Itch and Scratch! Bite and Lick! A Series on Allergies (Part 2 of 4)

Last week we covered three different reasons why your pet may be suffering from a skin ailment. This week, we will explain the other three reasons: infectious, allergic, and neurogenic – all which can be a challenge to diagnose


Bacterial, fungal and yeast organisms are notoriously obnoxious skin and coat irritants. One type of fungal organism causes pruritic, circular patches of hair loss often called ringworm. Yeast, a common contaminant of inflamed and environmentally stressed skin, can irritate an already diseased skin surface. Yeast infections typically create greasy, odorous and itchy symptoms in affected pets. If a yeast infection is diagnosed, there is generally something else going on with it such as allergies, hypothyroidism, chronic cortisone administration or dietary fatty acid deficiency.


Even bacteria on the dog’s skin can provoke an allergic reaction to themselves! These cases of sensitivity to normal resident bacteria are very challenging to correct. No matter what kind of allergic dermatitis afflicts the pet, the ultimate cellular cause of the inflammation and itch is the release of histamine in the skin by mast cells. In dogs and cats, mast cells are found in the highest concentration between the digits of the paws, on the muzzle, around the eyes and ear flaps, in the armpits, groin and around the anus. These are the sites that are most itchy to allergic pets. The most common types of allergic skin diseases have been outlined above and in last week’s newsletter.


This group presents a major challenge to diagnose and treat. The most commonly seen form of neurologic dermatitis is called Acral Lick Dermatitis, Lick Granuloma, or canine neurodermatitis. Something in your pet creates an impulse to lick at a specific area of the skin. Characterized by persistent, obsessive licking and chewing at the target area, lick granulomas may have an unknown origin. Commonly, though, most cases have a suspected cause such as boredom, separation anxiety, frustration, confinement, or even a minor physical origin such as a tiny abrasion that captivates the pet’s interest.

If your pet is suffering from chronic dermatitis, hope can be found! Our staff will be persistent in identifying the cause and then pursue the appropriate treatment options available. Resolving these cases invariably puts a smile on our veterinarians’ faces, the pet owner’s face AND your dog or cat.

To better assess the health of your pets’ teeth we now have DIGITAL DENTAL X-RAY EQUIPMENT. This allows us to see hidden periodontal disease surrounding the tooth roots so that action can be taken to judiciously suggest treatment or extraction since our pets can’t tell us where it hurts them.


Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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