With the weather warming up and some of the COVID-related restrictions coming down, it’s a great time to get out there and enjoy the outdoors. However, there is an unfortunate downside – itchy skin.
This time of the year, when Spring is starting to become Summer, is incredibly difficult for pets with sensitive skin. This can be worse for dogs spending a lot of time outside, contacting allergens and irritants, but we also commonly see flare-ups in indoor pets, including cats, rabbits and guinea pigs. As a vet, my patient list is filled with skin problem cases at the moment – but there are a number of tips and secrets that can help fix itchy skin or even prevent irritation in the first place.
Seasonal skin problems are nearly always caused by a combination of:
- Increased allergens, pollens, dust mites, spores and airborne irritants
- Fleas, ticks and mites (especially in pets going outdoors)
- Increased humidity and temperature, opening up the skin pores and allowing allergen absorption
- Increased skin bacterial counts
There may not be much we can do to remove every allergen in the world, but there certainly is a lot we can do to prevent those allergens resulting in itching and dermatitis.
Firstly, all pets going outside should be on some kind of flea and tick prevention. My favourites for dogs include NexGard (which also treats Heartworm and intestinal worms), Bravecto tablets or Seresto collars. For cats, I like Revolution drops – simple, easy, and also do worms and mites. We can also use Revolution for rabbits if needed (using kitten revolution for rabbits under 2.3kg bodyweight, and adult cat Revolution for rabbits over 2.3kg).
Not all indoor pets must have flea prevention, but if your pet has sensitive skin, or they are mixing with animals (or people) who go outside, it is worth considering.
On a side note, these flea preventatives also help prevent ticks, also very common at this time of the year, which can cause a severe disease in dogs called Tick Fever.
A high-quality diet is also very important for skin health – and general health and wellbeing. An interesting but little-known fact – allergies are cumulative, meaning that a pet may be a little itchy to a few different things, but when combined together these make a pet very itchy. Removing any one of these causes of itching will reduce the overall irritation, potentially below the level causing scratching.
For this reason, all pets with sensitive skin really should be on a diet designed for sensitive skin. Generally, low-allergy diets are designed with a limited number of ingredients and novel protein sources which are unlikely to be allergenic. Hill's Prescription Derm Complete diet is a new innovative diet, designed using egg as a novel protein source and fortified with natural skin supplements that has been clinically proven to visibly reduce itching in dogs with both food and pollen allergies.
Vetopia have worked with Hill's for an amazing trial offer of 30% off their new Derm Care. Hill's research shows 82% of pet parents reported significantly less scratching and itching after a 21 days trial, and we’d like Vetopia pets to benefit as well. If you try the trial please let us know. We’d love to see photos of your pet’s journey to itch-free.
Another tip for pets with skin sensitivity is to work on improving that skin barrier and skin immunity. Omega3 supplements such as NaturVet Unscented Salmon Oil for Cats and Dogs; or Vetriscience Omega 3,6,9 Pro for Dogs and Cats are both veterinary-professional quality supplements that naturally help avoid skin irritation and improve skin health.
Lastly, all pets with sensitive skin should be regularly bathed in a skin-specific shampoo to reduce bacterial skin counts and improve overall skin health. In most cases I would recommend using Malaseb Medicated Shampoo for it’s antibacterial and antifungal properties, alternating every week with a hypoallergenic shampoo such as Aloveen Oatmeal Shampoo or VetExpert V+ Hypoallergenic Shampoo.
In summary, skin problems can be frustrating in Hong Kong, especially at this time of the year when the weather is changing, but with a combination of a healthy diet, good flea and tick control, and maintaining skin health, many skin problems can be treated or even prevented without the use of medication. As always, if you’d like any further advice please feel free to write to me.