Management of Itchy Pets
The key to managing an itchy pet is "Management".
If your pet is born with allergies then you must realize the pet will have this condition for life
& control is all about management.
Diets, treatments, and any medications must be used strictly and consistently, without abrupt
Sounds boring, doesn't it - however chopping & changing our management practices, especially diets, will only make it harder to control the pet's condition.
Take it in Steps
There are several management practices that we advise owners to follow, starting with the easiest, then adding further practices if required until we are doing everything we can to help the pet. We will set up a series of steps to follow - these will be explained in the following pages. We need to remind ourselves that it is a combination of practice, taken in steps, that brings results. We must not be tempted to skip any steps nor become forgetful in our management routine, once established. At the end of the day, the pet must have quality of life.
1) Monthly Flea & Mite Control - Essential
& Not Negotiable
What's that I hear you say? "My dog doesn't have fleas!" "I've never seen a flea on my dog!"
You may be quite right! Fleas spend over 90% of their time in the environment - in the soil, sand, and bedding. They jump on the animal, bite into the bloodstream to get a blood meal, then jump off again. Very hard to see! So, unless there is a massive flea burden, even as vets, we rarely see fleas on an animal.
However, this does not mean the pet can’t be affected by fleas. It only takes one flea bite where the flea jumps onto the animal, and injects its saliva into the dog’s blood - to set up an allergic reaction. You just won’t see that happening. It is the flea saliva that the dog is allergic to & flea bite hypersensitivity or allergy (FBA) is responsible for almost 80% of dogs’ allergies, which is why monthly treatments are essential & not negotiable.
Biting & around the pets' tail end and rump is pathognomonic for FBA. i.e. it is a distinct characteristic of FBA. You may see black crumbly material (flea poo!) or very small red spots (miliary dermatitis) as well as licking and chewing at the tail head or hind legs. As FBA so easily contributes to your pet's itching - regimental monthly flea control is essential.
This will be the first method of control we will expect to see; if you have this control in place and if the pet continues to have an itchy problem then we can investigate further and install further control methods.
Products we like include Bravecto (3 monthly chew), the spot-on Frontline, Advocate, and Sentinel Plus.
Products such as Frontline are applied to the skin and absorbed into the hair follicles so the fleas access the chemical by touching the hair. These products may have an advantage over oral tablets/chews which
need to be absorbed into the blood; the flea can only contact the chemical by biting first (injecting saliva) to get the blood. Remember that it’s the saliva that the pet is allergic to! Having said that, the Bravecto chew is an excellent product, especially for mite control. If your dog lives on a property, we will recommend Bravecto. (see further)
Just as important to good flea control is environmental control of flea breeding. Simply washing the animal does not provide environmental control. You need to use products that not only kill adult fleas but prevent eggs and larvae from developing in your environment. It is essential that all animals in the household are treated every month. In some environments (eg. sandy areas) fleas can be in large numbers so we often advise spraying the area or yard with “Coopex”. Available from Bunnings, use in 20L garden sprayer
2) Skin Mite Control
The two mites we need to control are "Demodex" - which is a mite that all dogs carry, and Sarcoptes mite.
Demodex live in the hair follicles, normally without concern to the dog as the immune system prevents them from becoming too numerous. However, in some dogs the presence of the mite is not controlled, the mite multiplies in vast numbers and causes intense itching. The mite affects the feet causing licking and chewing; hairloss on the face and around the eyes causing a "spectacle" appearance.
Young dogs may be affected by “Juvenile Demodecosis”; the mite is not passed between adult dogs but it is passed down from mother to pups. Plenty of young affected dogs do develop immunity as the mature.
Animals on farms may have contact with foxes which carry Sarcoptes. The dog may not necessarily need to go down fox holes but having foxes pass through the farm may cause contact. Sarcoptes can be very hard to diagnose with the skin scrapings; the mite generally causes intense itching around the elbows, face and ears so we may advise treatment based on clinical signs and contact.
Both Demodex and Sarcoptes mites can be controlled very well with Bravecto. We Recommend:
• BRAVECTO -will control fleas & mites. Used 3 monthly – you can coincide it with your 3 monthly flea treatment with Pyraqantal for stomach worm control.
3) Diet - Low Allergy
Diet plays an extremely important role in not only controlling hypersensitivity reactions but to decrease reliance on medications to control itching. Cortisone has been used extensively to alleviate itching but this medication used long-term, can lead to unwanted side effects. Therefore, if we can help control the pets’ condition, simply by strict attention to diet, then we believe this is a vastly superior method of management. Additionally, in the majority of cases, we can control our dogs’ itchy condition by relying heavily on the correct “anallergenic” diet.
THE MAIN FOCUS OF A DIET FOR AN ITCHY DOG IS TO PROVIDE A SINGLE PROTEIN DIET
e.g. only roo meat or only fish or only crocodile or only chicken. Stay away from beef, lamb & possibly chicken.
ONCE YOU FIND A SUITABLE PROTEIN FOR YOUR DOG - DO NOT CHANGE.
There are several very good quality Veterinary Prescription low allergy diets on the market, sold in biscuit or wet food forms. The main key to the diet is to not chop and change – stick to one protein source and stay on it. Simply using a diet just for a few weeks and then changing to something else will not achieve desired results. Studies have shown that diets should remain for a minimum of 8 weeks.
Many dogs come to us relying heavily on cortisone; in many cases, we can remove all medications, simply by using a low-allergy diet & the supplement: HoneyPro Vet "DogPro". A hypoallergenic home-cooked diet can consist of cooked kangaroo meat with potato (normal or sweet potato.). Bit smelly to cook but you can prepare quantities in advance. Crocodile meat is also now recommended. If your dog is not overweight we will advise the addition of pure Omega-3 oil e.g flax seed oil—1-2 ml several times a week for an anti-inflammatory effect.
PRIME rolls are a relatively new convenient “polony type” roll. They sell Roo/Potato; Salmon& Crocodile.
Lately, there is a lot of media hype about “Grain Free” foods. This has stemmed from human marketing. Only a very small percentage of dogs are truly sensitive to grains. In fact, less than 4% of itchy dogs are diagnosed with a true food allergy. Most allergies develop from meat protein so a grain-free diet is unlikely to be
useful in controlling food allergies. There is now significant research evidence that grain-free diets can be linked to heart disease in Golden Retrievers and many other breeds, and a suspected link in cats. Therefore we advise you to AVOID “GRAIN FREE BISCUITS” until manufacturers can prove to us their products are safe.
• Single Protein Diet – either homecooked Roo/Potato or PRIME Rolls
• Hills Derm Defense – biscuit diet
• Roo tails for treats
• That’s it – Nothing else except HoneyPro Vet "DogPro" +/- Omega 3 oil.
4)Shampoo & Conditioners
For itchy cats and dogs we need to treat the skin, as well as wash dirt out of the coat. Some soap-based products are too drying and may make the condition worse, so either glycerine soaps or soap-free and medicated shampoos such as ‘EpisootheS (oatmeal based) should be used to remove dirt and allergens
from the skin. HoneyPro Vet Pet Soap is a super gentle & moisturizing soap made with calendula flowers & has a mild honey scent.
Conditioners are also available, these will treat and soothe the skin. It may be helpful to try products such as ‘EpiSoothe ’ conditioner which can be left on the animal to provide a residual soothing effect to reduce the frequency of washing. If a bacterial infection is present, products such as ‘Resichlor’ may be required to treat this condition. The product ‘Ectosoothe’ can be used to kill fleas and soothe dry itchy skin.
5) Improve Gut Health
Improving the health of the gut is an important first step in improving our pets' overall systemic health. A healthy gut will then be reflected in improved skin & coat health, increased tolerance to allergens & assist removal of toxins from the body. Ensuring the animal's gut lining is free from inflammation and any damaged cells are repaired & maintained in good health is an essential part of our management plan.
HoneyPro Vet "DogPro" is our Holistic Veterinary recipe consisting of Probiotics & medicinal Herbs. The herbs are demulcent gut protectants that cover, soothe & heal the intestinal surface, preventing "Leaky Gut". Added enzymes heal damaged intestinal cells, thus also supporting the immune system. Kelp powder adds a source of antioxidants and Omega 3, as well as acting as a prebiotic source for probiotics.
In herbal medicine we recognize two major elements:
- Disease processes involve more than one body system. In skin disease, for example, the skin should not be treated in isolation. The importance of the connection between the gut and the skin cannot be underestimated. “Leaky Gut Syndrome” commonly occurs in pets where the normal defenses of the gut fail, allowing absorption of allergenic substances from the environment, along with bacteria and toxins.
- Medicinal herbs and plants are not drugs. Herbs are made of a multitude of compounds that work synergistically to provide a beneficial medicinal effect. In addition, the medicinal effects of one herb may affect more than one body system e.g. Immune system + Skin + Gut. By combining several herbs in a formula, we have the opportunity to treat several body systems in one formula. In comparison, most drugs are made of a
single compound with one therapeutic effect targeting one body system.
We also need to recognize that skin disease may be a manifestation of several factors e.g. genetics and conformation; parasites; diet; environmental allergies; metabolic disorders or disease. It is important therefore that we have a good history of your animal to help ensure we understand the reasons for the skin disease and importantly, that other underlying metabolic diseases are not ignored.
We can formulate a liquid General or Prescription Skin Tonic that can go a long way in assisting Itchy Skin
Management. We do advise wherever possible, that your pet has a thorough physical exam after which we can formulate more specifically for the individual pet.
Remember – all the other Management Practices discussed above MUST be in place first. Do not think that just giving a General Skin Tonic to your itchy dog is the answer if every other bit of our advice is ignored. Having said that – if you are confident all practices are in place, and you are happy with your pets’ health status, then you can try our Itchy Dog Tonic.
6)Omega 3 Oil, Flax & Kelp
Many people are aware of the beneficial effects of fatty acids, more commonly recognized as Omega-3 found in evening primrose and cold water marine fish oils. Many studies have shown these oils to have beneficial effects on decreasing inflammation and pruritis (itching) in animals. Research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) have significant roles in decreasing tissue inflammation in the body, in the immune system, and in the reproductive system. They are, however, "essential fatty acids" which means they must be fed in the diet.
Importantly, we want a high level of Omega 3 in the product., with low levels of Omega 6,9.
Calendula is a medicinal flower with research-proven properties of being antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal, and assists with wound healing.
HoneyPro Omega-3 Dog Oil is a powerful combination of fish and flax seed oils in which the medicinal properties of Calendula have been extracted.
Do Not use if your pet is overweight – oil is oil.
Do not use it if your pet has Pancreatic disease. Seek Vet advice before feeding pets with other diagnosed metabolic diseases.
HoneyPro Vet DogPro contains kelp that has high levels of Omega 3 oils found in this marine macroalgae, being a rich source of these polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are associated with the prevention of inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, and mental disorders
Antibiotics may be required for extended periods if there is a deep skin infection present. Persistent scratching can traumatise the skin allowing bacteria to invade and set up deep skin infections.
Anti-inflammatories (AI) may be required for their effect & to provide relief to the animal. We may use Non-Steroidal (NSAID) or Cortisone depending on the individual animal. We do not advise long term use of steroids due to their side effects but there are times we may need short term use. They are effective medicines and they do play a role in management.However, remember the overall goal is to manage the animal WITHOUT or LITTLE AS POSSIBLE use of pharmaceuticals.
1. Strict monthly flea & mite control. Eg Bravecto
2. Low Allergy diet eg Kangaroo and potato – homemade or "Prime"
3. Soap-free shampoo/ conditioners eg EpiSoothe
4. Improve Gut Health – "DogPro".
5. Supplements: HoneyPro Vet “Itchy Dog Tonic” & Dog Omega 3 oil
6. Medications if required.