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Dog and Cat Dermatitis: Itchy Skin in Pets

Diagnosing and Treating Your Pet's Itchy Skin

By Team PetCareRx. July 31, 2011 | See Comments

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Dog and Cat Dermatitis: Itchy Skin in Pets

Skin allergies are common problems among dogs and cats, manifesting themselves in the form of skin problems. Help protect your pet and learn more.

Has your dog ever scratched and bit at their skin so much that it bled? If so, we bet your pet was miserable. Skin allergies are common problems among dogs and cats. We often forget that sometimes, just as with humans, our pets can suffer from allergies. But instead of sniffing and wheezing, dogs and cats often demonstrate their allergies in the form of skin problems. Here's how to help your pet deal with dog or cat dermatitis.

Numerous outside problems can cause your pet to have an allergic reaction including fleas, food allergies, and even the things that cause you to sneeze and sniffle like pollen or dust mites. With pet foods, common ingredients can sometimes cause skin allergies including corn, dairy products, soy, beef, and preservatives or other chemical additives. When pets react to the presence of fleas, they are typically allergic to the flea’s saliva.

Signs of Allergies

With skin allergies, pets do a lot of scratching, biting, and licking of parts of their bodies. If fleas are the cause, you might see the presence of flea dirt, the tiny blood spots left behind by the little parasites. Sometimes your pet's hair will fall out or will be stained dark from blood or appear greasy from constant rubbing. The skin may also be inflamed and red, sometimes with discharge. Skin inside the ears may be inflamed. Scabs may be present from constant scratching and bleeding. Some breeds, like Westies, are more prone to particular types of skin allergies.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If your dog or cat shows these signs, your veterinarian can perform several tests to determine the cause. Depending on the signs, testing can include skin scrapings to see if the cause is a type of parasite, skin swabs to view under the microscope for parasites, a fecal exam to see if the cause is an internal parasite, intradermal allergy skin tests, and blood analysis, among others.

For some pets, just the elimination of the offending allergen can solve the problem. For some, a change in food as or the addition of fatty acid supplements may be what's needed.

Some pets may require medical treatment such as anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, antibiotics, or allergy shots. If fleas are the cause, removal of the fleas with medication will solve the problem. For fungal infections, medicated shampoo solves the problem. And, finally, topical medications can help treat the irritation.

Keep in mind that often the skin allergy can be a chronic problem that needs to be continually treated. But if you recognize the signs early enough before your pet really suffers from inflammation and, with the help of your veterinarian, establish the cause of your pet’s allergies, you can keep them happy and comfortable with routine maintenance.

More on Pet Skin Health

Hot Spots on Cats and Dogs
Pruritus in Pets
Skin and Coat Care: A Pet Parent's Guide

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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