Pet Care Advice 》 Itchy skin

 Treating itchy skin in cats and dogs

Although allergies are the most common cause of itching and licking, there are some diseases that need to be ruled out before making a diagnosis. Close observation of the pet’s behaviours (scratching or licking body parts) can help the veterinarian diagnose the problem, for example, Sarcoptes scabei mites are more active at night, so dogs will wake to scratch themselves, whereas with allergies, usually once they are asleep the scratching stops.

If your dog or cat is in good health but experiences dry, flaky skin and itchiness, introducing fatty acids, antioxidants and other nutrients, like zinc, may help because they ensure that the pet is provided with all the nutrients needed for skin cells, and they treat fatty acid and zinc deficiency if it is present.

Some dogs can itch because of general bacterial dermatitis and will need to be bathed with medicated shampoo. It is noticeable by a strong odour. A yeast known as malasezzia will cause a lot of itching. It has a specific rancid smell and is characterized by flaky greasy scales on the skin, and after rubbing the coat, your fingers feel slimy.  This is because there is a problem with the immune system of the dog, and whilst the condition can be managed, with medicated baths and antifungal drugs, it is rarely cured.

If conducting an elimination diet trial to see if an pet has a food intolerance that is causing the skin to itch, providing a high quality, vet-recommended diet is the best way to ensure a successful result.  A high quality diet will contain the correct amino acid proportions and so will have a high biological value, meaning that the pet's nutrient requirements are fully met, as well as providing diet that should cause as little itching as possible.

Many cases of allergic skin disease in dogs in particular is related to storage mites.  These live in food, both pet food and human food, and mainly cereals.  This can be helped if you give your pet home cooked food is used, but if doing this, make sure that it is a balanced diet.

Itching at certain times of the year may be indicative of flea or inhalant allergies or insect bites. In some cases, animals will initially show signs of seasonal allergies that then progress to year round problems.

One of the most common allergens is flea’s saliva .  It follows that, in most countries (Singapore being a notable exception, as fleas don't seem to like living in Singapore) flea control is an essential step in the treatment plan for most animals with allergic skin disease. Animals with allergies are more susceptible to allergic reactions to fleas and other parasites, so it is important to ensure the home is furnished and treated to prevent the proliferation of allergens.