Itchy Scratchy Pets
Veterinarian Reviewed on August 11, 2012 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
In the summer there are a lot of itchy scratchy dogs and cats. The number one reason most owners seek veterinary attention is skin problems and most of these are dogs who are continuously scratching and scabby cats. So what causes dogs to be itchy?
Parasites–such as fleas, ticks and mites
-atopy or allergic inhalant dermatitis
Nutrition–poor quality food causes dry itchy skin
Behavioural or emotional
Fleas are by far the greatest cause of itchy pets. If you have a pet that is scratching you need to check for fleas. A flea comb can be your best tool for diagnosis of a flea problem. You should comb your pet thoroughly and shake out the dirt over a white surface. A white tissue or paper towel works well for this. Then spritz the dirt with water. If it melts and turns red, it is flea dirt or the bowel movements of fleas. Where there is flea dirt there are fleas.So what do you do about that?
There are many choices when it comes to flea control for your pet. Most of us know that conventional treatment for fleas involves chemicals, pesticides and drugs. These things do work and some work well but at what cost ? It is true that you do need to treat the environment and the pet, but here is an interesting fact : some animals attract fleas more than others!
So what do you do? The principles are to reduce inflammation and eliminate fleas.
A basic homemade diet that includes some garlic can help your pet to resist fleas. Shoo Tags can be helpful. If your dog’s immune system is strong he can resist fleas. Other useful things can include dilute essential oils and herbal infusions or powders to use on the pet. Beware as some of these oils can be toxic particularly to cats. In fact I do not recommend oils cats at all because they will lick them off!
Environmental treatments for fleas can include sodium polyborate powder ( or Borax) for indoors and Diatomaceous earth for outdoors. The indoor product requires vacuuming after it has been spread and you want to avoid having your pet walk on it. If you chose to use conventional products, try to limit the amount of nasty chemicals. Vacuum a lot, steam clean your carpets, or use a product that contains synthetic flea hormones to prevent eggs from hatching.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan