As the spring months fall to our rear view, frequently our office becomes filled with complaints of paw licking, scratching and head shaking. The warm fall and summer nights beautiful floral landscapes that we love here in South Florida can really drive our four legged friends into a skin health crisis.
If your pet is starting to show signs of itching, shaking their head, scratching their ears or licking their paws, the first step is an examination by a veterinarian. Many skin and ear issues can progress very rapidly so don’t ignore the early signs!
It is very important to make sure that parasites, such as fleas or mites, are not the cause of your pets itching. Some mites are actually transmissible to people, so it is very important to know if these mites are present! This test is quickly done in the veterinary office and results are available within minutes. If fleas are noted, appropriate flea prevention and environmental decontamination steps must be taken.
Once it is ensured that parasites are not the cause of your pets itching, it is important to determine if there is evidence of secondary skin infections that require treatment. Secondary skin infections are usually either caused by bacteria or yeast. These skin infections can cause your pet to itch even if the underlying cause of the skin problem does not result in itching. Medicated shampoos in combination with oral medications can help your pet become comfortable again very quickly.
Allergies are a hot topic in our tropical paradise, and they can be a big frustration to pets and pet owners alike. Allergies can be related to food, the environment, a material of close contact or atopic dermatitis. Your pet’s history is very important for determining the next steps in diagnosing an allergy; a food trial for suspected food allergies instead of allergy testing and immunotherapy (“allergy vaccines”) for suspect environmental allergies. A thorough examination and discussion of historical skin conditions with your veterinarian is the first step to appropriately addressing a suspected allergic skin disease.
As the summer season rolls around and transitions into fall, be sure to watch your pet closely for early signs of a skin problem. If you have any concerns, see your veterinarian as soon as possible!