New England has been on it’s typical roller-coaster of weather. We have had days colder or warmer than typical every season and it can be hard to guess what season to dress for. All of these factors add up to changes in the usual mix of pests, parasites, pollens and molds. It is not uncommon for some dogs to be itchy at this time of year. Veterinarians commonly see many dogs that have not had seasonal fall itchiness suddenly having a problem any given year when they develop an allergy to something in the air. Here are the most common causes we are seeing for seasonal itchiness in the fall:
New or higher levels of pollens and molds – Dogs that could easily tolerate trace levels of a particular pollen or mold may suddenly breakout when exposed to high levels. Just being allergic to something in the air can disrupt the natural balance of the skin allowing the natural bacteria and yeast on the skin to grow out of control. The end result is a very itchy dog that may develop rashes or sores anywhere on their skin.
Fleas – We have always had fleas in our area but the numbers are really high this year. As soon as the weather gets cooler many pet owners start to forget about the fleas but the fleas have not forgotten about the dogs. They are looking for a warm body to feed on for the winter. Fall is actually the highest-risk time of the year to pick-up a flea infestation. Fleas area able to reproduce very rapidly and produce many generations every season. Over time they can become resistant to once-trusted flea products. Many of the flea products that were state-of-the-art when the came on the market over 20 years ago no longer kill fleas effectively. A flea infestation can also lead to allergic reactions and secondary bacterial infections. Check with your veterinarian to see what flea products are working best this year in your area.
Scabies – This is actually a microscopic mite that causes Sarcoptic Mange. There are several types of mange mites but this is the one that is very contagious and very itchy. Typically this type of mange is more common in warmer climates and less commonly seen in our Northern location but in recent years the rules are different. This mite is very hard to find and it takes very few mites to cause a whole lot of itching. People can catch this but our skin rash will not last since the mite cannot survive on humans. Any dog that is suspected that they may have contracted Scabies should just be treated. Luckily we now have a variety of options for safe products to kill this mite. A mange infection can also lead to allergic reactions and secondary bacterial infections.
There are certainly other medical causes for an itchy dog but these are the ones that veterinarians see frequently in the fall. If your dog is itching, a few simple tests in an office visit can usually determine what is likely to be causing the itch. For each patient an individual treatment plan can be made to treat the underlying cause and any secondary problems that are occurring.