An Itchy Pet Pop Quiz

Pets are frequently affected by Itchy skin, which can do much more than annoy your pet. The constant scratching and biting can cause raw skin and secondary infections. Our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital and Urgent Care Services team knows that an itchy pet can be frustrating, so we want to test your knowledge on the subject with a pop quiz. Hopefully, your pet won’t eat your homework!

Question: What is the most common cause of itchiness in pets?

Answer: Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Most pet owners think food allergies are the most common culprit, but FAD is the correct answer. 

FAD is caused by an allergy to compounds in the flea’s saliva, and a single flea bite can unleash a severely itchy reaction. The constant scratching, licking, and biting often leads to flea removal, and pet owners commonly can’t find fleas on their pet, which can confuse diagnosis. Flea dirt (i.e., flea excrement), which looks like tiny black flecks, is more commonly found in the pet’s coat and bedding. Treatment involves:

  • Flea eradication — Fleas must be completely removed from your pet and their environment, including your home and yard. Year-round flea control is imperative to prevent a reaction, and every household pet needs protection. 
  • Bathing — Bathing can help remove the fleas and flea dirt from your pet’s coat. Wait at least 48 hours after administering their flea prevention to ensure the product is properly absorbed.
  • Medication — We may prescribe medications, such as steroids or other anti-itch drugs, to alleviate your pet’s itchiness until their skin calms.

Question: What is the term used to describe environmental allergies in pets?

Answer: Atopy. Atopic pets are allergic to environmental allergens, such as grass and tree pollen, mold spores, and dust mites, and their weakened skin barrier allows the allergens to penetrate and cause an inflammatory response. 

Question: What are common reactive ingredients when a pet has a food allergy?

Answer: Proteins such as chicken, beef, eggs, and dairy. The pet food industry wants you to believe that simply changing your pet’s food to a grain-free diet will cure their itchiness, but most food-allergic pets are reacting to a protein.

Question: What are the distinguishing factors of pet allergies?

Answer: Different allergies manifest similarly in pets, but some distinguishing factors that can help in the diagnostic process include:

  • Flea dirt — If flea dirt is present, your pet likely has FAD.
  • Seasonality — If your pet experiences itchiness only during certain seasons, they likely are atopic.
  • Age of onset — Atopic pets typically start experiencing signs early in life (i.e., between 1 and 3 years of age), whereas food-allergic pets typically manifest signs before 6 months of age, or at 6 years or older.
  • Lesion distribution — The lesion distribution can help determine the cause of your pet’s itchiness:
  • FAD — Pets with FAD typically have skin lesions and hair loss on their lower back, inner thighs, and abdomen.
  • Atopy — Atopic pets typically have skin lesions and hair loss around their eyes and mouth, on their feet, abdomen, groin, armpits, and under their tail.
  • Food allergies — Dogs with food allergies typically have skin lesions and hair loss on their face, feet, and around their anus, while affected cats have head and neck lesions.
  • Other signs — Some pets with food allergies also show gastrointestinal (GI) signs, including vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive gas.
  • Response to steroids — Atopic pets usually respond well to steroids, but not pets affected by food allergies.

Question: Can allergy testing diagnose your pet’s allergy?

Answer: No. Allergy testing is only performed once a pet has been diagnosed with atopy to help determine the causative allergens and develop allergy shots to treat the condition. Diagnostics used to help determine why your pet is itchy include:

  • History — We take a thorough medical history, including manifestation of your pet’s first signs, if they previously had itchy skin, if they have any other health conditions, and if they are taking medication.
  • Physical examination — Our team inspects your pet from nose to tail, noting their skin lesions’ type and location.
  • Skin scraping — We commonly perform skin scrapings on itchy pets to look for parasites and skin abnormalities.
  • Culture — Allergic pets commonly have secondary infections, and we may take a culture to determine the causative organism.

Question: How are pet allergies treated?

Answer: Allergies are typically treated through a multi-modal approach. We first determine what is causing your pet’s reaction to devise a treatment strategy that addresses their specific condition. Common treatment modalities include:

  • Flea control — Year-round flea prevention is imperative for any itchy pet, because pets affected by other allergy types often also have FAD.
  • Bathing — Bathing helps remove allergens from your pet’s skin. Our team will recommend an appropriate shampoo for your pet and bathing frequency. Between baths, you can wipe down their coat with a wet cloth.
  • Steroids — Steroids are strong anti-inflammatory agents that we commonly use to address itchiness, especially in the early stages.
  • Anti-itch medications — Pharmaceutical companies have developed numerous effective anti-itch medications, and our team can determine what product is best for your pet.
  • Hyposensitization treatment — Also known as allergy shots, this is the treatment of choice for atopic pets to help desensitize them to the problematic allergen.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids — Omega-3 fatty acid supplements help to decrease inflammatory compounds in the skin and reduce itchiness.

Hopefully, you scored an A+, but if not—don’t despair. Our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital and Urgent Care Services team is knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with itchy pets, and we are here to ensure your pet gets the relief they need.

By |2024-02-15T00:00:12+00:00June 5th, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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