disease which can be triggered by food and environmental factors, such as dust mites and pollen.
To determine the cause of the itch, we begin with a physical exam. We gather clues based on the itching pattern which could affect the feet and face, rear and ears, the back and sides, or any combination of those.
When pets chew on their back, near their tail, it often means they have fleas and/or flea allergies. When pets present like this, we check for signs of fleas, although we don’t always find any because a single flea bite can cause a lot of discomfort. If the pet is believed to have fleas, we suggest a new, highly effective flea preventative.
We may also complete a skin scraping test to look for mange mites. During the test, cells are scraped off the top of the skin and we use a microscope to look for tiny mites that resemble microscopic ticks. Luckily, our new oral flea and tick medications are better at clearing mite infections than previous treatments have been which allows us to help many pets.
We also use the microscope to look for infections caused by bacteria and yeast. Although these infections are usually secondary to the initial cause of the itch, they are just as uncomfortable.
When fleas, mites, and infections have been ruled out, typically, the reason for the itch is allergic dermatitis caused by food allergies, environmental factors, or a combination of the two.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine the cause of a food allergy since there are no blood or saliva tests to give us accurate results. Instead, we put the pet on an elimination diet for at least eights weeks to see if it makes a difference. Luckily, environmental allergies can be diagnosed via blood tests and/or intradermal allergy tests.
After identifying the allergens affecting the pet, it’s important to try to eliminate them. However, we know that can be hard, so we work to control the itch via medications, shampoos, and topical therapies or attempt to reduce the severity of the pet’s allergy using an allergy vaccine.
Is your pet itchy? Call us – we can help!