Itching -- and similar skin and coat problems -- are among the most common complaints heard in veterinary clinics. Most often, allergies are the underlying cause.
The suffering animal will lick, scratch, bite and rub the itchy spot raw, which can lead to other problems like bacterial infections through open sores. Cats and dogs may also give themselves bald spots by tearing out their fur [source: Bren]. Parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites can also penetrate the skin barrier, causing itchy raised bumps, scabs and flaky skin. While food allergies often show up in skin-related symptoms, deficiencies in your pet's diet can also harm the animal's skin and the sheen of its coat.
The weather also can be a factor. Spring and summer bring the greatest concentrations of pests and airborne allergens. In winter, the cold weather outdoors and the dry air brought by heating systems indoors have a harsh impact on animals' skin [source; Foster and Smith]. If your pet is used to a certain temperature and humidity, traveling to a different climate zone can dramatically affect the health of its skin and coat.
Since pet skin conditions often have more than one underlying cause, a proper diagnosis can become complicated. Vets commonly shave a small area of the animal's fur, scrape the top layers of skin, and examine the sample under a microscope for evidence of parasites or fungal infections [source: Hinsch]. Any secondary infections should be treated before addressing the root cause of the distress.
Paying attention to an animal's diet can improve its health. Holistic veterinarians sometimes recommend supplementing canine and feline diets with fish oil, which contains essential fatty acids that nourish the skin and coat [source: Siegler].
Vets prescribe a wide range of treatments for moderate to severe itching, including topical drugs and shampoos, steroids and antibiotics. If traveling brings the misery of dermatitis to your pet, be sure to address both the irritating symptoms and the actual cause.
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