Flea allergies are a common nuisance
Question: My dog always scratches himself. I don't see fleas on him; could an allergy be the cause of the itchiness?
Answer: You can speculate, but your veterinarian or a specialist can diagnose.
A flea allergy is the most common skin disease in both dogs and cats. While you might not see fleas, that doesn't mean they're not there. The allergy is induced by a flea's saliva, and it only takes a few bites to become a nuisance for your dog.
All pet owners are wise to be proactive in flea prevention as Hawaii's warm and humid climate is the ideal breeding environment for these pests. Ensure that you provide a monthly flea preventative; wash pet bedding weekly or more; vacuum frequently, especially between sofa cushions and small crevices; and clean your automobile, pet carrier or any other place where your pet spends time.
Q: What else could be the cause?
A: Atopic dermatitis is an inherited predisposition to develop skin problems from exposure to a variety of common yet harmless substances. These include pollens of weeds, grasses and trees, or house dust mites and mold spores. Once a veterinarian identifies the allergen, a "vaccine" is created to decrease your pet's sensitivity.
Itchy skin could also be a sign that your pet has sarcoptic mange, a skin disease caused by infection by a microscopic mite. Symptoms are similar to those with food allergies or fleas. Although sarcoptic mange is difficult to diagnose definitively, it is fairly easy to care for, and a number of treatment options are available.
Other things that can affect the skin are genetic predispositions in certain breeds, shampoos, frequency or infrequency of baths and grooming.
Food allergies are the least common allergic skin diseases in animals.
Q: Can allergies be cured?
A: Often allergies are lifelong, with no cure. But you and veterinarians can help control allergies and the environments that make them worse.
The Hawaiian Humane Society welcomes questions by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
. Indicate "Pet Ohana" in the subject line. Or, write "Pet Ohana," Hawaiian Humane Society, 2700 Waialae Ave., Honolulu 96826.