This past month I have met more itchy animals than I have in years! The kiddos with the usual seasonal allergies are extra flared up. Even worse, pets who don’t normally get itchy are scratching and rubbing like crazy. What is happening?
This time of year, allergens are typically at their worst (at least here in the Midwest). Some combination of wet spring and dry lately has made this year extra bad! Environmental allergies, like mold, pollen, grass, etc, can present a lot of different ways. The most common symptoms for dogs are itchy sides, licking feet, and/or itchy groin and armpits. Some dogs get ear infections.
Cats can get scabs in random places, or make lick their belly bald. Or you may simply notice your cat scratching more.
How to treat it? Many owners want to start with antihistamines, like benadryl or zyrtec. These don’t play catch-up very well, so once the itching has started, you’re not going to see much improvement. These itchy kids typically need prescription stuff, such as prednisone or apoquel. However, there is a place for antihistamines! Once we’ve used the prescription meds to put the fire out, anti-histamines can help KEEP the fire out. They actually work alongside the other medications – the fancy word is synergistic.
Most of my patients have just been itchy, and about half develop skin infections. If they develop an infection, those are itchy in and of themselves. Things get complicated then, and we talk about special shampoos or sprays, oral antibiotics, antifungals, etc. Note – all of this stuff is prescription.
To complicate the issue more, we are really getting into the height of flea season. Many people assume an itchy animal has fleas. With the allergens being super crazy this year, your itchy pet may very well not have a single flea, just is allergic to whatever mold, pollen, grass, etc is doing its allergy thing. One good way to tell if it’s fleas: most pets with fleas (or an allergy to fleas) are itchiest on their back side, near their tail base. Notice this is not one of the common places pets with seasonal allergies itch.
Fleas are always a possibility though. And there’s no law that says your pet can’t have both fleas AND allergies (talk about itchy!). Fleas are easy to fix – there are awesome flea treatments we can offer. The environmental stuff? Well, unless living in a bubble is your thing, really no way to eliminate the allergens, just treat the symptoms…and pray for a frost!
So if your pet is itchy- hopefully the end will be in sight soon, but talk to your vet and see what can be done in the meantime!