Why is my pet so itchy?

Excessive itching is a very common reason for pets to have to visit the vet, and can be caused by many things including bacteria, yeasts, fungi, parasites and allergies. Vets can prevent and cure infectious skin disease with the many drugs they prescribe but allergic skin disease poses a unique challenge. Allergic skin disease can be treated but cannot be cured. They are lifelong diseases which are unpleasant for the animal and require substantial commitment from the owner. Breeds like the Labrador Retriever and French Bulldog are predisposed to acquiring allergic skin disease. Being the two most popular breeds in the UK, allergic skin disease should be on everyone’s radar, as it is most likely that you will meet an unfortunate dog affected with this disease!

Allergic skin disease in dogs

Atopic dermatitis in dogs happens when the animal’s immune system overreacts to non-harmful allergens. The immune cells produce substances that cause an intense itch, which can sometimes be seasonal if the allergen is plant related or can be caused by allergens in your dog’s diet. Most commonly, however, and what is frustrating for us pet owners and vets is that the cause is unidentified.

Therefore, management of this disease is aimed at controlling the symptoms without treating the underlying cause. Immunosuppressive drugs, such as prednisolone or ciclosporin, have been used by vets for a long time to control itching. These drugs, while effective, have certain undesirable side effects if used long-term. More recently developed drugs, such as oclacitinib, target the itch directly and may be a safer option for your pet. For food-related allergies, a diet trial is recommended. During this 6-8-week trial your dog will eat only (and absolutely nothing else) a novel protein or hypoallergenic diet. If the itching improves it is likely that the diet will be for life.

Whatever medication works best for you and your dog, it is important to have an objective measure of treatment efficacy. Felcana Go can aid you and your vet in managing this disease. Felcana’s smart wearable device monitors sleep patterns in your dog and intelligently analyses activity data. It will alert you and your vet if it detects your pet scratching at night and give us a better idea of how well we are managing our pet’s condition.

Allergic skin disease in cats

Like dogs, cats can also get allergic skin disease. Far more commonly, however, cats are affected with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). FAD is similar to canine atopic dermatitis, but in this case, we know that flea saliva is the cause. FAD can be much more severe than canine atopic dermatitis and cats will create additional skin damage through the scratching.

Preventing FAD in allergic cats requires regular use of a flea preventative medication (although all pets that go outdoors should be using one anyway). Additionally, your house may have to be decontaminated if there is an established flea infestation. Speak to your vet about the best options for your cat, but don’t forget that Felcana is able to monitor your cat’s sleep patterns and can be extremely helpful.

Skin disease is very common in our companion animals and we have yet to find a definitive cure for this unpleasant condition. Felcana Go works with you and your vet to manage this, keeping our pets happy, healthy, and itch-free!

 

This blog was written by Ben Smith and Daniel Low from the Royal Veterinary College.