Does your dog have itchy skin? Here are some common causes of itchy skin
Fleas, Mites and Parasites
The most common causes are fleas and mites and these are easily treated by use of various treatments available over the counter without the need to see a vet. Some are spot on preparations and others are in tablet form. Depending on what treatment you choose, it will either cover just fleas, or a combination of fleas, lice, mites and some even treat for internal parasites. Keeping up to date with worm treatment is just as important as it maintains and strong barrier between the inside of the intestine, effectively the environment, and the body.
Atopic Dermatitis or Eczema
If your dog is still scratching despite being up to date with external and internal parasite control, it would pay to have a look at what you are feeding. A well balanced dog food is formulated in order to promote a strong and healthy immune system. Some dogs suffer from a genetically-influenced disease, known as atopy. This is also sometimes caused Atopic dermatitis or Atopic eczema Atopy is a condition that is not curable and if your dog suffers from this, then the aim of treatment would be to manage it at a level that achieves your dog to be less itchy. It can not be 100% cured. There are many allergens that play a part in flare ups;
- Pollen, grasses, weeds, trees
- Mould and dust
- Dust mites
- Grains Chemicals, fertilizers
- Wool and feathers
- Chewing feet
- Rubbing face on carpet
- Scratching the body
- Recurrent ear infections
- Hair loss Mutilated skin
Treatment of Atopy
If you notice any of these symptoms, it would be time to see your vet for a check up. Investigation and diagnosis of Atopy is a case of eliminating other causes. The first step would be to eliminate fleas, mites and worms. Your vet may discuss tests such as skin scraping or skin biopsies, or blood test for hormonal imbalances. Whether or not your dog is entire or been neutered might also have an impact.
Whilst waiting for test results, your dog could be started on a food trial. This means feeding a low allergenic diet and nothing else. I.e. no titbits or treats other than what has been OK’ed by your vet. If the tests come back normal and a Diagnosis of Atopy has been reached, then it’s time for plan of action. A low allergenic diet is still important, as is ongoing flea and worm treatment. It may take up to 12 weeks before a food trial can be said to have failed to achieve an improvement.
Medical treatment will depend on what symptoms your dog is showing. The skin will often show signs of secondary either bacterial infection, yeast infection or both. Hence it may be necessary to treat with Antibiotic and or Antifungal medication. A medicated shampoo can in mild cases cover both bacterial and fungal infection and as such will often be part of a long term management program. The actual itch itself has up until recently, been the toughest symptom to treat. A lot of dogs have had to live on long term steroids in order to keep them comfortable. But we have now got 2 other options with far less side effects and often better response.
Apoquel is a tablet form containing the active ingredient Oclacitinib (as oclacitinib maleate), an immunomodulatory agent, which is neither a steroid nor an NSAID, nor related to cyclosporine. Apoquel works by inhibiting the biochemical cascade that initiates the signal that triggers an itch response and decreases the inflammation associated with allergic dermatitis. Effectively, the brain does not know that the skin is itchy. Some dogs need to stay on this for the rest of their life whereas others need a course at time of flare ups and will be OK off medication the rest of the year.
Cytopoint is an injection that is given monthly and stops the itch by use of monoclonal antibody therapy. It specifically targets the main signal molecule involved in sending the signal from the skin to the brain. So that again, the brain is left totally unaware of the fact that the skin is itchy. In short, skin and allergies is not treated and cured during one consult. It can take quite some time to achieve a management plan that suits your dog. And treatment for one dog will likely not be suitable for another. The treatment needs to be targeted on a case by case basis. In some cases, it will even become necessary to consider referral to a skin specialist who will perform a skin sensitisation test in order to establish what allergens your dog is allergic to. Some dogs can then start on desensitisation vaccine tailored to your dog and the allergens that your dog is allergic to. This involves several injections, initially on a low dose that will be increased in strength and frequency as time goes on. Enabling your dog to tolerate this allergen better when exposed to it on a day to day basis. (Think children with peanut allergy and the allergy vaccine that enables them to become more tolerant to peanuts.)
So, if you have got an itchy dog, feel free to call in for a chat about what would suit best. We will be happy to guide you so that your dog can live a more comfortable life.
- Liv Gasland