Has your dog been scratching, head-shaking, or rubbing parts of the body on the floor or furniture recently? If so, they’re not alone. We’re now at the height of allergy season and consequently we vets are seeing a lot of itchy dogs.
So… why so itchy? Every dog is an individual and will have its own itch threshold. They’ll also be unique in the way they respond to exposure to certain allergens in the environment. The way to think about this is that the itch threshold is the brim of a cup and different allergens are different liquids that get poured into the cup. Certain dogs may have a food allergy or a genetic problem affecting their skin, which means that cup is already half full, so exposure to only one or allergens will overfill the cup and they’ll start itching. Some dogs have to be exposed to multiple allergens or get secondary bacterial or yeast infections before they start itching.
What can be done for your itchy dog? There are multiple treatments including shampoos, ointments, sprays, foams, tablets, injections and ear drops (the ears are still part of the skin!) but a treatment plan is again an individual thing and can involve multiple treatments at once. It’s best to book an appointment or ring your vet for advice.
What can you do at home? There are certain products you can buy without a prescription that can help maintain the skin barrier so ask your vet about those. At this time of year, the allergen is most likely grass, weed, tree and pollen based. So if your dog appears to be itchier after going in a particular field or particular wooded area, try to avoid that area for a few months and walk on a pavement or track. Also, make sure your dog is up-to-date with a decent veterinary flea prevention product, because flea bites and saliva will be another allergen than can fill that hypothetical cup!
John Willdig BVetMed MRCVS
Bridgnorth Veterinary Centre