Got skin in the derm game?
Here she is. Another frustrated veterinary client with an itchy pet. Help by answering her top questions.
1. Why is my pet itchy?
Allergies are one of the most common culprits. Although licking or overgrooming may make it seem like your pet is itchy, it could be a sign of stress or boredom. Bring your pet to the veterinarian for an exam to properly diagnose and treat the issue.
2. How long does my pet need to take medication?
That depends on the condition we're treating. If your pet suffers from allergies, she may need medications seasonally or life long. If mites or fleas are the culprit, your pet will need medication for a few months to ensure she's been fully treated. And we recommend continuing a monthly treatment to ensure your pet isn't reinfected. Reinfection often happens because parasites are already present in the environment.
3. Is the medication safe for long-term use?
Most people aren't aware that most antihistamines are safe in pets, as they are in people. But antihistamines with a decongestant (i.e. Allegra-D) aren't safe and shouldn't be used.
It's generally safe to be on antihistamines for life while under the supervision of a veterinarian. In a perfect world, this would be the only medication our patients would need. But in reality, a corticosteroid or immunosuppressant may be needed. If this is the case, both kinds of medications can cause damage to the kidneys and liver when used long term. If it's necessary, the doctor may prescribe either medication long term and use regular blood testing to monitor the pet's health.
4. Do I have to feed my pet this therapeutic food?
It's highly recommended. A trial on a therapeutic food is often the only way to diagnose food allergy without a blood test. Pet store foods may be advertised as “hypoallergenic” or “limited-ingredient,” but many brands share manufacturing-which means cross-contamination is likely. A therapueutic diet ensures allergens aren't introduced during manufacturing.
5. Will my pet grow out of allergies?
Not likely. Once developed, most allergies will be lifelong. Sometimes with age a pet's reaction to a particular allergen will decrease.
6. Why did my pet develop allergies now?
Allergies can develop at any time in a pet's life. They develop when the body comes in contact with substances it mistakenly identifies as harmful. We often see this at 1 to 3 years of age, when the pet is exposed to more allergens in foods and the environment.
7. How can I stop my pet from licking or chewing herself raw?
The first solution is an Elizabethan collar. But pets don't always react to them well. Some other options include using a t-shirt, boxer underwear or socks. These not only work for itchy patients, but they also work to protect incisions after surgery.
Bonus: Want this as a client handout? You're in luck! You can find this in handout-form right here.
Chris Feaster, VMD, and Haley Switzer, veterinary assistant, are team members at Valley Veterinary Clinic in Buckingham, Pennsylvania.