Skin problems are one of the most common reasons a pet will visit their veterinarian. Itchy ears, constant scratching, visible fleas- these make everyone miserable!
Chronic and recurring skin and ear infections can be due to seasonal allergies and also food sensitivities. Newer fleas and tick preventives have made control of these parasites so much better than even a few years ago but nothing is 100%.
Control of chronic skin conditions used to require the use of steroids and antibiotics which can cause some serious side-effects in sensitive pets. Luckily, there are newer medications and treatments available that help reduce the need for these options- though there are still some pets and some conditions that require them in order to achieve relief.
Fleas control is crucial in a place like Virginia. Fleas are active year round and find homes to be a wonderful place to set up long term residence. The old idea of stopping flea and tick preventive in the winter is asking for trouble. Fleas might not be seen as much outdoors if the weather gets cold but they love a nice warm house!
Ticks are active as long as the temperature stays above 35 degrees- which is most days in much of Virginia. They can carry a number of diseases potentially dangerous to pets and humans alike. This link to the CDC about ticks has some good information about these creatures and where different types are found and what disease they carry.
Chronic skin and ear issues are commonly caused by food sensitivities. These sensitivities can develop at any age and even if the pet has been eating the same food for months or years.
Food sensitivities are most typically associated with proteins such as beef, dairy and chicken. There are others such as lamb which are important to recognize as lamb used to be a common ingredient in foods for sensitive skin.
Atopy is the term used to describe seasonal inhaled allergies that cause dogs, and sometimes cats, to scratch and lick excessively at certain times of the year. Spring and Fall are the most common trigger periods but this can vary.
Newer treatments can act to block the itch response, preventing the pet's immune system from over-reacting to these allergens.
Trying to find out what is causing an animal to scratch can be complicated. Food trials help narrow down food sensitivities. Skin tests such as scrapes and cultures, and allergy testing and serums can help narrow down environmental or parasitic causes for skin