Southern California | May 2015 Pet News & Vet Views: To the Itchy Pets of Southern California

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Itchy Season is HERE in Orange County for us Dogs and Cats!

How to get relief NOW from IVS!

We all know that when the birds sing and the flowers bloom that we will ITCH!! My Dad says this is the season for PRURITUS. This is our Vets word for ‘itchy skin’!

Pruritus is a very complicated topic but there are three main reasons we itch:

  1. Those bugs! Fleas, ticks, scabies and other mites cause us to itch!
  2. Infectious causes. Bacteria and yeast live on the skin in small amounts (the problem is when they over-grow) and can be caused by allergies, parasite/insect bites, or hormonal disorders like an under active thyroid gland.
  3. Another cause for itchy skin is allergies. Allergies drive us and our Vets crazy! Some of us dogs are genetically predisposed to allergies just like people. Dogs and cats can be allergic to certain foods (usually protein and not grains). Us canines and felines absorb allergens through our skin which is WHY we get so itchy!

How to diagnose:

  1. Make sure that itchy skin is checked out by an IVS Vet BEFORE us dogs and cats end up with a lesion or ‘hot spot’. Read all about my bro Ulysses hot spot treatment. Watch for those ‘itchers’ at your house! Get them in quick!
  2. At IVS we can immediately check for infections and mites under our microscopes during an exam visit. We will ‘comb’ through your pets coat and ears looking for abnormalities that could be the cause. Sometimes we will draw blood to make sure the ‘itchies’ are not due to a hormonal, liver, or kidney issue that our Vets can treat. We will make sure to get a complete diet history too. In some cases we will need to conduct diet trials to filter out the ‘bad’ food in favor of good ingredients that agree with us and make us stop itching .Other times we may want to take a skin biopsy to check out more serious skin issues.


  1. Get rid of the bugs if we find them! Fleas, Ticks, Mites. This can be done with oral or topical flea and tick preventatives as well as flea baths.
  2. Get rid of any infection! IVS has a variety of options to help get rid of the bacterial and yeast overgrowths that make us itchy. IVS Vets can prescribe a long-lasting injectable antibiotic if medicating us is not your favorite thing! Other options include oral or topical anti-fungals and antibiotics. IVS is stocked with shampoos, sprays, and mousse that can SOOTHE our itchy skin. At IVS we know how to treat the bugs as well as the underlying cause for the bugs being there in the first place!
  3. We may want to suggest supplements that help the coat and skin oil (Welactin).
  4. We may recommend therapeutic bathing with medicated shampoos to soothe the itch and relieve discomfort. These shampoos can help restore our skin’s natural barrier to allergens, hydrate dry skin, and relieve oily skin. Most contain ingredients to treat bacteria and yeast too!
  5. Give us a call if you love someone that is itching!!!! We can help!

    Love and Kisses from me, Lizzie!


    More on Hot Spots

    By Dr. Jennifer Gih, DVM at Irvine Veterinary Services University Park
    Whether you live in La Habra, Irvine or San Clemente your pet can get hot spots.

    What are they?

    Hot spots are superficial or deep skin infections resulting from an overgrowth of normal skin bacteria when a dog chews or licks itself.

    What causes hot spots?

    The underlying reason for itch can be matted coat, allergies (fleas, food, environment), contact with irritating substances (cleaners, sprays, shampoos) or even pain in certain area. These areas can start small and spread very quickly so it is important to bring the dog in for an exam as soon as a hot spot is noticed.

    How are they treated?

    The location can determine what the underlying cause of the itch is. For example hot spots near the ears could mean an ear infection; hot spots near the tail could mean fleas or full anal glands.

    What testing is done?

    A sample of the skin surface may be done to determine what kind of antibiotic is needed to treat the infection. If pain is the underlying cause of licking x-rays may be done and anti-inflammatories or other pain medication sent home.

    How are hot spots treated?

    Treatments include shaving the area and cleaning with an antiseptic solution. If the infection is superficial topical treatments such as antiseptic and steroid sprays can be used. If it is determined that there is a deep skin infection with pus present oral or injectable antibiotics, +/- steroids to help with itch and inflammation are used. An e-collar is sent home to prevent further trauma to the area.

    What follow up is needed?

    Usually rechecks are needed in 2 weeks to make sure the skin infection has resolved and the underlying cause for the itch is under control.

    Visit our website for more skin issues

    Do you think your pet has hot spots? Schedule your appointment today.

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    Allergic Skin Disease

    By Dr. Pamela Feng, DVM
    University Park and Northpark locations

    Allergic skin disease is seen by our practice on a daily basis. It is by far in my opinion one of the most frustrating and difficult diseases to treat as veterinarians and as owners.

    What are allergies?

    Allergies occur because the body’s immune system becomes hypersensitive and over-reacts when presented with an allergen, which typically should not even cause a reaction.

    What causes allergies?

    I like to separate the causes into three different categories:

    • External parasites– Parasites such as skin mites (scabies) are notorious for causing extreme itchiness. Flea bites can also cause skin allergies as some of our pets are hypersensitive to flea saliva when fleas bite the skin. Luckily external parasites are easily diagnosed and treated with monthly preventatives. In dogs, flea allergy has a characteristic presentation in which the affected area is located along the tail base and back end.
    • Food allergies– Our pets can also become allergic to the meat proteins in their diet. The most common allergies are chicken and beef, which are present in most commercial pet foods. According to recent studies, food allergies can develop at any age from 4 months to 13 years old. To diagnose a food allergy, your pet would be placed on a “novel protein” diet for 6-8 weeks in which they must ONLY eat that diet alone. During this time, your pet will be fed a single protein source that your pet has never been exposed to with the thought that because it is so new, the body may not recognize it as protein and thus won’t react to it. We use prescription diets for the diet trials as they have strict manufacturing protocols to ensure that there is no cross contamination with other batches. Over the counter brands just cannot provide that guarantee.
    • Atopic Dermatitis (Environmental allergies)– Atopy is considered once we have ruled out the first two causes of allergies. Some owners will notice that their pet’s itchiness is seasonal (worse during hotter times of the year), which can give us a clue that it may be related to the environment. Treatment options for this condition are allergy testing (skin or blood test) and allergy injections and medication to suppress the immune system.

    Allergic skin disease is typically a lifelong disease, requiring frequent rechecks and follow-ups, especially if secondary infections are present. Because of ongoing/recurrent inflammation of the skin due to scratching, biting, and licking, pets will almost always develop secondary bacterial or yeast infections that will require treatment (topical and/or oral medications). Although we may not be able to cure our pets of their itchy skin, we can all work together to help make them as comfortable as possible.




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