Now the summer is here you may find that your pet is itching more than normal. This could be the result of things such as Parasites or Antigens.
- Parasites – such as fleas and mites enjoy the warmer weather (although we do see many parasites all year round).
- Antigens – such as grass and tree pollens that can cause skin disease due to your pet’s allergic response to them.
Some animals will have skin problems at a similar time every year and this can be extremely frustrating for both you and your pet. Several may have had a seasonal skin irritation previously but then develop an all-year-round allergic skin disease as they age. Even animals with non-seasonal skin disease may develop a worsening. Warm weather can make them more prone to bacterial infections, particularly in hot, sweaty areas of the body.
Excellent flea control is imperative. Ask your vet which anti-parasitic products they would recommend. If your animal is already on flea treatment then your vet may need to do some further tests to investigate the skin disease. Some parasites can only be seen under the microscope so samples of hair and skin may need to be taken to find the offending creatures.
Dogs with seasonal allergic skin disease due to pollens often present with ear infections (one or both ears), biting their feet, rubbing of the face or eyes, or a rash affecting the armpits or groin.
Different breeds of dog seem to respond in very different ways, an allergic French Bulldog may consistently present with ear problems while a West Highland White terrier may have very itchy feet due to the exact same disease. Other breeds of dog that are commonly affected with skin disease include Labradors (and Labradoodles), English Bulldogs, Jack Russell terriers and Staffordshire Bull terriers. Cats will often over groom, producing hair loss often over the back and flanks, or may scratch excessively and cause self-trauma particularly around the head and neck.
In cases of non-seasonal allergy with summer worsening, your vet may want to rule out a food allergy by using a very strict diet trial for several weeks.
In true seasonal disease, your vet may be considering whether your pet is pollen allergic. There are blood tests available which can pinpoint which allergens your pet may be reacting to, although these are generally only used to choose immunotherapy, one of the forms of treatment.
In most cases, your vet will be focusing on how to make your pet more comfortable. This generally involves using one of several anti-itch products which are available as tablets, injections or even a topical spray to reduce the irritation. Some food supplements such as essential fatty acids and some shampoos can be very mild ways to reduce skin irritation without resorting to drug treatment in more mildly affected dogs.
We have two vets with further qualifications in dermatology at our practices as well as a visiting dermatology specialist who can help you if your pet is continuing to suffer from skin disease. Just call your local branch for more details.