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Is your pet itching or scratching?

Itching pets are one of the most common reasons for owners to bring their loved ones to the Vet and often they are at the end of their tether having tried everything they can think of to deal with the matter.

Well, itch no more because in the following series of articles you'll learn the 4 most common causes of an itchy pet, how to know which condition could be affecting your pet, and what you can do to stop the suffering.

Dog scratching

The 4 most common reasons for an itching pet!

1. Flea Allergy Dermatitis
2. Food Allergy Dermatitis
3. Atopic, or Inhalant, Dermatitis
4. Contact Allergy Dermatitis

Fleas are by far the most common reason that dogs and cats scratch themselves crazy. Even if you can't find any fleas on your pet doesn't mean they aren't there. If your dog or cat is allergic to fleas, just one bite from a single flea can leave them itching mad for a week. In dogs, the most common sign of Flea Allergy Dermatitis is the loss of hair on the lower back area around the base of the tail. In cats, the signs are usually more varied.

Food Allergy Dermatitis is the second most common cause of itching in cats and, third most common in dogs. The most commonly identified food allergens in cats include beef, fish, chicken, and milk. In dogs, the most common food allergens include chicken, beef, eggs, wheat, soy, corn,, and milk. Diagnosing Food Allergy Dermatitis and identifying the causative protein or proteins in a pet can be challenging and requires a strict regime of a hypoallergenic diet for up to 3mths followed by reintroduction of one protein type at a time. This can be very difficult especially when your pet is used to you dropping a few leftovers from the dinner table.

Atopic Dermatitis is caused by inhaling or directly contacting airborne allergens such as pollens, dust and mold spores. This cause of allergic dermatitis occurs frequently in both dogs and cats and can cause generalized itching. Skin and ear infections are also a common complication in Atopic Dermatitis and can occur as a result of self-trauma caused by scratching.

Contact Allergy Dermatitis is another common yet less frequent cause of dermatitis seen in dogs and cats. Symptoms are usually reddening and itching of the skin around areas with less hair such as under the belly and around the nose and ears. Frequent allergens can include grasses, plants, wool and even plastics.

 What can I do to stop the itch?

Don't despair! There is hope after itching. The first thing you need to do is to ensure a correct diagnosis is made of what is causing your pet to itch. In some cases your dog or cat may have more than one type of allergy so a diagnosis may take some time and effort and is best achieved in consultation with your Vet. Once you know what the cause of the scratching is there is a great range of solutions available these days. Some of these are only available from your Vet and others can be sold over the counter. Some non-prescription products that can help in the various forms of allergic dermatitis management are listed below.

Flea control

Comfortis, Advantage, and Frontline Plus all offer Vet grade flea control suitable for the management of Flea Allergy Dermatitis. It is important that you treat all pets in your house including both dogs and cats even if they are not showing any symptoms.

Hypoallergenic food

Hills have a great range of hypoallergenic diets for both dogs and cats including Canine z/d Ultra,Canine z/d wet food, Feline z/d dry, and Feline z/d wet food. Royal Canin also have hypoallergenic diets available for both dogs and cats.

Medicated and Soothing Shampoos and Conditioners

It is important to take care when selecting shampoos and conditioners for a pet suffering from allergic dermatitis because some products could exacerbate the problem. If in doubt, product selection should be made in consultation with your Vet. Dermcare has a number of products for managing various dermatological conditions. Malaseb is great for managing secondary skin infections caused by Malassezia such as hot spots. Aloveen conditioner contains oatmeal and aloe extract and can be rubbed on inflamed and sore skin to soothe and calm the skin.  PAW also has a great range of medicated and hypoallergenic shampoos and conditioners that can be useful in managing various forms of allergic dermatitis.

Skin health supplements

Products such as Megaderm can be given orally and contain omega 3 and 6 oils in a specific ratio that provides nutrients that improve general skin health. Care should be taken using such supplements, as your pet may be allergic to fish oil. Another great way to provide omega oils for your pet's skin health is using a product such as Essential 6 which is applied as a spot-on directly on the skin.

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