Help your dog ditch the itch!
With warmer weather approaching, dogs and cats that suffer from flea allergies and seasonal allergies are likely to start flaring up again.
In many areas of NZ where the climate is fairly temperate, fleas can be a problem all year round. Remember that for every flea you see on your pet, there are another 9 in the environment – i.e. your carpet, sofa and garden. Because cats are efficient groomers, you may not even see fleas on your pet, but it only takes a few bites to trigger flea allergy dermatitis. Pets that have flea allergy dermatitis should be treated for fleas ALL year round, as should all other pets in the household, to reduce the number of fleas being brought into the house.
Environmental allergies can be seasonal initially but may develop into year-round itch as the affected pet becomes allergic to more substances. Pollens are a common trigger, but mould spores and dust mites can also be big offenders. Itch often occurs on the feet, face, armpits and groin, but other signs include recurrent skin and ear infections. Some dogs will also experience ‘hayfever’-type signs of watery eyes and sneezing.
With allergic skin diseases, a vicious cycle of itching and scratching can occur. It is very important to take the scratching seriously and stop your dog’s itch sensation rapidly, because:
- Itching is very irritating for your dog (and you!),
- The longer they itch, the worse the skin condition becomes and the harder it is to control,
- It may result in infections which will require treatment with either shampoos, antibiotics or both.
In the past steroids have been the mainstay of itch reduction, and they do work well. However, they can have side effects. Newer, safer options include Apoquel (a daily tablet), Cytopoint (a monthly injection) and desensitisation injections.