Itching in Dogs (Pruritus)

Pruritus is described as a nasty feeling within the skin that triggers the need to scratch. Itching does not constitute a specific disease or a diagnosis, but is merely a sign. It is commonly brought about by infections, allergies, or parasites. There are a lot of skin diseases that do not primarily result in itching. Yeast or secondary bacterial infections may cause the itching, and in some cases, the itch may develop long after the actual cause is gone.

Itching can either be localised or widespread. The affected dog will tend to lick, scratch, or bite its skin severely. A complete physical examination and skin history should be conducted by your veterinarian, as they will want to eliminate parasites as a possible cause.

The next step for your veterinarian will be to search for contagious causes of skin disease. Symptoms such as fluid discharge, hair loss, odour, and scaling are usually associated with infections. Animals with simultaneous yeast and bacterial infections tend to display excessive scratching of the face and feet. Under such conditions, your veterinarian will frequently recommend a 21- to 30-day antibiotic course.

If the itching disappears on its own, then a microbial infection must have been the likely cause. On the other hand, if there is no significant change in the dog’s itching, or it’s only a bit better, then an allergy might be the problem. Allergic itching is typically due to a response to allergens in the environment (pollens, moulds, or dust), insect bites, and food allergies. It is relatively easy to identify sensitivity to insect bites. Seasonal itching may be due to a reaction to seasonal allergens. Dogs that are always itching all year round may be suffering from a food allergy. An allergy to food can be verified or excluded depending on the response to a trial diet. A diet trial is where your dog is foods that it normally doesn’t consume. A diet will be specified by your veterinarian; usually the diet will have fish or other types of meat your dog has not previously been fed on. In order to assist your veterinarian determine the food allergy, you will need to avoid giving your dog treats that do not meet the terms of the diet, and completely and cautiously follow the approved diet. Intra-dermal skin testing and allergy testing are only used to show antigen exposure patterns. They are useful in determining the contents of an immunotherapy vaccine, but are futile when it comes to establishing a food allergy.

Treating the itching successfully depends on establishing what the underlying cause is. In cases where it not possible to identify the reason for the dog’s itching, or where treatment of the underlying disease fails to stop the itching, then medical management becomes necessary. Frequently prescribed anti-itching medications include essential fatty acids, antihistamines, and glucocorticoids.

Essential fatty acids are hardly ever successful as exclusive anti-itch agents; nevertheless, they can be successfully used together with antihistamines or steroids. This is because they may improve the efficacy of antihistamines or allow a lesser than usual steroid dose to be used.

Using antihistamines to treat itches is quite common, though their success rate is highly inconsistent. Antihistamines that are most frequently used include cetirizine, hydroxyzine hydrochloride, fexofenadine, amitriptyline hydrochloride, and diphenhydramine. In order to achieve maximum benefit, a 7-10 day therapeutic trial of any one antihistamine is necessary.

The most efficient medications in the management of itching are anti-inflammatory steroids known as Glucocorticoids. On the other hand, they are associated with adverse side effects, such as extreme thirst, hunger, and urination. Glucocorticoids also prevent the adrenal glands from functioning properly, while increasing the possibility of secondary urinary tract infections and diabetes. For this reason, they are prescribed only in limited situations. It is inappropriate to use glucocorticoids to control itching that is a result of infections.

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