Dog Itching, Scratching, Allergies, Oh My! What Are Symptoms and Treatment For Pet Allergies? By Your Carmel Vets


Spring is finally here!  But with spring also comes allergies for many people as well as their pets.  Pet allergies do not usually cause hayfever but skin problems.  One of the most common complaints our Carmel vets see are dogs and cats with itching, scratching, biting, and licking.  These disorders are often difficult and frustrating to treat because many itchy skin diseases can NOT be cured but may only be managed with an individualized prevention plan.  Itchy skin disorders can be very complicated so the first thing to do is call your local vet hospital so your pet get have a thorough head to tail physical exam.   There are many different types of allergies for dogs, but the most common ones include:  flea allergy, food allergy, and environmental allergy.  (Look for future blog articles about flea allergy and food allergies).

What Are Environmental Allergies (Atopy) & How Are They Treated?  Environmental allergies are the second most common reason dogs and cats will itch.  The environmental allergens are often outdoor pollens from trees, grasses, weeds, as well as indoor molds, mildews, and house dust mites. Many of these outdoor allergies occur seasonally, however, the indoor allergens affects pets year-round. Pets inhale these allergens as well as absorb them directly through the skin resulting in itchy, inflamed skin that often gets secondarily infected.  Your pet may rub its face & rear end, lick its feet and scratch the underarms, groin, & ears.  Again, this disease has to be managed and controlled with your Carmel vets, but can NOT be cured!  Long-term prevention strategies depend on severity of the clinical signs, the length of the dog’s allergy season, and owner’s preference.  All of the preventative maintenance treatments will be lifelong. 

Treatment for Short-Term

  1.  Antibiotics are usually administered to treat any skin infections that usually accompany inflamed itchy skin.  If the infection is NOT treated, nothing else will work.  Sometimes the skin gets secondary fungal infections as well which require antifungals.
  2. Anti-inflammatory steroids are given to help decrease the redness, pain, itchiness, as well as help suppress the allergy.

Preventative Maintenance for Long-Term  The goal of prevention is to decrease the amount of allergens absorbed and to decrease the allergic response to the point below the itchy threshold.  HEPA filters, frequent vacuuming, and wiping your dogs feet help but are insufficient alone.

  1. Immunotherapy (also called desensitization) is the gold standard for treating severe environmental allergies.  A simple blood test is needed to determine which environmental allergens are the most reactive for your pet.  Then based on the results, allergy injections are given at home about once a month to help retrain the immune system not to overreact to the pollen, molds, etc…
  2. Frequent Bathing with a Prescription Shampoo can be soothing as well as rinse all the allergens out of the coat.  During your pet’s allergy season, bathing once a week can help reduce the allergens absorbed through the skin as well as keep the skin clean.  Short coated dogs can also use topical lotions after baths as part of their preventative therapy.
  3. Omega Fatty Acids supplementation helps promote the healthy all natural oils of your dog’s skin and coat.  These can be easily added to the existing diet or a skin sensitive prescription diet can be purchased with fatty acids already incorporated.
  4. Oral Steroids can be given as needed to help keep the inflammation and allergy suppressed.  This method, however, should be given at the lowest effective dose to help minimize the chance for the side effects of steroids.
  5. Antihistamines such as Zyrtec once a day or Benadryl (diphenhydramine) twice a day can help prevent future allergic reactions.  Ask your Carmel vets for an appropriate dose.

The answer to “Why is my pet itching?” lies with an educational visit to your Carmel vets.  So if you dog or cat is itching, scratching licking, and biting their skin, call me so we can come up with a plan that will work best for you and your family.  For more information on our Caring Hands Compassionate Hearts, click on this link to your Carmel Vets.

Comments are closed.