Many dogs suffer from dry itchy skin that can occasionally lead to raw irritated sores called hot spots. The two main causes, fleas and food allergies, have treatment options that can bring relief to the animal. Treatment in both cases is about long term management as the allergy typically never goes away but is just managed.
One of the main causes of an itchy dog is flea allergy. The flea bites the dog setting off an allergic reaction that affects the dog all over. Left untreated the dogs skin becomes red, irritated, dry and flaky. Now the dog is itching not just from the fleas but because of his irritated skin making this an ongoing cyclical problem.
To break the cycle and offer the animal some relief, the fleas must be eliminated and the skin soothed. Doing this requires a multilevel approach. To kill the fleas several topical products are available through a veterinarian that will stop most flea populations. In severe cases, however, bombing the house and multiple applications of flea product may need to be applied to deal with the pest levels. Consulting a veterinarian for a flea control protocol is the best bet.
Another likely culprit of causing dry itchy skin is food allergies. Certain ingredients in food cause a histamine release from the body, resulting in skin irritation. In some animals, this can be so severe it causes hair loss and open, oozing sores.
In the severe cases, seek veterinarian attention first as antibiotics and steroids maybe needed to clear up the immediate issues. Often your veterinarian will recommend medicated shampoos to heal and calm the skin. If these instances of itchy, painful skin occur chronically, the vet may recommend an elimination diet to remove the trigger for the outbreaks from the dogs diet.
An elimination diet may take some time to get right. A selected food is fed exclusively to the dog for three to six months to see if it will eliminate and keep symptoms away. The success of an elimination diet owes entirely to the compliance of the owner as table scraps are not part of the diet. Most places that sell dog food also sell some form of hypoallergenic treats.
More often, the combination of diet modification and medicating flare ups as they occur gives the animal significant relief. The process takes time to truly minimize symptoms and should be continued with full compliance of veterinary instruction for optimal results.
- The Allergy Solution for Dogs, Shawn Messonnier, Three Rivers Press, 2000
- Small Animal Internal Medicine, Richard W. Nelson DVM, Mosby, 2008
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