Eczema in dogs is very prevalent at the moment and is causing many dogs considerable discomfort. This non-infectious skin condition is most prevalent each autumn.
Many dogs seem to withstand the intense heat of summer only to suffer the annoyance of a chronic itchy skin in the mild weather of autumn.
The precise causes of eczema are not known and no doubt are very numerous. Certain breeds are more prone to develop eczema but, more importantly, certain strains within breeds are more commonly affected.
Female dogs very often suffer eczema when feeding puppies or when in season. Some highly-strung dogs can break out in an acute skin irritation if subjected to some unusual stress, such as being left at boarding kennels.
Efforts to find some dietary cause of eczema have not succeeded. There does not seem to be any difference in the incidence of the condition in dogs fed fresh meat diets or commercial dog foods.
Eczema is not a disease of dirty dogs. In fact, too-frequent washing with strong soaps or disinfectants can predispose the dog to skin irritations. Swimming in salt or freshwater does not seem to affect the cause of the condition.
The one factor which undoubtedly plays a large part in the disease process is the presence of fleas on the dog. Many dogs become hypersensitive to the bites of the flea so that even one flea can induce an intense generalized skin irritation in a susceptible dog.
Owners often take it for granted that all dogs have a few fleas. In the mild months of autumn the flea population builds up to plague proportions so that by the time owners begin to take steps to control the infestation, there is a massive population of immature fleas around pets’ sleeping quarters and favorite daytime haunts, which continually reinfects the poor animal.
What to do if my dog is so itchy
The first step in the treatment of eczema is to completely free the dog of the existing population of fleas and to ensure that reinfestation does not occur.
In most cases where the eczema treatment has not been fully successful, residual infestations of fleas can be found on the dog. Complete flea control requires more than the occasional shaking of flea powder into the coat.
Many owners are rightly apprehensive about the use of insecticides. Unfortunately, if the dog is to get complete relief from the chronic irritation of eczema, there is no option but to use an effective insecticide.
Malathion is one of the safest washes, as this can be used on the cat which is notoriously sensitive to insecticides. A newer wash is Asuntol, which has given good long-lasting control without any side effects.
The use of one of the new forms of flea collar that sheds a fine powder throughout the coat has proved a good method of controlling reinfestation in most dogs.
A few dogs have not tolerated these flea collars well. In some, it has caused an intense irritation of the skin of the neck, in others, a more general reaction of muscle tremors and rapid respiration has been induced within a short time.
If a flea collar is not used, flea washes should be repeated each week until the onset of the cold weather. Bedding should be changed and areas, where the dog sleeps in the day or night, should be cleaned to remove any shed hair or skin fragments which nourish the immature fleas.
When the flea problem is under control, other measures prescribed by the veterinarian can successfully relieve discomfort.