Snorfling pets keeping you awake?

Does your pet keep you up all night scratching and snorfling (chewing and sucking noise)? Chances are they have a flea allergy and/ or atopy.

Fleas—my pet doesn’t have fleas you say! Well just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they are not there. Fleas jump on to your pet and take a bite injecting their saliva into the pet’s skin. It is the flea saliva which can cause your pet to itch for weeks, long after the flea has been chewed away.

The best way to check for fleas is to comb them through with a really fine tooth comb and look for tiny dark specks of “dirt” – this “dirt” is actually tiny specks of dried blood from the flea. So if you see “dirt” you need to improve your flea control—see our article on fleas for more information. Treat ALL animals on your property and use a product recommended by your vet.

Even if you don’t see fleas or flea dirt it is still strongly recommended to treat them as if they do (most skin specialists say that fleas contribute to more than 70 % of the skin cases they see!)

Atopy is a skin disease caused by pollen from plants. Although worse in spring, Atopy occurs all year round thanks to Queensland’s mild weather. Atopic pets have a defect in the skin barrier which allows pollens to be absorbed through the skin and these results in inflammation of the skin and an itchy pet. It is similar to hay fever in humans -you don’t have to see or touch the plant you just have to breathe – rather than sneezing and watery eyes pets absorb the pollen through their skin and get itchy skin.

The classical signs are foot chewing / sucking (“snorfling”), face rubbing and arm pit scratching because they are itchy. The skin in these areas (paws, ears, armpits) often becomes secondarily infected with bacteria and yeasts which makes the itch even worse.

There is no cure available for atopy but it can be controlled or managed making life more comfortable for atopic pets.

Treatment is aimed at removing any secondary infection, reducing the itch and improving the skin barrier to reduce pollen absorption. This may involve de-sensitisation injections, oral medications, nutraceuticals (e.g. Fish oil), topical creams and washes. Atopy needs constant management and periodically intense treatment for flare-ups. It can be frustrating and expensive to treat so a dedicated owner and a patient vet are also essential to find the right combination of treatments to suit your pet.