TREATING ITCHING AND SCRATCHING: A ticklish subject

Why is my dog itching, scratching, or chewing at himself? Is one of the most common questions dog and cat owners are asking their  veterinarian.    Just as with humans  there are many reasons why dogs and cats may itch, scratch or chew at themselves.   Keep in mind that itchiness is a symptom and not a disease and that  scratching is almost always the result of itchiness.    The often daunting challenge  the veterinarian is faced with is identifying the cause of the itching and the prevention of the scratching.  There are many causes for itching and scratching.    Included are parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites.   A bacterial dermatitis known as a “pyoderma” produces pimples that are very irritating .   Allergies result in skin rashes which cause severe itching and scratching and can lead to a  secondary  bacterial or yeast infection.   Autoimmune reactions can cause the skin to become red, raw, and itchy especially at the sites on the body where the skin
turns in ward and becomes the mucous membrane.    Nutritional deficiencies of such things as fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins and zinc can cause dry unhealthy skin which results in a dull, lack luster hair coat and itchy skin.

Some of the above causes of rashes,  itching and scratching are easily diagnosed while  others require a good bit of detective work.   Laboratory test used to diagnose itchy  skin problems include impression smears for yeast and bacteria infections, skin scrapings for mange mite infestations, cultures for bacterial or fungal infections, biopsies for helping identify cancer, hormonal diseases, allergies and auto immune processes.   Special ultra violet lights can discover certain types of fungal diseases.   Other laboratory test involve sending blood to an outside laboratory for measuring hormone levels .    Urine tests are available for detecting elevated cortisol levels that could cause a dog to itch and scratch.

Of course many diseases which cause itching, scratching and rashes can be treated symptomatically without actually knowing the cause of the problem .    However masking symptoms without  also treating the cause will  only be a temporary solution and the problem
will return as soon as the medication is stopped.    There are times  when the itching and scratching is so severe that drugs like corticosteroids must be used, short term,  to break the itch scratch cycle and give the pet relief .   In such cases giving the minimal amount of  a steroid  drug on an every other day dosage schedule helps to minimize the possibility of serious side effects.     Combining steroids with  anti inflammatory remedies like antihistamines and fatty acid supplements will allow for using lower doses of steroids.    The use of “natural hydrocortisone” which comes from the Yam  plant is an excellent alternative to synthetic cortisone such as prednisone or rednisolone.   Natural hydrocortisone is  “bio-identical” and thus produces fewer side effect than its synthetic drug counterparts.    If the itching and scratching is not too  severe then cortisone therapy may be avoided by using a number of other less aggressive approaches.    Frequent bathing with  a gentle herbal shampoo can help to calm the skin and wash off offending allergens.   Crème rinses that contain colloidal oatmeal, moisturizures, and a local skin analgesic like “pramoxine” can be used after a shampoo or all by themselves.     Clipping your pet’s coat short will make bathing and medicating much easier.  Sprays containing aloe and calendula can be applied  to localized rashes.    Licorice root is an herb given by mouth that  stimulates the pets  adrenal gland to produce more cortisone and thus reduce itching and scratching.   Doubling the recommended dose of oral omega fatty acids is recommended during seasonal outbreaks  when itching
is most intense.    Using an antihistamine such as benidryl  may be helpful both for its anti allergic effects and its mild sedative properties.

Regardless of the cause of itching and scratching,  the most important first step is to stop self mutilation  In the initial stages of treating severe chewing and scratching  an elizabethan  restraint collar can be placed around  the animals neck to stop licking but does little to prevent scratching unless the pet is scratching at his or her ears.    You may also want to consider clipping you pets nails short and/ortaping  padded socks over  the  dog or cat’s back feet.    You may be reluctant to use an Elizabethan collar or to pad the feet  but if you do not the self trauma becomes  a vicious cycle that even cortisone therapy won’t stop.

In summary ,  the causes of itching and scratching are numerous and  successful treatment of the problems depends on an accurate diagnosis.    Even after the problem is diagnosed successful therapy may be challenging  and frustrating  especially if the  pet’s caretaker does not thoroughly comply with their veterinarians recommendations .

For more information on alternative or holistic medicine please visit us at www.doc4pets.com.

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Woodside Animal Clinic is a unique, very personal,  one doctor practice where, for over 35 years, Dr. Simon has been healing dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, rodents, and reptiles with both conventional and alternative medicine.  Dr. Simon is certified in Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Stem cell therapy.  He is the author  of 4 pet care books, a past president of the Oakland County Veterinary Medical Association and a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.   Visit us at Doc4pets.com

Woodside Animal Clinic sees pets from all over Michigan but primarily from the greater Detroit  area  including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, and Livingston counties.   Cities in these counties including Royal Oak, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Detroit, Redford, Livonia, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Warren, Centerline, Clawson,  Troy, Sterling Heights, Southfield, Birmingham, Lathrup Village, Bingham Farms, Franklin, Beverly Hills, Farmington, Farmington Hills, Novi, Wixom, Brighton, Livonia, Plymouth, Commerce, Ann Arbor, Ortonville, Waterford, Clarkston, Union Lake,  Rochester,  Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, Utica,  Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe,  Romeo,  Flint, Hartland,  Lansing, Okemos, Flint, Howell,  Brighton, White Lake, Romeo, Saline, South Lyon, Windsor Canada, Toledo Ohio

 

 

 

 

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