Stop Scratching!!

Stop Scratching!!

By Sherry Massey

Dogs and cats, like humans, can suffer from allergies. If your pet itches and scratches, bites and licks a lot, this may be a sure sign of a common disease known as Allergic or Atopic Dermatitis. It is the most common symptom of pet allergies, it can be lifelong, causes can be difficult to diagnose and once identified, can be resistant to attempts at treatment.

The signs of allergic dermatitis usually appear within the first two years of life. If your pet begins to groom excessively, with licking and chewing of the paws, abdomen and hindquarters, then he may suffer from allergic dermatitis. Check the ears also, which may be reddened and hot to the touch. Check the armpits, groin and between toes for saliva staining. In light colored pets, it appears as a red-brown staining. In chronic cases, the skin of the abdomen may change from pinkish to red to black mottling.

What causes allergic dermatitis? Take a look around you right now. Chances are your pet could be allergic to half a dozen different substances; even microscopic substances like dust mites and mold. Food, carpeting, blankets, pollen, plastic food dishes, furniture stuffing, plants and grass all have the potential to trigger an allergic reaction in your dog. Food allergies are so common that pet food manufacturers have invested millions of dollars in research and development to assist in the therapy of dogs and cats with food allergies.

So, what can you do to limit your pet’s exposure to allergy triggers? Let’s start with something that even humans are commonly allergic to, dust mites and mold spores. Do extra cleaning. Even small amounts of floating dirt and dust can trigger symptoms. Dust corners and move furniture so you can clean under it. While you’re cleaning, and stirring up dust clouds, keep your pet in a different area until you are done. Dust mites are microscopic typically flourish in mattresses and bedding. One way to keep them under control is to wash your pet’s bedding in hot water once a week. This will help keep their numbers down and hopefully reduce your pet’s symptoms. For mold spores, you may want to consider installing electrostatic filters on your heating and cooling systems. While these filters can be pricey, if you or your pets are severely allergic to mold, they can be a lifesaver.

Another common trigger for pet allergies is fleas. Pets with fleas usually scratch the rear half of their bodies, especially above the tail and down the backs of their legs. The flea itself is not the culprit. It is their saliva that causes an allergic reaction. A skin allergy test can be performed to determine if your pet is allergic to flea saliva. If the test it positive, then a strict regimen of flea control is called for. There are lots of good flea remedies on the market and lots of natural remedies and steps a pet owner can take to reduce a pet’s exposure to fleas. Check our Resources tab for more specific tips on natural flea control.

Pollen and inhalants can trigger allergic dermatitis in a dog or cat. A dog with hay fever usually itches on his front half. It causes face rubbing, foot licking, armpit scratching and neck and chest scratching. Cats with hay fever usually itch all over. They may develop scabby little lumps under their fur. The most common breeds affected by inhalant allergies are terriers, golden retrievers, poodles, Dalmatians, German shepherds, Shar-peis, shih tuzus, lhasa apsos, pugs, Irish setters and schnauzers. Recurrent ear infections may be also be a sign of inhalant allergies. How can you help? Kick the smoking habit. Second hand smoke can trigger inhalant allergy symptoms in your pet. The concentration at floor level is greater than people realize. If you suspect hay fever is causing your pet to itch, bring him indoors during the height of the pollen season. This particularly true in the early morning or late afternoon, when pollen counts tend to be highest. Use dust-free litter in your cat’s litter box. The dust stirred up when your cat starts digging may be an allergy trigger.

Food allergies account for only 10 percent of allergy problems in dogs. They can become allergic to a food they have eaten for years which causes owners to overlook the possibility of a food allergy. Pets often cannot tolerate soy products, wheat, corn, beef, port, chicken, milk, whey, eggs, fish, chemical preservatives or artificial sugars in their foods. Besides itchy skin, food allergies can manifest as shaking of the head, ear inflammation, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, sneezing, asthma symptoms, behavioral changes or seizures. Allergies to specific foods can be time consuming and difficult to pin down. Here are some tips: Don’t share your plate. There are a number of human foods that can cause problems in pets. Fermented cheese, beef sausage, canned tuna, egg whites or even tomatoes can cause symptoms to flare. Some pets, like people, can be lactose intolerant. Your vet may recommend an elimination diet for your pet. This will entail eliminating your pet’s current diet completely and replacing it with a food he has never had until symptoms go away. Then you gradually reintroduce old foods, one at a time, until symptoms flare again. Then you’ll know what is causing the problem. This should only be done under the supervision of a veterinarian. Once you know what triggers your pet’s symptoms, it should be relatively easy to better control his diet.

If your pet is itching, scratching and licking or if the skin and coat are not healthy appearing, you and your pet need a diagnosis before treatment is started. Treatment of Allergic Dermatitis symptoms by a vet can include topical medicated soothing baths, ointments and sprays. Oral antihistamines can neutralize some of the symptoms. Be patient and be persistent. Remember, just like for humans, there is not cure for allergies. All we can do is avoid the food, material or parasite that triggers the immune response, treat skin symptoms to lessen discomfort and make sure your pet gets a high quality diet.

Sherry Massey is the owner of Barker and Friends Natural Pet Treats. Our mission is to provide pet lovers with 100% natural dog and cat treats made with only human-grade ingredients. We never add sugar, salt, preservatives, dyes or byproducts of any kind. We are also proud distributors of Flint River Ranch Natural Pet Food. Visit our website at to view our great selection of treats and pet food along with other products to keep your pet happy and healthy.

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