Did you know that August is Itchy Pet Awareness Month? Well, now that you do, why not schedule in some time to chat with your clients about allergic itch and pet skincare.

Why does my dog keep scratching? What can I do to relieve my dog’s itchy skin? No doubt, these are fairly common questions you hear from pet owners. This is because having a pet with itchy skin is quite common. However, many pet owners don’t realise the importance of treating itchy skin early on.

Time to raise awareness about itchy skin

Itchy Pet Awareness Month is the ideal time to engage in conversations with pet owners about pet skin health. After all, a pet’s skin is a valuable indicator of their overall health.

While some pet parents might think that itching and scratching are normal in dogs, it can be an indication of a bigger issue. For example, itchy skin could be a sign of hot spots, atopic dermatitis or a skin infection. Identifying and diagnosing the underlying cause early on is likely to make the condition easier to treat.

There are many factors pet owners can look out for in pets that appear to be scratching themselves more often than normal. Things to consider include the following:

  • Is there redness or irritation?
  • Has the skin become inflamed?
  • Are there any indicators of fleas or ticks?
  • Has their pet’s coat changed? For example, has it lost its shine?

Common causes of itchy skin in pets

Being aware of the widespread causes of itchy skin in pets can be helpful. Here are a few popular reasons for itchy skin in our canine chums and feline friends.

Flea allergy dermatitis

Some cats and dogs can become allergic to flea bites over time. Furthermore, flea allergy dermatitis is more prevalent in pets that already have an underlying skin issue, such as atopic dermatitis.

It’s important to treat flea allergy dermatitis early on, as constant scratching and biting at the skin can damage the skin, leading to infection.

Treatment may need to be multi-pronged—including effective flea control as well as anti-inflammatories and medicated shampoo to aid skin healing.

Hot spots

Hot spots are moist, infected, inflamed areas of the skin that can be uncomfortable for pets. These itchy lesions are caused by constant licking, scratching and biting of one area. They are particularly common in summer.

Due to the nature of hot spots they can easily become infected and develop into red, painful lesions. What’s more, certain breeds of dogs can be more prone to hot spots. This includes dogs with thicker coats, such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers.

According to the American Kennel Club, a combination of approaches is needed to treat hot spots. The following actions are recommended.

  • Clipping the hair around the hot spot to prevent matting.
  • Cleaning the affected area with a mild antiseptic.
  • Administering topical or oral antihistamines for the secondary infection.
  • Use of topical or oral steroids to address inflammation.
  • Using a ‘cone’ to prevent further scratching.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is caused by an allergic or hypersensitive reaction to an indoor or external allergen. Pollen, mould spores, plants and dust mites are all common culprits. Just like with flea allergy dermatitis, if left untreated atopic dermatitis can lead to a skin infection.

The key principles of treatment include removing or reducing possible allergens, managing any infection or inflammation present, and assisting with skin repair.

Ear mites

Ear mites in cats can cause excessive itching and scratching. While ear mites are quite common in cats, if left untreated these teeny parasites can cause permanent damage.

The most common signs of ear mites include:

  • Scratching at the ears
  • Head shaking
  • Ear discharge
  • Inflammation of the ears
  • Skin lesions around the ears

Treatment options include applying anti-parasitic ear drops, medication to treat any infection caused by the scratching, as well as ongoing parasite prevention.

Given the myriad causes of itching and scratching, Itchy Pet Awareness Month is an ideal time to discuss some of the more common reasons. You can help educate pet owners on the key symptoms to look out for, red flags and potential treatments.

By raising awareness of these common itch-causing conditions, you can help ensure pets receive an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure for the past 12 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals.

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