Itch Season

This time of year is the biggest time for dogs (and cats) to come in with a complaint of being itchy, or scratching a lot.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but our most commonly diagnosed is allergic dermatitis.

Dogs and cats can have allergies to a number of different things, and contrary to popular belief, foods are not the most common. Especially in the case of pets that are only itchy during a certain period of the year.

As I stated, this is a very common time of year to have itchy pets. During late summer and early fall we see the largest amount of patients with allergic dermatitis. Oftentimes it is to the pollens that are common this time of year.

And 2021 has been a very bad year for those pets with allergies. The dry summer combined with the smoke that’s been in the air much of the time is creating a lot of more problems with itchiness than we usually see.

So the first thing to know about dealing with allergies and itchiness is, what can you do at home? Shampoos are the easiest to use and will almost always help. Moisturizing shampoos, such as those containing oatmeal are best. The trick is that sometimes you need to use them very frequently, up to several times weekly. This is not a problem as long as you are using a good quality moisturizing shampoo for dogs.

You can also use antihistamines, such as Benadryl, but make sure to call our office first to get the right dose.

There are supplements that can help a lot but they are often not enough on their own. A few companies make some supplements specifically for skin disease. However, we’ve always found a high omega-3 fatty acid supplement to be best.

There are some foods that can be helpful because of high omega 3 content as well. However, do not try to change the food just because your dog is itching. The vast majority of the time it’s not that easy. Let us help you first.

There are a number of good prescription medications for itchiness and allergies available now. Our old standby was always cortisones. They do work but can have some significant side effects that we’d like to avoid. So we only use those in specific cases.

These days we have other more effective products with lower side effects. Apoquel is an oral medication for allergies that came out a few years ago and has been very successful. It has very few side effects. It is a prescription medication, however, so you will need to come see us before we approve it.

Another medication we’ve been using is Cytopoint, an injection that targets some of the chemicals that produce itching in the body. It has been extremely effective and last 1-2 months. And has virtually no side effects. We’ve found it to be extremely successful for dogs with short term allergies.

If your dog or cat has more than just a short term allergy a much longer term plan would be in order that may include allergy testing.

If you’re dealing with an itchy dog or cat, please give us a call and let’s see how we can help you.