Why does my pet keep scratching?

 In the past few months we seem to have been inundated with ‘itchy pets’ at Spring Lodge.  The late summer months are the worst time of year for skin problems as allergens in the air, such as grass pollen and dust are high and the warm weather can increase the populations of parasites. 

 If your pet has ‘itchy skin’ what can be done?  Our vet Cristina Diaz-Modrenero Cert GP (Derm) MRCVS, who has a special interest in skin problems says:

 ‘Skin disease can be painful and also very distressing, not only for the pet but the owner as well.  If left untreated it can cause irreversible changes to the skin that can seriously affect an animals welfare and quality of life.  There are many different causes of skin disease from parasites (fleas, mange mites and lice), allergies (to food, pollens etc) and more complicated medical conditions such as autoimmune disease. 

 Most skin diseases can be easily diagnosed and treated, however for some skin conditions the treatment will be long term and even life long.

 When you bring your pet to the surgery the vet will work their way through a series of examinations designed to eliminate every possible cause of the skin problem.  This can be done during a routine consultation or for more complicated conditions we can offer an extended initial appointment, with myself, for a more detailed investigation. 

Cristina and her own dog Jess

 In a consultation I would do a thorough examination of your pets skin including the ears, feet and nails, around the muzzle, around the eyes and lips and assess the severity of the problem.  I would then take a detailed history of the skin problem and about your pets lifestyle. 

 I would then discuss with you the treatment and investigations that I would recommend.  These could include a prolonged course of antibiotics, advanced parasite control, medicated shampoos and food allergy trials. 

 A pet with skin problems may require ‘skin scrapes’ during which we remove the upper layers of the skin and are used to find skin dwelling mites called Demodectes, which can only be seen under a microscope. 

 In many skin cases pets are diagnosed with a condition called ‘Atopy’ or ‘Atopic Dermatitis’.  This is a condition that describes a pet who is generally allergic to several different, but common allergens.

 There are blood tests that we can take that can highlight what allergens in the environment and the types of food your pet may be allergic to.  The blood tests check for allergy levels in your pet to grasses, weeds, trees and shrubs, storage mites, house dust mites and different moulds.  Some pets are evn found to be allergic to their owners dander (dandruff)!. They also check for allergies to beef, chicken, cereals, milk, eggs and fish. 

 If your pet is shown to have an allergy to any of the allergens then a bespoke ‘Immunotherapy vaccine’ can be specially made.  This vaccine contains the allergens that the pet is allergic to.  It is given in a controlled, gradually increasing dose and aims to increase the pets tolerance levels to the allergen.  They are proven to be 80% effective if use regularly.

 As you can see, diagnosing the cause of skin disease can be very involved and can take time, as the different possible causes are eliminated, but once the cause has been found the correct treatment can make such a difference. ‘

 Cristina is available for consultation by appointment during the week at different branches through the Spring Lodge group.