Skin problems are common in dogs and cats, and are one of the most frequent reasons that owners bring their pets to the veterinarian. There are many different reasons why a pet will itch and scratch. Fortunately, we can break most of the causes down into a few categories: allergies, skin parasites, and skin infections. 1. Allergies Pollen/environmental allergy (Atopy): Just like people, dogs and cats can be allergic to pollen, dust and molds. But instead of sneezing and hayfever, pets most often show their allergies in their skin. Allergic cats may develop crusty dermatitis or lick their hair so much that they cause bald spots. Allergic dogs may scratch all over, but especially at their armpits, belly and ears. They may also have recurrent skin and ear infections and lick their paws.

The signs usually start between 6 months to 5 years of age. Since food allergy and skin parasites or infections also cause itching, these diseases need to be eliminated as possible causes of itching before the diagnosis of atopy can be made. Some pets with pollen/dust allergies tend to have seasonal (warm weather) symptoms, others may have symptoms year round. Some pollen-allergic pets can be treated symptomatically during the itchy seasons with soothing shampoos/conditioners and anti-itch medications (antihistamines, fatty acids, occasional steroids). If present, secondary bacterial or yeast infections also need to be treated.

Pets with continuous itching or signs that are not well-controlled with symptomatic medications or that need steroids too frequently should be allergy tested to find out what they are allergic to. Allergy testing can be performed with blood tests or skin tests (like scratch testing in people). Blood allergy testing is more convenient and can be performed by most veterinarians, but may be less accurate than skin testing. Skin allergy testing tests the actual organ that is involved in the allergy (the skin), so is more accurate than blood testing, and is typically performed by veterinary dermatologists. Once the allergy test results are known, allergic pets can receive allergy shots (just like people!) to desensitize them to the pollen. Although not a cure or a quick-fix, allergy hyposensitization injections help 70-75% of allergic pets to decrease symptoms and need for other medications, and address the cause of the allergies, not just the symptoms. Food allergy: Animals with food allergy can show very similar signs as pets with pollen allergies, but the itching is not seasonal and animals can develop a food allergy at any time in their life—even if they have been eating the same food all along! Cats may develop crusty dermatitis or hair loss similar to pollen allergy.

Besides itchiness, food-allergic dogs may also have ear or skin infections. The symptoms of food allergy usually do not improve much with antiitch medications, and the diagnosis and treatment is to feed the pet a hypoallergenic diet using a protein source that they have never been exposed to before. Switching to another commercial diet usually does not help, because most of these diets have similar ingredients. A better alternative is a hypoallergenic diet with single unique protein ingredients such as fish, rabbit, duck, or venison, with a single carbohydrate such as potato or rice, and no other treats, table scraps, rawhides, milkbones, chewable supplements or other foods for at last 6-8 weeks. Some food allergic dogs require home cooked hypoallergenic diets.

Blood or skin testing for food allergy is unfortunately not accurate in dogs and cats. If present, secondary bacterial or yeast infections also need to be treated. If the itchy symptoms have resolved in 6-8 weeks, new food allergens can be added one at a time every 2-3 weeks (ie. beef, chicken, lamb, wheat, corn, egg, milk etc.) to determine what the pet is allergic to and what other foods they may tolerate. 2. Skin Parasites Fleas: Fleas cause itching and hair loss due to the irritation caused by their bites, secondary bacterial infections, or to a flea bite allergy. Symptoms are often worse in warm weather when fleas are most numerous. Animals will often itch and lose hair on their back near their tail. Cats may also develop small crusts on their skin that are similar in appearance to tiny millet seeds (miliary dermatitis).

In flea-allergic animals, even one fleabite can cause a reaction. With the availability of the effective veterinary prescription monthly flea treatment products, flea allergy has become easier to treat. Flea control in the home and yard is also important. Treatment of secondary bacterial skin infections and temporary antiitch medication (steroids) are also often needed while the flea problem is being brought under control. Although fleas are uncommon in the Southwest due to our hot dry climate, pets may be exposed when they travel to California or other flea-endemic areas. Mange Mites: There are two common types of mange (tiny, microscopic skin mites): demodex and scabies. Another, less common mite that can cause itchy skin disease is called cheyletiella. All types of mites are diagnosed by microscopic analysis of skin scrapings performed by a veterinarian. Demodex mites can cause patchy hair loss (especially on the face and feet/legs) with only mild itching, or infected dogs can be very itchy if secondary bacterial infections develop.


This mite is more common in puppies and immunosuppressed animals, and is not contagious to other pets or to people. Treatment options include weekly prescription antiparasitic dips, or daily oral antiparasitic prescription medications such as ivermectin or milbemycin. Skin scrapings are monitored monthly by the veterinarian to determine when it is safe to stop medication, and most dogs are treated for an average of 3-4 months. Herding breeds such as Collies, Shelties, Aussies, Border Collies and sheepdogs should not receive ivermectin due to risk of lethal toxicity, and all treatments should be prescribed and monitored by a veterinarian. Scabies: infection, a very itchy and contagious to other dogs, may cause hair loss and a crust to form on their ears and elbows. Scabies mites can be very difficult to find, and often we will trial-treat for scabies based on the dog’s symptoms and appearance, even if we cannot find mites on the skin scrapes.

Treatment options for scabies mange include weekly prescription insecticidal dips for 4-6 weeks, or systemic antiparasitic prescription medications such as Revolution, ivermectin or milbemycin given every 1- 2 weeks for 6 weeks. With scabies, all dogs in the household must be treated at the same time, even if they are not showing signs yet, because some dogs can carry the mites and have no symptoms. Dogs with scabies may also have secondary bacterial or yeast skin infections which contribute to the itch. Again, herding breeds should not receive ivermectin due to risk of lethal toxicity, and all treatments should be prescribed and monitored by a veterinarian.

Cheyletiella mites: cause itchy skin and dry scaling on the back, and can infect dogs, cats, people, and rabbits. They can also be difficult to find on skin scrapings, and so trial treatment for cheyletiella is warranted if symptoms are consistent with infection. Treatment options are the same as for scabies mites, and all animals in the household have to be treated at the same time, or they will pass the mites back and forth. 3. Infections: Although the main reason for a pet’s itchy skin may be allergies or parasites, they often get secondary bacterial or yeast infections which can keep the itch going even if the underlying cause is treated. These infections can cause red, crusty, flaky skin, hair loss, pimples, and red bumps. Yeast infection can cause skin to look thickened and “elephantlike.” Diagnosis is made by the veterinarian with analysis of skin samples under the microscope. Skin infections should be treated with a 2-6 week course of appropriate oral antibiotics or antiyeast medication prescribed by a veterinarian. Medicated shampoos and conditioners can also be helpful.


Animals that have recurrent infections need to be screened for allergies or hormonal conditions and have the underlying cause identified and treated. In summary, although there are numerous causes of itching in pets, through appropriate diagnostics and treatments, or by referral of tough cases to a specialized veterinary dermatologist, your veterinarian can help your pet become a happier and more comfortable part of your family


Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian about Pet Dental Cleanings

We know you want the best for your pet and often pet owners are nervous about taking their pet for a veterinary dental cleaning because they are fearful about their pet being put under anesthesia for the procedure. First, we want to reassure pet owners that under the correct protocols, anesthesia is very safe and is far less dangerous than the periodontal disease that will develop without proper cleanings.

When preparing to take your pet for a veterinary dental cleaning, here are some questions you can ask your veterinarian to give you peace of mind about your pet’s safety and the care you can expect.

Questions about Anesthesia:

Proper equipment and monitoring ensures your pet’s safety during the anesthetic procedure.

  • Do you perform laboratory work for my pet prior to anesthesia?
    Laboratory work will be recommended by your veterinarian to evaluate your pet’s internal organ function prior to anesthesia.
  • Who performs and monitors the anesthesia process?
  • You should confirm that your pet is monitored under anesthesia by a trained veterinary technician who monitors blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, end tidal carbon dioxide, electrocardiogram, respiratory rate and body temperature.  Intravenous fluids should be administered throughout the procedure to help maintain your pet’s blood pressure and provide intravenous access for additional drugs if they are needed. Your pet should be kept warm with warming blankets during the procedure. Your veterinarian should be happy to discuss every step of the process with you.
  • What is your full anesthesia protocol?
    You should confirm your pet’s blood pressure and blood oxygen are constantly monitored by a trained veterinary technician, that IV fluids are administered throughout the procedure and pets are kept warm with warming blankets during the procedure. Your veterinarian should be happy to discuss every step of the process with you.
  • Ask for the practice’s anesthetic safety record. 
AAHA certified veterinary practices are required to keep anesthesia safety records. You can ask about this record and a practice should be more than happy to share this information with you.

Questions about the dental procedure?.

  • Do you take radiographs as a standard practice for all cleanings?
    A comprehensive veterinary dental cleaning will include radiographs. This is the only way to identify other painful problems that may exist in your pet’s mouth under the gum, in the bone or involving the tooth root due to periodontal or endodontic disease.
  • Do you use localized nerve blocks?
    Local nerve blocks, in addition to pain medication administered prior to anesthesia, reduces the need for general anesthetic, improving the safety of the procedure and making your pet’s recovery faster and less painful.
  • What is your protocol if you identify a problem?
    You should ask your veterinarian how they handle disease that they find and if they will discuss the findings and treatment options with you immediately. You may also want to ask how they handle any complex issues they find such as broken teeth, bone loss or other problems. In many cases a specialist can save teeth with root canal procedures as opposed to extraction – keeping teeth intact when possible can prevent future dental problems to a pet.


2020 All images & content copyrighted by American Veterinary Dental Collage


FAQ’s about Pet Dental Cleanings

 How often should my pet have a dental cleaning?

Dogs and cats should have a veterinary dental cleaning annually starting at age two, or sooner if they have some other oral health problem identified earlier.

 Why does my pet’s breath smell so bad?

Bad breath is a sign of disease, often it may mean that oral disease is present in your pet’s mouth, not that their teeth are just dirty. Bad breath is often an indication of periodontal disease which lurks beneath the gums and can eat away at bone, oral tissue and tooth structure. Severe periodontal disease can also affect other organs, such as heart, liver and kidneys, as the disease progresses.

What is the difference between a pet dental cleaning at my vet or one at an anesthesia free dental clinic?

A veterinary dental cleaning involves a complete oral examination by a veterinarian, cleaning both above and below the gum line, and dental X-rays. An anesthesia free dental cleaning is a non-veterinary procedure where a pet is restrained awake, while the visible portion of some surfaces of the teeth are scaled (scraped with an instrument). This does not clean your pet’s teeth and leaves your pet at risk for a progression of the remaining oral disease and future dental disease and problems.

Is anesthesia for dental cleanings safe?

Using correct anesthetic protocols and monitoring by a dedicated trained anesthetist at a veterinary hospital, pet anesthesia is very safe.

Why are veterinary pet dental cleanings more costly than the anesthesia free procedures at my groomer?

Put simply, when it comes to the procedure alone, you get what you pay for. A veterinarian provides a professional service that requires a great deal of training and experience with the pet’s health in mind. There are certainly more costs involved in anesthesia, equipment, x-rays and trained staff, which all amount to your pet getting a higher quality of care and ultimately maintaining a healthy mouth. Over the long term, extensive dental disease as a result of a pet not having cleanings or having anesthesia free cleanings can become far more expensive.

Do cats and dogs need the same type of cleanings?

The simple answer is yes. The key thing to remember is that both cats and dogs need regular veterinary dental care. Overall each need the same components of care, however since they have unique health care concerns and anatomy, it’s important they are in the care of a veterinary doctor who is experienced and able to identify specific disease in different species, such as feline tooth resorption, feline stomatitis, or oral cancers.

2020 All images & content copyrighted by American Veterinary Dental Collage





Atopy or environmental allergies are quite common in dogs and cats. Environmental irritants may include pollens, molds, house dust mites, and even human dander. Some pets may have an allergic flare-up for only short periods in the spring and fall, while others show symptoms all year long.

Typical allergic signs in pets are scratching, face rubbing, obsessive licking of the feet, ear inflammation and infections, skin rash, pigmentation change and patchy hair loss. Allergies can also allow the skin and ears to become infected with bacteria or yeast. These secondary infections will then increase the overall “itch” level of the skin. Unfortunately we cannot usually permanently “cure” allergies, but we can control and treat the symptoms. Pets with a short allergy season can be treated with low doses of steroids, fatty acids, antihistamines, frequent bathing, and wipe downs to remove pollens from the skin. This may be all that’s needed to keep your pet comfortable.

Often times an antibiotic or anti-fungal agent will be added to combat a concurrent infection. Apoquel, Cytopoint, and Atopica (cyclosporine) are all non-steroidal options that can significantly ease your pet’s discomfort. These medications have been proven to be highly effective when used along with immunotherapy.

Pets who are seasonally allergic for longer periods may need intradermal allergy testing and immunotherapy or desensitization. This is the injection of allergens underneath the skin administered at home. Desensitization stimulates the T-lymphocyte suppressor cells, blocking the immune system, which is hyperactive in an allergic patient. Immunotherapy is highly effective in seventy five percent of treated pets.

Fifty percent of these pets respond to treatment in 3 to 6 months and twenty five percent of pets respond within 12 months. Most pets will need lifelong booster injections to continue immunotherapy. To begin immunotherapy, your pet must first be allergy tested. Testing is done by injecting different allergens common in your area under the skin and evaluating the reaction. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions about your pet’s allergies or the treatments we can offer.

About CVC

Chappelle Veterinary Clinic is a full service Veterinary Clinic which offers a wide range of veterinary care for cats and dogs, including routine exams, vaccinations, preventative care, diagnostics, surgery, spay and neuter, wellness services, dental cleaning, emergency and more.

Working Hours

Monday 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Tuesday 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Wednesday 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Thursday 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Friday 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Saturday 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Sunday Closed

Contact us

14128 28 Avenue SWEdmonton, AB T6W 3Y9

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