Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Dogs scratch. Some dogs scratch a lot. Why do dogs scratch, and when should you intervene?
Let’s first talk about why dogs do not scratch. One myth is that dogs begin to itch when something changes in their diet. This is rarely the case. First, food allergies make up the smallest percentage of allergy cases in veterinary medicine; less than 10% of dogs with allergies have an allergy to food. Allergies develop over time, typically after a dog has eaten a particular food for 2 or more years.
Dogs can be itchy because of allergies though. The most common type of allergy is flea hypersensitivity, followed by atopy or inhaled allergies. Instead of coughing and sneezing, dogs get itchy when they breathe in molds or pollens that they are allergic to. Food storage mites and dust mites are known to trigger an allergic response in pets, and are found in almost every household. They thrive in dry, warm environments, like a pet food bin.
Keeping good nutrition in mind is important. It is well recognized that a blend of omega fatty acids is beneficial to normal healthy skin. Omega-3 fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatories. They counteract the pro-inflammatory features of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6’s can’t be done away with; they are required nutrients, but they should always be balanced with an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids for the healthiest skin.
There can be medical causes for itchy or dry skin as well. Some of these include hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), hypersensitivity to bacteria that reside on the skin, and certain external parasites (mites). If your dog’s itching is extreme, it is important that you work with a veterinarian to help diagnose and treat your dog’s itchy skin.
When did the scratching start?
When the seasons changed? Warm weather seasons are the most typical time for pests such as fleas that cause itchy skin. It is also the time that plants are blooming and pollens are in the air. Dogs don’t get hay fever, but they do get itchy skin because of these airborne particles.
Am I using good flea control?
Flea bite hypersensitivity is the most common allergy in dogs and cats. Make sure you are using a proven method for keeping your pet flea free. One bite is all it takes to lead to a super itchy pet!
Should I change my dog’s food?
That depends on what you are feeding. While some itchy dogs do have food allergies, they are a small minority. Limiting protein sources in the diet may help alleviate itching in some dogs, but a diet change may not be the answer.
What amount of omega fatty acids should be in the food?
Check the label for a blend of omega fatty acids in your dog’s food. Total amounts depend on the fat level in the food, however a good rule of thumb is a ratio between 5:1 and 10:1, omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids.
Visit www.drs4pets.com to learn more about pet health, nutrition and safety.
Photo by Gofflin