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Insights from a Veterinarian – Uncovering the Causes and Remedies for Itchy Paws and Skin in Pets

In an insightful interview between Pets24 and Dr Carra Walters from Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital, we delve into the common causes of itchy skin and paws in pets, exploring safe and effective remedies, discussing the benefits of natural versus commercial products, and offering preventative measures. Dr. Walters, a seasoned veterinarian with a passion for nutrition, provides valuable insights and practical advice for pet owners facing the challenge of managing their pet’s itchiness.

Have you tried using the Pets24 Free Online Vet? Click here to ask the Online Vet any general health questions.

What are some common causes of itchy paws and skin in pets?

Generally, most pet owners will encounter their pets being itchy at some point. Owners might be surprised to hear that parasites are still one of the top contributing causes of itchy skin. One flea bite can set off a full-body allergic response, resulting in severe scratching, open wounds, over-grooming, licking, trauma to the skin, hair loss, redness, and swelling. Staying on top of regular tick and flea prevention (all year round) is key to management.

Food can contribute but isn’t usually the main cause. Environmental factors like house dust mites, allergens, UV light, and humidity also play an important role. Recognising these causes early can help mitigate the discomfort your pet experiences and prevent more severe issues.

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Cat scratching. the Causes and Remedies for Itchy Paws and Skin in Pets

What are some safe and effective remedies for relieving itchy skin in pets?

Prevention is key! To manage itchy skin, you need to understand the underlying cause. When it comes to home remedies for itchy pet skin, we have to be really cautious, especially if the skin has been traumatised. There’s a risk of secondary bacterial infection, which could worsen things. 

Grooming your dog excessively isn’t the answer either; we don’t want to strip away those natural oils by using shampoos too regularly. Good nutrition is important here, with diets rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids playing a crucial role. For pets with severe dietary allergies, novel protein or hydrolysed protein diets might be necessary. They often require a very strict 6-8 week trial where nothing other than the diet is fed. And let’s not forget about medicated shampoos—they can really help remove those surface allergens. But remember, always follow the instructions carefully, including the 10-minute contact time, before washing them off thoroughly.  And stay away from ointments unless your vet gives the green light; pets have a habit of licking them off. Instead, consider prescription sprays(your vet may need to prescribe a prescription spray) as an alternative for tackling those skin conditions.

Can you explain the benefits of using natural ingredients vs. commercial products to treat itchy skin?

Choosing between natural ingredients and commercial products for treating itchy skin in pets can be tricky. While natural remedies may seem gentler and safer, they often lack standardised testing, leading to variations in efficacy and safety. Some natural treatments may offer relief from itching and soothe irritated skin effectively, but others might be ineffective or even harmful. It’s crucial for pet owners to consider their motivations for choosing natural remedies over commercial options. Is it based on genuine belief in their effectiveness, or is it simply because of trends? Ultimately, the priority should be what’s best for the pet’s well-being, even if it means opting for commercial products that have undergone thorough testing and proven efficacy.

man petting dog. the Causes and Remedies for Itchy Paws and Skin in Pets

What preventative measures can pet owners take to minimise the risk of itchiness in their pets?

Pet owners can take proactive measures to minimise the risk of itchiness in their pets, thereby ensuring their comfort and well-being. It starts with being mindful of factors like breed selection, as certain breeds are more prone to skin issues than others. Additionally, maintaining good quality nutrition and hygiene is essential. Regular grooming sessions, including washing bedding frequently on a hot wash, can significantly reduce exposure to allergens and irritants. Investing in products like HEPA filters for the home can also help in minimising environmental triggers. Acting swiftly at the first signs of itching is crucial to prevent the issue from escalating. Fortunately, there are effective products available on the market that can manage allergies without the side effects of traditional treatments like cortisones or steroids, offering relief to both pets and their owners from the distress of constant scratching and discomfort.

How important is diet in maintaining healthy skin and paws for pets?

Maintaining healthy skin and paws in pets is paramount, and diet plays a crucial role in achieving this. As someone deeply passionate about nutrition, I’ve witnessed firsthand the benefits of addressing skin issues from a nutritional perspective. It’s important for pet owners to understand that commercial pet foods are highly regulated and often provide balanced nutrition with essential ingredients tailored to tackle skin problems effectively.

There’s a misconception surrounding “less processed” diets, often leading pet owners astray. Many commercial diets include ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for skin health and might be overlooked in homemade or raw food diets. While specialised diets for skin or allergies may raise concerns about balanced nutrition, pet owners should rest assured that as long as the diet is complete and has regulatory approval, it meets the nutritional needs of their pets. Specialised diets like hydrolysed diets can be expensive but are worth considering for severe cases. It’s crucial to feed these diets exclusively to see the desired results, avoiding supplementary foods that may counteract their effectiveness. Ultimately, maintaining balanced nutrition is key to addressing skin issues comprehensively without compromising overall health.

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At what point should pet owners seek professional veterinary care for their pet’s itchy skin?

Pet owners should seek professional veterinary care for their pet’s skin issues sooner rather than later. It’s crucial to address any underlying problems promptly to prevent them from worsening. For example, if you notice your pet scratching their ears or showing signs of discomfort, it’s essential to have them examined by a veterinarian. Skin problems can deteriorate rapidly, leading to more severe and costly issues if left untreated. Even if you’re unsure about the severity of the problem, it’s better to err on the side of caution and seek professional advice. Additionally, many people overlook the connection between ear infections and underlying skin issues. Understanding this link can help pet owners recognise the importance of early intervention and proper veterinary care for their pet’s skin health.

Dog biting its leg. the Causes and Remedies for Itchy Paws and Skin in Pets

What is one piece of advice you would give to pet owners struggling with their pet’s itchy skin?

Trust your vet and seek credible advice. Avoid taking advice solely based on other pet owners’ experiences, as each pet’s needs are unique. Regular vet check-ups can help manage and prevent skin issues effectively. It’s essential to build a strong relationship with your veterinarian and rely on their expertise to guide you in maintaining your pet’s health. Proactive care, including regular check-ups and following veterinary recommendations, can make a significant difference in managing and preventing itchy skin conditions in pets.

At Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital, we prioritise the well-being of pets above all else. That’s why we offer complimentary nurse clinics where pet owners can come in to discuss various concerns, including diet and skin issues. Our nurses are dedicated to providing valuable guidance and education to pet owners. We want people to know that our intention is not solely profit-driven; rather, we are here to assist, educate, and provide reliable information to ensure the best possible care for pets. With our experienced team of nurses, pet owners can trust that they are in good hands at Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital.

Get more insightful pet health and well-being information from Dr Carra on the Paws & Effect Podcast.

Dr Carra Walters’ expertise sheds light on the complexities of addressing itchy skin and paws in pets. From understanding the importance of balanced nutrition to knowing when to seek professional veterinary care, pet owners gain valuable guidance to navigate their pet’s skin health journey. By fostering a trusting relationship with their veterinarian and staying informed about preventative measures and safe remedies, pet owners can ensure their furry companions live a comfortable and itch-free life.

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