Itchy skin is a common complaint seen in veterinary practice. Most pets respond well to short term treatments but trying to prevent recurrence can be difficult.
The treatment for pets with itchy skin should include both short and long term solutions.
Dietary changes can be helpful but this is certainly not the only factor that needs addressing in itchy pets.
Firstly, common causes of itchy skin need to be ruled out. Fleas are the number one cause of itchy skin. Any pet with chronic itchy skin needs to be on regular, effective flea prevention.
Contact with the garden weed, ‘Wandering Jew’, is also a common cause of skin allergies. There are several varieties of this weed that can cause a problem. Treatment is simple. Look around your yard and where you take your pet walking to see if this weed is in these locations. A quick google search is very helpful for identification. If you have an itchy dog and this weed is around then eliminate it from the environment. If this is not possible try to ensure your dog does not come in contact with it.
Most cases of itchy skin have bacterial and/or fungal infection. These infections need to be controlled if any other treatments are to be effective. If your dog has scabby skin, greasy skin, “elephant” skin or has a real “doggy” smell then it is likely there is skin infection present. There are shampoos and conditioners available which are effective for mild infections. I particularly like Malaseb shampoo combined with Pyohex lotion. Antibiotics and anti-fungal medications are usually necessary for severe infections. Dietary changes will not help if you have not eliminated skin infections.
There are many medications and supplements which are specifically aimed at reducing itchiness in pets. Cortisone (steroids) is very helpful but long term treatment can lead to side effects. Some less harmful alternatives which reduce skin inflammation include – desensitising vaccinations , topical cortisone spray, oatmeal/ aloe vera shampoos, fish oil, and antihistamines. A recent study showed a novel therapeutic Palmitoylethanolamide, may be helpful for itchy dogs. (Efficacy of ultra-micronized palmitoylethanolamide in canine atopic dermatitis: an open-label multi-centre study.)
Lastly, a change in diet can be very helpful for some pets with chronic skin problems. An elimination diet (kangaroo or emu) using Vetlicious recipes is another change that should be made when managing a chronically itchy dog.
Chronic skin problems can make your pet miserable. Some simple treatments can mean less scratching from your furry friend and less trips to the vet.