PRURITUS (Itching)


This is one of the most common reasons for an animal to be presented to a vet for examination. Animals scratch because they are trying to remove the cause of the irritation from their skin. The scratching reflex is a safety mechanism to try to prevent further damage to the skin, however when persistent, the scratching itself causes more harm than good.

The causes of itching in dogs, cats, rodents and reptiles can be divided into broad groups which include:

  1. Infections: Bacterial and fungal
  2. Parasites
  3. Allergies to fleas, environmental substances such as house dust mites and pollens and finally food
  4. Hormonal diseases
  5. Cornification disorders
  6. Skin cancers

An individual animal may have a combination of conditions and each one needs to be identified and treated separately to get the irritation to stop. For example, a dog may have a flea infestation, develop an allergy to the presence of the fleas and also develop a bacterial skin infection. If each component of the disease is not treated then the dog may continue to itch.

Another common problem is the fact that two dogs with similar lesions could have two completely different causes.

For this reason it is often necessary to take a detailed history. Some of the questions you may be asked may seem ridiculous but are asked for a reason. The information that you the owner can give may be more important than anything found on the dog.

After a detailed history has been taken a full examination of the animal will take place and some basic initial tests will be carried out.

Based on this information a diagnosis may be established but in long standing cases this is rarely possible at the initial visit. At this time treatment trials may be carried out to ensure that all infections and parasites have been eliminated. This is very important to do before pursuing more expensive diagnostic tests.

It is most important to be systematic when eliminating the above causes. Unfortunately, this means that multiple visits may need to be made to the clinic, but this will give better long term results.

Some skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis (which is an allergy) are not curable but can be managed very successfully when owner and vet work together as a team.

At Monaleen Vets we can carry out allergy skin testing, but only in appropriate situations. It is only important to know what an animal is allergic to if an owner wishes to use hyposensitisation to treat the allergy. In this situation the allergy skin test is used to make a vaccination specific to the individual animal. This vaccination is then used to try to desensitise the animal to the allergens over a couple of months.

Allergy skin testing is not used to make a diagnosis of allergy!

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