Calming the Itchy Storm
By: Naomi Kirby Sismour, DVM
Pets can itch for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons can be due to fleas, dry or humid conditions, and allergies. Yes, pets have allergies too. Allergens in people primarily cause symptoms localized to the respiratory tract. However, in pets, the symptoms tend to show up in the skin. Whatever the cause, the itching can set off a storm of discomfort as the pet scratches, rubs, chews or gnaws at the skin.
For many pet owners, it can be frustrating and expensive to determine the cause of the itching – especially for the pet who can have food sensitivities, environmental/seasonal allergies, etc. If you have a pet with itchy, inflamed skin, you are not alone. According to Nationwide Insurance, one of the nation’s largest insurers of pets, skin allergies and skin infections are among the top reasons pet owners head to the veterinarian. In addition to determining the cause of itchiness, helping the pet find relief is another frustration of the pet owner.
Constant itching can be painful for the pet and painful to witness. One of the first things veterinarians encourage owners to do are to check the pets for fleas and ticks and make sure the pets are on flea/tick preventatives. Just one flea bite can be enough to trigger an allergic response called flea allergy dermatitis, causing constant chewing, itching, biting, or grooming. After checking the pet for fleas and ticks the rest becomes a system of trial and error to find what works. Its best to have the owner next consult their veterinarian for a further workup, this might lead them to change a pet’s current diet or prescribe different treatments. For many, that may include, limited ingredient diets, allergy desensitizing shots, immune-suppressing oral steroids, antihistamines, powerful antibiotics and antifungal drugs. There are times when antibiotics are absolutely warranted but due to the chronic nature of many pets’ itchy conditions, this can lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria. Furthermore, some skin conditions are due to underlying health conditions such as hypothyroidism or autoimmune disease.
There is good news! Relief is possible and it’s been proven to be low-cost, safe and effective and it can be incorporated into any anti-itch regime. What is it? Shampoo therapy. Yes, bathing your pet can make a difference. Bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo can calm the angry skin storm. The skin is the body’s first line of defense and every pet needs good skin support with a gentle cleanser. For the itchy pet, this becomes even more vital to calm the inflamed skin and gently wash away environmental pollutants such as pollens, grasses, mold. Look for shampoos that do not contain detergents, chlorines, petroleum by-products but rather those that utilize soothing ingredients such as enzymes and vitamin D3.
Cheers to all of you searching for answers to help your furry friend find relief.
Dr. Naomi Kirby Sismour is a Veterinary Technical Consultant with Pet King Brands, the maker of ZYMOX® Ear and Skin products and Oratene® Brushless Oral Care. www.zymox.com