TOP FAQ’s – Ask The Vet – Part 1 – Scratchers

ASK THE VET with our in-house animal doctor Dr. Tanya Viljoen was SUCH a hit on Facebook. Just in case life happened and you missed out, here are those TOP FAQ’s.


QUESTION – I have an 18 week old German Shepherd who scratches himself a lot. He is treated for ticks and fleas; and his bedding is washed with fragrance-free soap and vinegar. I use Vets Choice shampoo every 3 to 4 weeks to wash him; and I brush him daily. He eats breed specific Royal Canin food. I can’t see any dryness / a rash on his skin. So my question is is there anything I can do to stop the excessive scratching? He is mostly scratching his legs, his sides and back. His ears were checked at his previous visit to our vet, two weeks ago. We use Bravecto tablets, and his last dose was given two weeks ago as well. We use Marltons flea power too. Could you recommend an Omega 3 that is good or can I perhaps use olive oil with his food?

ANSWER – If he is on Bravecto then honestly, I wouldn’t use a flea powder as well. You can spray his bed and the environment with ULTRUM if you want more protection. Then for a supplement, EFAZOL is really good, so start there. Also only bath him when he is dirty and really needs a bath, because you don’t want to wash off his skin’s natural oils; and when you need to bath him, you could use something like PHYSIOLOGICAL SHAMPOO which is very mild. It’s always good to try a food for sensitivities. With large breed puppies though, be very careful when changing a diet as you don’t want to have problems with their growth and joint development at this young age. Ask your vet which diet to feed him – this may be something like a novel diet or hydrolysed diet safe for puppies – and stick to the treatment that your vet prescribes. Allergies are caused by your dog’s immune system overreacting to natural elements in the environment; so we have to manage the problem carefully as it can be a lifelong one.

QUESTION – Is there a safe remedy to treat my dog’s ears? She scratches them and shakes her head.

ANSWER – Have you had her ears checked by a vet? Most of the time, outer ear infections are caused by some type of allergy. You would manage this allergy by selecting a skin support diet; and by regular cleaning with something like EPI-OTIC at least twice a week as a maintenance. If it’s bad however, you may need your vet to check the ears and the eardrum. If need be, your vet may prescribe cortisone and sometimes antibiotics. Before you put it down to an allergy though, you can get cases where there is actually a tick or mites in the ears, so make sure your vet has looked into the ear canal with an otoscope before you put it down to just allergies.

QUESTION – My kitty is losing a large amount of hair on her back. She is a spayed baby, 9 years old. Please can you help?

ANSWER – Is she itchy? There are different reasons for hair loss, but if there is itching associated then we know that there is some type of skin inflammation underlying the hair loss. This type of area is very common for fleas so even if you can’t see any, I would recommend that you give her a top spot with residual activity like BRAVECTO for cats or BROADLINE to start and see how that goes.

QUESTION – I have a rescue cat who is allergic to something. I have changed her diet to Hill’s Sensitive Skin, I give her Mirra Cote supplements and add Regal Cat Tonic to her water. This mostly helps, but her itchiness flares up every once in a while. It is not seasonal. Is there anything else I can do except put her on a course of cortisone when it happens?

ANSWER – Where is she itching? Is there any hair loss? The most important thing is religious tick and flea control. If they are sensitive to flea saliva – just one bite from a single flea causes a massive reaction anywhere on the body, because the flea’s saliva is extremely allergenic. It looks like you are doing a lot to support the skin already which is great, but I would make sure that every animal in the house gets treated for fleas every 4 weeks (even in winter). This includes dogs (if you have any). And then I would advise that you use something like ULTRUM spray to spray the carpets/under couches and beds to make sure there are absolutely no fleas or larvae in the environment. Most allergies are to something in the environment (and once you have totally ruled out fleas) a skin support diet high in Omega 3’s from fish will help decrease inflammation and help healing. If you want to, you can do a food trial for 3 months with a hydrolysed food to rule out a pure food allergy- your vet can help you with that as your will need prescription food. But typically, food allergies do not respond very well to cortisone so that may help you build the picture. At the end of the day, the cat’s immune system is overreacting to something and we can’t just get rid of the immune system totally so we need to manage these allergies life long – but involve your vet every step of the way so if there is a reaction, you can get it under control as soon as possible.

QUESTION – My dog is always scratching his ears. What could it be?

ANSWER – The majority of ears problems are caused by underlying allergies. But yeast, bacteria or hair in the ears can make this far worse. There is also a possibility of a tick or something foreign in the ear, so it’s best to have your vet look and give medication if necessary. From the point of view of maintenance, you can use a safe ear wash once or twice a week to keep the ears clean like EPI-OTIC. Whereas EFAZOL may help if it is an underlying allergy. HOWEVER, an underlying allergy needs to be addressed and treated accordingly with your vet. The only thing I would add here is that some ear ointments can be dangerous to dogs if the eardrum is not totally intact; so be careful that what you put in his ears is indeed prescribed by a vet who has looked at the eardrum to make sure it is safe. 

QUESTION – Why does my Jack Russell keep scratching herself? She doesn’t have fleas and she gets a bath every second week.

ANSWER – It could be various things, even allergies are a possibility. Firstly, to be sure that it isn’t fleas, I advise that you use something long-acting like NEXGARD, BRAVECTO CHEWABLE or BRAVECTO SPOT ON. Fleas live in the environment, so when you bath them, fleas often jump off and then jump back on if the shampoo isn’t a long-acting shampoo. My advice is treat with the above and use something like ULTRUM spray to spray the beds and carpets in the house to make sure there are no fleas. Then once you have done that, try a diet for sensitive skin which has added Omega 3 fatty acids from fish for skin support, like ORIJEN.

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