Diagnosing and Treating the Cause for Itching and Scratching

If your pet has recently started itching and scratching, do not feel alone.

Late summer and fall is, no doubt, the worst time of the year for canine and feline skin problems. Not only is it the ragweed season but it is also the height of the flea season. August and September is the rag weed season for both pets and people. The big difference is that people with ragweed allergies wheeze and sneeze where as dogs and cats itch, lick, and scratch. The animal’s ears, feet, armpits and groin are the most likely areas of the body to be affected and it is these areas of the pet that are found inflamed, moist, and raw from licking or scratching Because this condition is caused by airborne ragweed pollen.

It is impossible to prevent your pet from coming in contact with these allergens. The itching and scratching which results is a vicious cycle which must be broken, or the problem will continue to get worse. In order to relieve the pet’s discomfort and prevent self trauma, anti histamines, cortisone, anti-inflammatory creme rinses, medicated shampoos, and skin lotions are provided as part of conventional veterinary therapy. I prefer to avoid drugs, if possible, and use anti-inflammatory herbs, omega 3 fatty acids, proteolytic enzymes, digestive enzyme, anti-oxidants and other nutritional therapies. I also use herbal skin sprays mixed together with homeopathics and an anti-inflammatory powder that contains sulfur.

If the pet is extremely uncomfortable and has scratched his or herself raw ,I will consider using oral natural hydrocortisone that is harvested from plants as opposed to pharmaceuticals being manufactured in a lab. Natural hydrocortisone has fewer side effects than its manufactured counterpart, but still must be used with discretion. Providing allergic pets with hypo allergenic diets containing more meat, fewer grains, fewer chemicals and more omega fatty 3 fatty acids can further help minimize allergens consumption.

As if ragweed-allergic dermatitis is not enough aggravation, fall also brings with it the heaviest flea population of the year. Because fleas have had all spring and summer to reproduce, there are more fleas and flea bites in the fall than at any other time of year.

To make matters worse, some cats but more dogs can become allergic to flea saliva. Dogs and cats with “flea bite allergic dermatitis” can become intensely itchy from the bite of just a single flea. They will then scratch and bite with such determination that they produce sores on their skin, known as “hot spots”, which often become secondarily infected. If you are suspicious that your pet has fleas, part the hairs just under the ear or at the base of the tail and look carefully for a small dark brown, oval shaped creatures crawling very quickly along the skin. Because the coat is often less dense on the underside of the abdomen, it is another good place to hunt for fleas.

If you do find fleas on your pet, you can assume that your house is also infested because the flea’s life cycle calls for them to jump off their victims and lay eggs in the carpeting or furniture or in cracks and crevices in the floor. Also assume that if one pet in the house is infested, then all pets are infested, even if the others are not scratching. Treating only the scratching pet will ultimately be a waste of time and money. “Advantage” monthly flea preventive is my choice for both preventing and treating a pet with a flea infestation. Advantage is applied to the skin and because it is not absorbed into the blood stream it quite safe. “Flea Busters”, a non toxic powder, is good to use on the carpeting to kill any hatching eggs.

Aerosol flea bombs for the house are also available but they are much more toxic and therefore must be used with great care. Pets with allergic flea bite dermatitis often remain intensely itchy even after the fleas have been killed and relief must be provided with soothing herbal shampoos, rinses, and lotions. Nutritional, herbal, and homeopathic oral anti inflammatory remedies have proven very helpful when trying to make these pets more comfortable.

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