Through a referral from your regular veterinarian, you can ask a dog dermatologist—a vet who specializes in pet skin disorders—to diagnose and treat the underlying reason for your dog’s itch so that it can be controlled and his suffering reduced without delay.
Keep in mind that your best friend is counting on you to recognize and take his symptoms seriously enough to seek professional help rather than work through an endless number of home remedies that don’t work well or at all, and won’t keep the problem from reoccurring. Consulting a veterinary dermatology specialist is the answer.
There are Many Causes of Persistent Itchiness
Pet owners should work with a vet dermatologist to learn the causes of persistent, annoying, or intolerable itching in order to discover the source of the problem and how to control it. Some of the causes are easy to recognize and treat but others are more difficult:
- Fleas – If fleas are the problem, the solution is through the destruction of all the fleas and their eggs on and around your pet. Before fleas find your dog, ask your vet for the best way to keep them away. Fleas can also cause anemia and host tapeworms.
If you are too late for prevention and it turns out that your dog’s frantic scratching is from a flea infestation, you will be pleased to learn there are oral and topical flea preventative treatments that will also kill the fleas that are already plaguing him.
You must also treat all the other household pets, launder your dog’s bedding, clean his bed and his toys, and prepare yourself for lots and lots of vacuuming throughout the house.
Yes, it’s a big, time-consuming job, but you’ll never have to do it again. After going through such an experience, you’ll never neglect regular flea prevention practices again! Note that fleas are not just a seasonal problem in the Vancouver area, lower mainland, points north, and on Vancouver Island. Unlike in colder regions, they are a threat to pets all year long.
- Ear Infections – Mites, tumors, foreign bodies or water trapped in the ear can cause bacterial and yeast infection accompanied by terrible pain and itching. Sometimes ear infections are caused by an allergic reaction.
Some of the many symptoms of an ear infection are scratching of the ears, head shaking, unpleasant odor and discharge from the ears, hearing loss, and loss of balance.
Your vet will prescribe antimicrobial medication. If the problem persists, the veterinarian will flush your dog’s ears and, in unusual cases, perform surgery. You may be referred to a dog dermatologist. The sooner you get help the more quickly the problem can be solved.
- Allergies – Discovering what is causing an allergic reaction may take time, require testing and follow-up testing, and is a specialty of vet dermatologists.
An allergic reaction is fairly easy to detect because of your dog’s obsessive scratching, which will cause inflamed, reddened skin and even skin infections or hair loss. Discovering the actual cause isn’t so easy and requires investigation.
In the meantime, your dog dermatologist will prescribe topical or oral medications to control the itching and secondary infections, which are common with skin problems.
- Fleas and other insects – some bites not only itch, they also cause allergic reactions
- Foods or medications – can cause allergic reactions
- Environmental allergens such as dust mites, pollen, and house dust – can cause allergic reactions
These types of allergies can cause hives and other skin problems and even ear infections accompanied by excessive itching. If an allergy also causes diarrhea, vomiting, and collapse, seek help right away.
Your veterinarian dermatologist will provide you with whatever is needed to control your dog’s allergic reaction and guide you through the process of elimination and reintroduction of possible suspects so that the allergen can be identified and avoided in the future.
As well, allergy immunotherapy or allergy vaccinations are available to prevent long-term complications and to decrease sensitivity to allergens.
Serious Itching Requires Professional Diagnosis and Help
Veterinarians are dedicated professionals and should be consulted when your pet demonstrates worrying symptoms, as well as for ongoing care. If your dog is seriously itchy or suffers from persistent skin problems, ask for a referral to a dog dermatologist to diagnose the reason. You’ll be given sympathetic, professional help.
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Dr. Jangi Bajwa is a Board certified veterinary dermatologist at VetDERM Clinic in Surrey BC. He is also the dermatology feature editor for Canadian Veterinary Journal. Dr. Bajwa’s special interests include otitis and allergic disease in pets; as well as helping improve quality of life of pets and their families.