Springtime itches - is your pet affected?
Spring has arrived and although most of us look forward to the warmer weather, the budding of trees and the colour returning to our gardens with the promise of summer, it can unfortunately herald the start of ‘itchy season’ for sensitive pets and especially dogs.
Many animals will start to lick or scratch themselves at this time of year. It is their version of hay fever. Whilst we react to the pollens going up our noses and into our eyes, pets are affected by them simply contacting with their skin in some cases. This is why the most commonly affected areas of the body are those close to the ground or often in contact with foliage, such as the feet, tummy and ears.
Once the skin flares and the dog starts to bother at it, the situation can quickly escalate (known as the itch/scratch cycle) and inflamed, red, sore and infected areas will appear. There is often a change in the coat colour, most often on the feet, to a reddish-brown colour. This is staining from their saliva due to excessive licking of the area. It’s more obvious in lighter coloured dogs and is something to look out for.
Diagnosis of allergies can be quite tricky, but blood tests and skin testing can help us identify substances in the environment that individual animals are allergic to. Common culprits include pollens, fleas and house-dust mites.
When treating this condition, we need medication to reduce the itching, combat any infections introduced by scratching or licking and also to reduce the exposure to allergens if possible.
It’s essential to keep up with anti-parasitic treatments throughout the year to ensure that parasites are not playing a role in causing the itching. Longer term treatments may include attempting to identify the underlying cause of the allergy and then creating a vaccine to gradually desensitise your pet to the allergy. This can prove helpful to many dogs in this situation.
Although allergies are usually managed rather than totally cured, with modern medications, we can help to make your pet’s life a lot happier if they are suffering in this area.
Always speak to your vet if you are at all concerned.
Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen.