The Itchy Pet
written by: Jeff Thomsen, DVM
Special thank you to Kinga Gortel, DVM, MSc, Diplomate ACVD. This would not have been possible without her notes as a resource.
Pruritus is defined as an unpleasant sensation in the skin that produces the desire to scratch. This information is intended to provide a list of the most common skin disorders for dogs that present with pruritus but have little or no visible skin lesions. More than one condition may be present at one time.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Allergy testing is used to identify the allergens in the environment to animals that have already been diagnosed with atopy. A normal pet can have positive reactions and 10-30% of atopic animals can have negative intradermal allergy tests.
Treatment for atopic dermatitis is also complex and varied. There are 5 separate ways to treat this disease with some patients needing only one or two specific treatments while other animals are so itchy that managing their disease can be challenging using all 5 madalities.
Adverse Food Reactions
The only definitive way to diagnose food allergies is a very strict dietary trial that lasts a minimum of 8 weeks. Typically a new protein and a new carbohydrate source are given. For example if the dog is on a beef and rice diet then a fish and potato diet would be implemented. Alternately a hypoallergenic diet can be attempted. No other food can be given to the animal for the the duration of the trial! No treats, no rawhides, no table scraps, no supplements. Anything the animal ingests that is not the intended diet can invalidate the trial and a new 8 week trial must be instituted. No one diet will be effective for every animal so again this can be very frustrating to treat and referral to a dermatologist can be very beneficial.