The jingling of tags on a collar. The low whistling whines. The inevitable sound of “lick, lick, lick” that brings you out of a dead sleep and is the pet owner equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. “STOP!” Silence. You lay back down, settle into your pillow, and then- “lick, lick, lick.” This is the song of an itchy pet.
Just reading that probably raised your anxiety level by a good four notches. Your dog is not doing that to drive you crazy, nor does he likely have a severe neurosis or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Odds are your dog is dealing with the same thing a considerable part of the human population is currently, which is seasonal allergies. Like humans, dogs and cats can have allergic reactions to pollens, mold, chemicals, and food.
Where we humans tend to go for the more dramatic reaction like sneezing and puffy red eyes, dogs and cats often present with skin issues and even gastrointestinal issues, which are not the first thing you generally associate with allergies. Pollens can settle on the pet’s skin and cause irritation, which creates an itchy pet, which can result in hair loss or skin scrapes or cuts. Open wounds can become infected, causing even more discomfort and irritation, which leads to increased scratching, and soon, you have a miserable dog or cat that needs serious medical attention.
Fleas are often blamed for itching and scratching, and rightfully so, but sometimes the pet has an allergic reaction to the flea saliva. In these cases, it is imperative that you stay ahead of the flea infestation.
How to relieve your itchy pet:
So, what can you do to make your dog or cat more comfortable so you both can get a good night’s sleep? First, make sure you don’t have a flea issue, and if you do, treat all the pets in the home and the environment. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best flea treatment for your pet, but you will also need to maintain efforts at home to keep them in check. Inside you will want to vacuum frequently around your pet’s bedding and areas they lay or sleep. Wash their bedding and blankets often. Treat outside areas with safe pet products to control fleas and ticks and keep the grass trimmed.
In the early spring and fall when pollen seems to hang in the air, try putting a light fabric shirt on your dog to keep the pollens off his skin. Bathing your itchy pet weekly in a cool bath with an oatmeal shampoo will remove the pollens and soothe the skin. Regular brushing will disperse natural oils throughout the coat to create a barrier for pollens and irritants. You might also consider paw socks or boots for extended outdoor time to keep allergens off their feet.
Letting your dog hang his head out of a car window is never a good idea, and doubly so when the air is full of things just waiting to make him sneeze. Roll those windows UP!
If despite your best efforts your pet is still scratching or chewing or sneezing or bumpy, don’t throw in the towel just yet. There are many pharmaceutical solutions your vet can prescribe, starting with simple antihistamines and progressing up to prescription medication in severe cases. Your itchy pet doesn’t have to suffer, and neither do you. The next time you are awakened by the “lick, lick, lick” take a moment to check your pet over. If you don’t see signs of fleas, it is probably time for a quick trip to the vet for a bit of allergy relief. You will both sleep better for it!