Why is my pet always itching?

Itching can be very frustrating for pets as well as their owners. Making things worse, excessive itching can lead to secondary skin infections and ear infections which are also itchy.

Some owners assume their pet has a food allergy, and changing their diet will solve the problem. The pet store sales staff is always ready to change your pet to the latest expensive grain free all-natural diet. Changing your pet’s diet to an over the counter diet will NOT help its itching.

Food allergies in pets are not common as you might think. Food allergies only account for ten percent of all allergic skin diseases in dogs. If your pet has food allergies, it may have other allergies that aren’t addressed by changing its diet. Most importantly OTC (over the counter) diets are not hypo allergenic. No matter how all natural or grain free the diet is, it’s not hypo allergenic. The diets we use for food allergies are PRESCRIPTION. In order to get those diets for your pet they have to be prescribed by a veterinarian. The reason is that veterinary food companies have higher standards and requirements to insure they only contain the ingredients listed. Numerous studies and recalls have proven that OTC diets can be contaminated with ingredients that are not hypo allergenic.  A true food trial for allergies takes medical supervision, and monitoring. This is why true hypoallergenic diets are prescription only.

So why is your pet itching? Unfortunately, as you can see, there is no quick fix. However, there is some basic information that can help. Here in Florida FLEAS are the most common cause of itching and scratching in pets. Unlike other parts of the U.S., we see fleas all year round. Pets that have allergies are usually allergic to fleas. Eliminating fleas from the equation will make your pet more comfortable. To do this, ALL YOUR PETS need to be on high quality flea prevention from your veterinarian. Even cats that are strictly indoors still need flea prevention. Sure, there are many products available OTC, but they are not as effective as prescription products. Many of them are generic versions of popular medications that veterinarians stopped carrying several years ago, because newer and more effective products have come out. Think about how far your cell phone has evolved in ten years. The other important component of flea prevention is making sure your house and yard are professionally treated for fleas on a regular basis. Your pet can be on high quality flea prevention, but if the environment isn’t treated you will lose your battle with fleas.

For dogs, Benadryl (diphenyhydramine) can be given for itching. The dose for dogs is 1 mg per pound of body weight every 8-12 hours (ie 25 mg for a 25 lb dog). It’s important that diphenyhydramine is the only active ingredient and NO added decongestants. Benadryl will only help to relieve mild itching, and if there are secondary problems like skin infections, or the itching is severe Benadryl will not work. Benadryl is considered safe for dogs, but you should consult your Veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet.

There are many other root causes that can make your pet itch. Choosing the right veterinarian that is knowledgeable in dermatology and patient is crucial. Rather than just prescribing a quick fix, it’s important to develop a long term, multifaceted approach.