You’re lying in bed at night trying to get to sleep, and all you can hear is thump thump thump of the dog scratching at his body. He may stop for awhile and start chewing at himself instead. Either way neither one of you is getting any sleep.
The first thing you think of is those darn fleas. In many cases you will be right, but not all itchy dogs and cats have fleas. I often get clients saying the flea treatment is not working at all. I ask, “are you seeing fleas?” Often the reply is "no, but he is scratching like mad."
Making a diagnosis for skin conditions in dogs and cats is not as easy as you might think, and I can guarantee that Google images will not help because many skin conditions look the same, despite different causes. I have lost count of the number of clients who think their pet has ringworm because they have a bald circular patch of skin, which is more likely to be a bacterial infection. When we do see ringworm it is usually on the face and legs of puppies and kittens, and is often not circular lesions.
The good news is most cases of itchy skin can be cleared up relatively easily with some medication, and yes, sometimes it is as simple as some good quality flea treatment. The bad news is some of these dogs and cats have chronic skin conditions that may never be cured, only managed. This is especially true for a condition called Atopy which is allergies to environmental allergens such as grasses and pollens.
Auckland seems to have one of the worst environments/climates for allergic skin disease. I have had clients who have gone to live in central Otago and all the skin problems went. Within a month of returning to Auckland the dog’s skin is breaking out again. Now I am not suggesting you move to central Otago to get a good night’s sleep, although with Auckland house prices being so high, it is not that crazy an idea.
Food allergies are another common reason for itchy pets. Dogs and cats are not born allergic to anything, rather they develop these allergies in the first few years of life, often to the very food you have been feeding. The most common food allergen is beef, simply because it is the most common protein source fed to our pets. A food trial is worth doing in these itchy dogs and cats, as sometimes a change in diet can make a dramatic improvement to the skin condition.
What ever you do, don't put up with a sleepless night for you and your best friend. We are always here to help and if we can't solve your problem we can send you to a new specialist veterinary dermatologist that has opened up here in Auckland.
My name is Lance Eastman and I am the local vet here in Blockhouse Bay.
I first started working in the Bay in 1997 and tried to escape overseas for awhile but eventually ended up back where I started.
I did return with a Scottish wife, Jacqueline who is also a vet and my business partner at the clinic.
I have been writing articles on matters related to pets for over ten years now. Sometimes I run out of ideas and get my dog "Breeze" or my cat "Radish" to write something for me. Most people prefer to read these articles over what I write but it can be hard to motivate your pets to write sometimes.