Get the Itch Out
Living in Florida definitely has its perks. While our neighbors to the north are busy scraping frost off their windshields in the morning and buying shovels to prepare for impending snowstorms, we’re still happily spending our afternoons lounging in the sun by the pool or maybe even the beach. In October. The year-round temperate weather doesn’t come without its drawbacks, though. One that seems to stand out in particular for both our furry friends and their human companions is allergies.
While most people experience allergies in the form of hay fever symptoms (ex: runny nose, watery eyes, excessive sneezing), many of our companion animal species experience itching. Sometimes A LOT of itching. If your pet is itching more than usual, we recommend scheduling an appointment to determine the cause, since there are several types of allergic triggers out there and each can entail slightly different approaches to resolve them. If your veterinarian determines that your pet suffers from environmental allergies, there are a few things you can do to help offer some relief.
1. Dilution is the solution to pollution – We hear it all the time. Owners try not to bathe their pets TOO often to avoid drying out their skin. However, the opposite is usually the solution. Oftentimes a pet’s skin will get dry as a result of irritation from environmental allergens. Frequent bathing with an oatmeal based shampoo (anywhere from once to three times weekly, depending on the degree of sensitivity to allergens) will actually decrease the amount allergens on your pet’s skin and thereby reduce irritation and dryness. Oatmeal based shampoos are also designed not to strip your pet’s skin of its natural oils. Letting the shampoo stay in contact with your pet’s skin for at least 5-15 minutes is key. No staring contests required – you can take a walk with your pet and rinse when you get back. Call the office if you need a suggestion about which shampoo to get (an appointment may be required to make the best recommendation for your pet).
2. Wipe, wipe, wipe – In between baths, it may be helpful to use alcohol-free baby wipes to wipe your dog’s paws, underarms, and underbelly to minimize the amount of allergens that build up. We usually recommend doing this two to three times daily. Don’t forget to get in between those toes!
3. There’s something fishy going on here – Omega 3 fatty acids can often be very beneficial for your pet’s itchy skin. They work by reducing inflammation and supporting the skin’s natural barrier function. It is important to make sure the source of omega 3 fatty acids is sourced from fish oil since dogs and cat cannot utilize omega 3 from sources such as flax seed oil. Another important aspect are the amounts of DHA and EPA, since these are the two main fatty acids that are active in reducing inflammation. We can help you determine the amount that is appropriate for your pet depending on size.
4. Antihistamines – Although dosages are different in our veterinary species than for humans, many (but not all) of the products many people use to get relief from seasonal allergies can be safely used in dogs and cats. We can help you determine which products are safe and the appropriate dose for your pet depending on the product and your pet’s size.
5. New medications from your vet – There are many new products recently available to veterinarians that can offer a significant amount of relief from itching for your furry friend. Some products are designed to relieve itch regardless of the underlying allergy while some are made specifically to target itching due to environmental allergies.
Itching and allergies in pets is rarely ever an easy fix. While this list offers some tips, it is far from exhaustive. A thorough veterinary exam is always the first step in determining what combination of treatments and diagnostic tests are needed to figure out the cause of itching in your pet. Call our office today to learn more about how to get that itch under control so you AND your pet can enjoy more of the outdoors together!