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Allergies in Cats and Dogs

Allergic skin conditions in dogs and cats are quite common but diagnosing the allergen so as to treat it is difficult.  Certain breeds and individual strains within breeds are far more susceptible than others but any individual can be affected and for the owner, knowing that their pet is suffering is heartbreaking.     

An allergy in cats and dogs will become obvious from them scratching, licking, rubbing or chewing their skin excessively resulting in the hair becoming thin or the area developing rashes and infections.  They may rub their faces against the ground, chew their feet or roll on rough ground to scratch their backs.

Dogs will end up with that “mangy dog” look and cats will look almost moth-eaten.  Scabs may be visible around the neck and the skin will become flaky.  Often, bacterial or yeast infections of the skin will make the pet smelly and the coat greasy.

Fleas are by far the most common cause of allergies.  Their bite irritates the skin and the constant chewing and then licking from the pet will cause this to become worse.  Fleas are often easy to identify as they can be seen scurrying around the base of the animals back just above the tail or their excreta can be seen in the area.

Drop into any Better Pets and Gardens to find out how to treat both your dog and your environment for fleas and at the same time reduce the possibility of infection from flea tapeworms.

Fleas on cats and dogs are almost inevitable but can be easily controlled.  Adult fleas live on animals and reproduce there but their eggs fall all over the backyard, park or your home to hatch and develop later.  About 95% of the flea life cycle does not occur on the pet, but in the environment where they live and sleep.  That’s why the home has to be treated as well as the pet.

If the scratching continues for two weeks after the pet and the environment has been treated rigorously for fleas, the problem may be something different.

Have a wander around the garden and look for weeds such as wandering jew and paspalum as these are two main causes of grass allergies.  Dogs that are chewing their feet, legs or underbelly may be walking through or lying on these as they are cool and soft, this will make the allergy worse.  These weeds can be controlled by pulling them out but the most effective way is to paint their leaves with glyphosate to kill them and stop them from returning.  Meanwhile, fence the area to stop the dog or cat from returning to that spot until the weeds are well and truly gone.

Food allergies are probably the next thing to consider when attempting to identify the cause of skin irritations. This can take some work and a great deal of persistence and is best done with the assistance of a vet.  The goal will be to identify the food that is causing the problem so as to eliminate it from the diet or replace it with another that provides a similar source of nutrients.  Better Pets and Gardens have a large range of fresh and dried foods that are preservative and colourant free, a great place to start your investigations.

Premium pet foods for cats and dogs with sensitive skin are available. These do not contain corn, wheat or other products that may cause allergies and have a high level of Omega 3 and Omega 6 to help nourish the skin.

Mange is often used as a general term for skin irritations in dogs but in fact it is a condition caused by a mite that irritates the skin causing hair loss and usually secondary infections also.  It can be difficult to diagnose without the assistance of a vet who will do a skin scraping and if the mite are present, will suggest a series of medications to treat the mange.

Bacteria, yeast and fungal infections cause reddened moist areas or black thickened skin with excessive scale, foul odour and a greasy coat.  These are made worse by the constant licking and or the warmth created by some areas of the body such as the belly, under the legs, in skin folds and between the toes.  Therapeutic shampoos can help to control these and are generally used twice weekly for two weeks in accordance with the directions.  Some infections also require antibiotic medications from the vet.

Soothing shampoos and conditioners such as oatmeal shampoo will help to provide some relief if used regularly.  They are often kept on the skin for about ten minutes before rinsing off.

If all else has failed and the scratching persists, a veterinarian may undertake skin testing or blood tests to help diagnose the cause.  Anti-inflammatory medications will be prescribed to ease the irritation and sometimes desensitizing injections will be used if the source of the allergen cannot be removed from the environment.

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