Itching can be very frustrating for pets as well as their owners. Making things worse, excessive itching can lead to secondary skin infections and ear infections which are also itchy. Some veterinarians are rushed and impatient. They don’t invest the proper amount of time to get successful long lasting outcomes. Many choose the quick fix of antibiotics and steroids. It does nothing to address the root cause. Without formulating a long term plan, owners find themselves frequently going to the vet for their pet’s chronic skin issues.
Some owners assume their pet has a food allergy, and changing their diet will solve the problem. The store sales staff is always ready to change your pet to the latest expensive grain free all natural diet. Changing your pet’s diet to an over the counter diet will NOT help its itching. Food allergies in pets are not common. Food allergies only account for 10 percent of all allergic skin diseases in dogs. If your pet has food allergies, it may have other allergies that aren’t addressed by changing its diet. Most importantly OTC (over the counter) diets are not hypo allergenic. No matter how all natural or grain free the diet is, it’s not hypo allergenic. The diets we use for food allergies are PRESCRIPTION. In order to get those diets for your pet they have to be prescribed by a veterinarian. The reason is that veterinary food companies have higher standards and requirements to insure they only contain the ingredients listed. Numerous studies and recalls have proven that OTC diets can be contaminated with ingredients that are not hypo allergenic. A true food trial for allergies takes medical supervision, and monitoring. This is why true hypoallergenic diets are prescription.
So why is your pet itching? Unfortunately, as you can see, there is no quick fix. However, there is some basic information that can help. Here in Florida FLEAS are the most common cause of itching and scratching in pets. Unlike other parts of the U.S., we see fleas all year round. Pets that have allergies are usually allergic to fleas. Eliminating fleas from the equation will make your pet more comfortable. To do this, ALL YOUR PETS need to be on high quality flea prevention from your veterinarian. Even cats that are strictly indoors still need flea prevention. Sure, there are many products available OTC, but they are not as effective as prescription products. A lot of them are popular medications that veterinarians stopped carrying several years ago because newer and more effective products have come out. Think about how far your cell phone has come in ten years.
A lot of these OTC products also aren’t shipped properly, stored properly, or even expired. This often happens with prescription products purchased online. The other important component of flea prevention is making sure your house and yard are professionally treated for fleas on a regular basis. Your pet can be on high quality flea prevention, but if the environment isn’t treated you will lose your battle with fleas.
For dogs, Benadryl (diphenyhydramine) can be given for itching. The dose for dogs is 1 mg per pound of body weight every 8-12 hours (ie 25 mg for a 25 lb dog). It’s important that diphenyhydramine is the only active ingredient and NO added decongestants. Benadryl will only help to relieve mild itching, and if there are secondary problems like skin infections, or the itching is severe Benadryl will not work. Benadryl is considered safe for dogs, but you should consult your Veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet.
Other causes of itching in your pet
- Environmental Allergies (Pollens, Dust Mites, dander, ect)
- Contact Allergies
- Food Allergies
- Flea/Insect Allergies
- Skin Mites
- Skin infections (scratching for several days can cause secondary skin infections)
- Ear infections (scratching for several days can cause secondary ear infections)
- Endocrine issue
A pet that is itching isn’t always straight forward. That is why it is crucial to consult a Veterinarian that is knowledgeable in dermatology, thorough and will spend the time to get to the underlying cause of your pet’s skin issue. This approach will yield a long term game plan to make your pet more comfortable, instead of just a quick fix.