Itchy and scratchy dogs and cats

Posted by Carlos Aguiar on Thursday, May 16, 2019 Under: Medical conditions

Atopic Dermatitis- Signs, Symptoms and Treatments for Your Pet


Also commonly known simply as Atopy, Atopic Dermatitis is a skin condition which afflicts a wide variety of household pets. It is common in both cats and dogs, although certain species of dogs are known to be more at risk. Atopy is the result of allergies, most of which are caused by ‘allergens’ that are commonly found in household environments.

Since pets are more prone to sniffing around their owner’s home, they are also more at risk because they pick up allergens more easily. Well-known allergens include dust mites, shed skin cells (also called dander), tobacco smoke, car exhausts and even pollen. Most of these allergens even afflict humans as well.

Exactly why dogs are more at risk is still unknown but it is believed that they have a genetic predisposition towards developing this disease.

If left untreated, Atopic Dermatitis may develop into a full-blown skin condition which will require regular visits to veterinarians. Prevention is thus always better than the cure.

Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis

One of the first noticeable signs of your pet having contracted Atopy is itching. The persistent and increasing itch may start when your pet is between 6 months and 3 years of age. Some of the most common signs of skin irritation include:

·         Foot-licking.

·         Constant scratching behind the ears.

·         Scratching behind the elbows.

·         Face-rubbing.

·         The spread of red patches on the skin over time.

At first, many pet owners dismiss these signs as mere allergies, not knowing that these may lead to Atopy. There are no noticeable flea infections, neither is there any other reason why the pet scratches away at its skin so incessantly.

All these above-mentioned symptoms are usually seen in dogs. Cats too, to a lower degree, are prone to Atopic Dermatitis. But they display slightly different symptoms. The most common symptoms in felines include:

·         Excessive hair loss in the abdominal area.

·         Licking and chewing of various body parts.

·         Development of scabs on their skin, and

·         Sores on the upper lips.

Of these signs, the sores are probably one of the first symptoms to emerge. Vets, such as HealMobile (, also stress upon the fact that while these symptoms may not appear concurrently, most will eventually emerge over time.

Living and dealing with Atopic Dermatitis

Unfortunately, there is no known permanent cure for Atopic Dermatitis. Vets can keep the symptoms and the ailment itself at bay through a mixture of medications, topical applications, medicated shampoos and by ensuring that the owner knows what to do and what to avoid when living with a pet suffering from it.

First, owners must be on the lookout for any sudden changes in their pet’s behaviour. If they notice:

·         That their dogs are panting more heavily and drinking a lot more water than they normally do, especially if they have been receiving any Corticosteroid injections for any reason.

·         If their cats or dogs suddenly start showing signs of increased itching. While itches are also common in bacterial or yeast infections, Atopic Dermatitis cannot be ruled out entirely. That is when a visit to the Vet is needed.

·         Ear problems, both in felines and canines, are a common giveaway of Atopic Dermatitis. Such problems may involve redness, increased instances of head-shaking, and a previously-absent odour which progressively festers in the long run.

Treating and healing Atopic Dermatitis

Here is a condensed list of steps which most vets adopt to treat Atopy.

1.      Wherever possible, the allergen that triggers the ailment has to be identified using Heska Allercept allergy testing. Often, a pet can be sensitive to multiple allergens. Under such situations, your pet cat or dog will be termed a “polyallergic” and extra precaution will be taken.

2.      The vet will then administer a topical solution to the affected areas i.e. those parts which itch. If necessary, a skin scrape will be taken of these areas to determine if there is any underlying and extra cause/s. The skin scrape can diagnose Mange like demodex or Sarcoptes.

3.      Corticosteroids (or cortisone-like medications) are the go-to solutions for most vets to treat these skin conditions. If necessary, antihistamines (commonly known as anti-allergic medications) may also be prescribed. Ointments with Omega-3 fatty acids will be used on the skin to prevent further spread of the itch.

4.      With modern treatment methodologies in vogue, more vets are using immunosuppressive medication including Cyclosporine to treat Atopic Dermatitis. Cyclosporine has all the benefits of traditional antihistamines but with much less pronounced side effects.

5.      A newly-discovered drug- oclacitinib- has been seen to work very well in most cases of Atopic Dermatitis. However, medicating your pet by yourself or by searching for information online is a terrible idea. Remember that treating Atopy is a complicated procedure which also needs a lot of additional precautions.

6.      For all medications, medicated shampoos and specific food items, always trust the most renowned facilities like HealMobile. You can read more about their gamut of branded medications on their official website:


What to do if your pet has Atopy

If the vet indeed declares that your pet has had a bout with Atopy, there are certain things which you must remember to follow. Some of the most essential elements of this ‘to do’ list are:

·         Realizing that there are many skin conditions that effectively mimic Atopic Dermatitis. It is thus necessary that you seek a second opinion from a renowned vet. If the diagnosis is still the same, then you must strictly adhere to the treatment procedure that the vet prescribes.

·         Understand that there might also be another underlying factor which is causing the itch. In medical terms, such a diagnosis is called comorbidity. If that happens, you may need to follow multiple instances of treatment at the same time.

·         Try and avoid the triggering allergens if they have been identified. You may choose to vacuum clean your residence to make it dust-free.

·         Ensure that you take your pet to the vet for follow-up visits.

·         Avoid smoking in the vicinity of your pet.

What not to do in any case

While vets will give you a roster of ‘do-nots’, you can choose to become a more responsible pet-parent and avoid the following.

·         Never believe that cortisone pills are a miracle cure for diseases such as Atopic Dermatitis. These pills have glucocorticoids which are helpful in keeping an allergy under check for a short span of time. In the long run, vets suggest that these steroids cause more harm than good.

·         Never underestimate the power of a second reference or diagnosis. You can always go for the expert advice of veterinary dermatologists. Such vets are better adept at handling the symptoms and prevent the progression of further complications.

Once you start using the medications, medicated shampoos and other accessories commonly used to treat Atopy, you must complete the full course just like the doctor says.

Atopic Dermatitis can be prevented and controlled to a certain degree. Apathy and ignorance, however, cannot be.

Make sure to visit HealMobile at the very first symptoms!


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