Itchy skin can be caused by many things:
- Parasites such and fleas and ticks.
- Skin infections caused by bacteria or fungi.
- Allergic skin disease (one of the main causes of itchy skin).
Dogs and cats usually make any skin condition much worse through self trauma. A small problem can become a very large problem as they chew, scratch and itch.
To manage any itching skin your veterinarian will investigate the
- Duration of the itching problem
- Areas of the body involved
- Previous response to treatment
- Possible exposure to parasites, irritants or known allergens
- External appearance of the skin
- Microscopic appearance of the skin surface
Itchy skin is treated by
- Controlling any infections on the surface of the skin
- Reducing exposure to parasites, irritants or known allergens
- Controlling the excessive itching response
- Improving the health of the natural skin barrier
Some itchy skin is a single disease event, where after treatment, your pet will return to having a healthy, non-itchy skin surface.
Many itchy skins are secondary to allergic skin disease. Even when secondary skin infections are controlled and the skin surface is kept clean, your pet is still itchy and likely to restart the itching cycle. This is where long term management of itchy skin becomes imperative.
There are many management medications which can be used, often in combination with each other, to make your pet more comfortable. These include
- Oatmeal shampoos sooth the skin surface
- Antibacterial shampoos – decrease bacteria levels on the skin surface decreasing secondary bacterial infections caused by itching and licking
- Anti-fungal shampoos – decrease yeast growth on the skin surface. Superficial yeasts make the skin surface very itchy. Yeast over growth is common with our Northern Beaches climate
- Antibacterial creams in areas prone to skin infections such at the lip folds
- Anti-fungal creams to control malassezia dermatitis in moist lick zones such as feet, underarms and vulva
- Corticosteroid creams to decrease skin irritation and itchiness
- Omega oil supplementation can be applied to the skin to restore the hydration level of the skin and reinforce the skin barrier function
- Oral supplements found in medicated diets such as Hill’s® Canine Derm Defense can improve the general functioning of the skin layer
- Antibiotics and anti-fungal medications given in tablet or capsule form are sometimes given in pulse doses or long courses to control persistent infections of itchy skin
- Short courses of corticosteroids (prednisolone) can significantly decrease the itching and inflammation of itchy skin disease. Longer courses are not ideal due to the whole of body effects these medications produce
- Newer medications for dogs such as Apoquel® act to decrease the itching sensation with significantly less ongoing side effects
- Antihistamines are sadly rarely effective in allergic skin disease in cats and dogs. A mild decrease in itchiness can be achieved in some pets
- CYTOPOINT is a long acting injection of a protein that works like your dog’s own immune system. The treatment acts to neutralize the main protein that triggers allergic itch
- Treatment for dogs lasts for 4-8 weeks. It is safe from a very young age and with all other medications
Itchy skins problems can be the most frustrating and disturbing conditions in our pets. With help from the veterinarians at Pittwater Animal Hospital these problems may be managed to make your pet more comfortable.