Pruritis: Itching and scratching in dogs

By April 25, 2024 No Comments

Is your favorite fur baby scratching all the time? Not sure what’s causing it?
Pruritus is the medical term for itching. Pruritus due to skin disease is one of the most common reasons dog owners seek veterinary care. Flea allergy dermatitis, seasonal allergies or atopy, food allergies, contact dermatitis (e.g., soaps and perfumes), and sarcoptic mange (mites) are some of the most common causes of pruritus in dogs.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of living in Florida is that there are so many allergens and parasites that can cause issues for your pets’ skin. Our tropical climate is a perfect breeding ground for pollen, fleas and other parasites. There are many various allergens your pet could encounter even just in your own back yard. In the majority of dogs, pruritus is seasonal, and the most common causes are inhalant allergies (e.g., pollens and molds), flea bites, and food allergies.

So, how can all the itching be stopped??
Honestly, it is going to take a bit of patience and a bit of due diligence as an owner to rule out some of the most common allergens.  In order to diagnose the specific cause of itching in your pet, several tests and treatments may be necessary. These may include skin scrapings and skin cytology to look for the presence of mites and other insects, and bacterial or yeast infections. In some cases, this process may take weeks to months. In many cases, the condition may only be controlled, not cured, and some pets require lifelong treatment for their condition. But, with all that in mind there definitely are solutions for making your pet comfortable and happy once again!

​Can pruritus be cured?
It depends upon the cause of your pet’s itching. Some pets will require intermittent treatment for the rest of their lives. These are extreme cases and the majority of itchy dogs respond very well to relatively simple treatment. Dogs that suffer from seasonal allergies to pollens, molds, and/or mites may benefit from allergy desensitization injections or allergy shots. Allergy desensitizing injections should not be confused with anti-inflammatory injections (such as corticosteroids) that may be used to suppress itching.

My own personal experience with my pets’ severe skin allergies:
I can personally attest to the frustration that is watching your pet suffer from being constantly itchy. We went crazy trying to figure out what was causing such a severe reaction. We tried every medicated shampoo and over the counter medication we could get our hands on. At first, she just started to have flaking skin and was constantly chewing at her paws. Over time the scratching and chewing just intensified causing her to lose her hair and resulted in a very severe skin infection. Her allergies appeared to be seasonal, getting worse with the start of each flea season. We determined after a while of trying everything else that her itching was likely due to a flea allergy. Once we narrowed it down to the likely cause her treatment became so much smoother. Her hair grew back and she was able to relax and live like a regular dog. We still had flare ups now and then but it was manageable.

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