It's by far the most common complaint among dog owners in our area--"My dog won't stop scratching!" There are many different reasons why your dog may be scratching and in order to stop the scratching we must determine what is causing the dog to scratch.
Some of the most common causes of your dog's constant scratching are;
--External parasites (i.e. fleas, demodex)
--Skin allergies (environmental or food)
The number one rule out when dealing with an itchy dog is flea-allergic dermititis. Flea-allergic dermititis (FAD) is an allergic reaction to the saliva of a flea when it bites your dog. Obviously, the best way to treat allergies related to fleas is to kill the fleas. We always recommend year round flea prevention for all animals, regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor pets.
Your pet, like some of us humans, can also suffer from environmental allergies such as dust, pollen, or mold. These allergens can cause your pet to itch severely. Environmental allergies tend to be seasonal and show up at the same time every year.
Your veterinarian can prescribe your pet a medication to help prevent the itchiness associated with these types of environmental allergens and prevent further skin infection. You may also try lifestyle changes such as wiping your pet's paws and belly with a baby wipe after they come in from outside.
A less common cause of itchiness is food allergies. Food allergies are most often diagnosed by participating in a food trial where the pet is fed a novel diet containing one protein and one carb. It is very important the pet have no other food or treats during the 12 week food trial period in order for the trial to be accurate.
Metabolic illness such as hypothyroidism can also cause changes in the condition of the skin and severe itchiness which may lead to hair loss. In order for your veterinarian to diagnose this, your pet would need a complete bloodwork panel which tests organ function. The good news is metabolic illness, such as hypothyroidism is easily manageable with medication.
In addition to itchiness, you should also be aware of the other symptoms of allergies so you can notify your veterinarian during your visit. They are:
--Shaking of the head
--Red inflammed skin
If you feel your pet may be suffering from any of these symptoms, please feel free to schedule an appointment to get your pet some relief from the itchiness.
It's on the Rise
For years now, heartworm disease incidences have been on the rise in the US despite advances in our ability to prevent the disease. Heartworm disease is a very serious and potentially fatal disease contracted by pets who are bitten by an infected mosquito. Heartworms are often times up to one foot long and live in the hearts and lungs of infected pets. If left untreated, pets will develop cardiac and respiratory failure, which leads to death.
Heartworm Disease-Not Only a Dog Disease
When pet owners hear about heartworm disease, many believe it only affects the canine population. However, the same mosquitoes that infect dogs also infect cats. Generally speaking though, that is where the similarities between canine and feline heartworm disease end.
There are many differences between canine and feline heartworm disease. According to the Companion Animal Council, the rate of incidence of adult heartworms in cats is only about 10% as often as dogs. This is because, often times, a cat's immune system will kill the larvae before they become adults. Also, the number of heartworms present during an infection vary greatly between cats and dogs. A cat is usually only infected with 1-3 adult heartworms where a dog can harbor up to several hundred. However, just 1 adult heartworm in a cat can cause serious illness.
What to do? Test and Prevent
The test typically used to diagnose heartworm disease in dogs is not shown to be effective in diagnosing heartworm disease in cats. In addition to bloodwork, cats will most likely need radiographs, ultrasound, or echocardiogram to get a more definitive diagnosis. Unlike dogs, cats who are diagnosed with heartworm disease face a large challenge as there is no approved medical treatment to kill those adult heartworms.
Once again, prevention is really the best case scenario to protect your cat from heartworm disease. Here at Evans Animal Hospital, we always recommend year round heartworm prevention for all of your pets as mosquitoes are a year round problem here in the southeast. Even indoor pets should remain on prevention as it only takes one mosquito to infect your pet. Some of the products approved for the prevention of heartworms in cats are Selamectin, Milbemycin, and Ivermectin. Feel free to call and speak to one of our staff about which product is best for your cat.