It’s a great relief to see the summer arriving, after an all too long a winter and precious little spring. But for many dog owners this is the time they dread the most, as the warmer weather means their dogs will become more and more itchy as the season progresses. For them the long summer evening walks always seem to have a payback in the form of itching and scratching pets as a result of pollen exposure. Sadly, whether indoors or outdoors, there’s little difference. For almost half of dogs in Britain, summer means itchy skin. If all that sounds highly reminiscent of our own respiratory allergies it’s not too far off the truth. For our lungs, think dogs’ skin. The problem for Vets is that dogs can get to their skin and scratch it all too easily, with major problems ensuing.
None of us know which puppies are going to develop skin allergies later in life. Of course there are breeds that seem to be “frequent offenders”, such as West Highland Whites. But there are plenty of that breed that have absolutely no skin problems. So much of this can be down to what’s written in your genes, so to speak. But that doesn’t mean we just stand by and wait for things to happen. A fair amount can be done to try and stop the slide towards skin sensitivity due to pollen allergens. Exacerbating factors include skin irritation due to parasites, such as fleas. It’s for this reason that we are so keen to ensure that all puppies get regular (monthly) de-flea treatment in their first year of life, with veterinary approved products, when the skin might be being sensitised to grass and tree pollens. Thereafter, de-flea management tends to fit in with lifestyle and household circumstances.
But what about those dogs that are already skin irritant now. For them the old adage is very much a truism: don’t start from here! The preparation for skin management each summer starts way back in the previous winter. For those that are in the throes of scratching themselves to pieces now we need to use medicated skin shampoo, anti-inflammatory treatment and a variety of other products to alleviate the situation. But it’s not sufficient to just breath a big sigh of relief when autumn arrives and the skin irritation subsides. All that will mean is that the problem gets more and more intense as each summer comes round and will last for longer and longer in to the autumn and winter. Planning some management with your Vet over the winter to help ‘prepare’ your dog’s skin for next year will ultimately mean less skin sensitivity. And all that adds up to much more enjoyable walks, just like it should be.