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Causes Of Itching In Pets

March 1, 2024

Do you frequently notice your pet scratching or requesting to be scratched? Itching can be bothersome for both humans and animals. While some occasional itching is common in pets, ongoing itchiness can indicate an underlying issue. In this article, a Jefferson, IA area veterinarian offers some advice on soothing your pet’s itchy.

What Are Signs Of Itching In Pets?

Your pet may rub themselves against things—including you—and may be a bit persistent about begging to be scratched. However, there are other things to watch out for as well.

Some of the main ones are as follows:

  • Licking the feet
  • Discolored Skin
  • Flaking
  • Scabbing
  • Swelling
  • Red skin
  • Lesions
  • Discharge or dark/discolored wax from the ears
  • Shaking/Pawing at the head, face, or ears,
  • Obsessively licking or biting an area
  • Scratching/Chewing themselves
  • Fur loss
  • Flea dirt
  • Pustules, pimples, lesions, or abscesses

Contact your Carroll, IA veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these!

Why Do Pets Get Itchy?

If you see flea dirt or worse, moving fleas in your pet’s coat, it is probably safe to assume that your furry pal has fleas. However, other causes of itching in pets can be more difficult to identify. Before you can successfully address the problem, you’ll need to determine the cause of your pet’s itching.

Here are the most common ones:

Dry Skin: Before we move on to the more complex issues, let’s start with the simplest one. Sometimes it’s just dry skin! Dry air can suck the moisture out of our environments and our skin, and is often the cause of dry, itchy skin in both pets and in humans. You can also cause dry, itchy skin by using the wrong type or amount of grooming products, or even by not rinsing well enough.

Poor diet may also contribute to this issue. Proper nutrition is crucial to your pet’s health and care. Giving your foods that are high in fatty acids can help keep your pet’s skin and coat well-nourished and healthy by eating. It’s also important to make sure your furry pal always has fresh water.

Parasites: parasites aren’t this high on the list because of popularity, but because they are one of the most common causes. Fleas, of course, are not uncommon with our canine and feline friends. Tick bites don’t itch normally, but some pets react to tick saliva. It’s important to keep your pet’s preventative care up to date! Both ticks and fleas are dangerous and can also carry parasites.

Mites can also cause itching. There are several kinds of mites, and none of them are exactly pleasant.

  • Sarcoptic Mites cause mange, which is also known as scabies, in dogs and cats. They can be contracted by humans as well.
  • Demodex Mites burrow under the skin, causing severe itching.
  • Ear Mites as you can probably guess, take up residence in pet ear canals, causing severe itching. You might notice that your pet shakes their head persistently.

Stress: Stress is another possible cause. Like people, our animal companions can also experience stress and anxiety. While Fido and Fluffy may not be concerned with things like inflation or deadlines, they can become uneasy due to various factors. Major changes, boredom, loneliness, discomfort, and conflicts with other pets are a few common stressors for pets. In order to cope with their distress, our furry friends sometimes overgroom themselves. This is comparable to compulsive behaviors seen in humans, such as nail biting or leg bouncing. However, excessive grooming can lead to hair loss. It may also leave pets vulnerable to skin infections.

If you know what is causing stress, take steps to address the issue. For instance, if Fluffy is at odds with your new kitten, ask your Carroll, IA vet for tips on keeping the peace. You can also try to help your pet relax. Toys and playtime are often recommended. Medication and behavior modification may also be helpful.

Bacterial Infections: bacterial infections are one of the most dangerous options here. Often, they result from wounds or scratches that tear the skin and cause peeling, redness, swelling, and pustules. These generally do not go away on their own. If you suspect your pet has a bacterial infection, contact your Carroll, IA veterinarian immediately. Treatment options vary, but may include topical medication, antibiotics, or other products.

Fungal Infections:  Next up, we have fungal infections. Ringworm actually falls into this category. Despite its name, ringworm is a fungus, rather than a parasite. Yeast infections are another possibility. Dogs with skin folds or floppy ears are particularly susceptible to yeast infections. Those nooks and crannies in their ears and faces provide warm, wet environments that fungus thrive in. You may notice a rash, crusty or scaly skin, redness, and, in some cases,  foul odor.

Topical medications are often effective for clearing up fungal infections. However, your vet will need to examine your pet first, to ensure that your pet’s treatment will involve using the proper products and protocol. Make an appointment as soon as possible. Be diligent about cleaning and treatment to ensure that the problem is truly resolved.

Allergies: Pets can become allergic to many different things, and at any point in their lives. Some of the things pets may become allergic to include grass, pollen, fumes, and certain plants or leaves. Pets may also react to mold and dust mites. Aside from itching, symptoms of allergies include red, runny eyes, sneezing, snoring, skin irritation, and upset stomachs.

Seasonal Allergies, as the name suggests, usually involve things like pollen, leaves, and grass.

Food Allergies may also cause itching. Dealing with food allergies in pets is a unique challenge. These allergies occur when pet’s bodies perceive a specific type of food, usually a protein like chicken or beef, to be an enemy. This triggers an immune response.

The most difficult aspect of dealing with food allergies is often determining the exact trigger. Your pet may need to follow a simple, very bland, diet until symptoms improve. Once the itching and symptoms have stopped, you can start gradually reintroducing different foods to identify the culprit. Of course, this should only be done under your  Carroll, IA veterinarian’s supervision.

Contact Dermatitis: Contact dermatitis is a skin irritation caused by direct contact with a substance or material. It is often accompanied by redness, inflammation, and/or flaky skin. Aside from hair loss, skin discoloration, and small pimples, you may also notice small pustules.

Contact dermatitis can be caused by a variety of things, including the following:

  • Plants
  • Detergents
  • Mulch
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soaps
  • Rug
  • Textiles
  • Plastics Industry
  • Medicines
  • Chemicals
  • Fertilizers

Contact your vet immediately if you see signs of persistent itching in pets. In some cases, home remedies, such as an oatmeal bath, may help. Other pets will need medication. Keep in mind that if a condition persists, there is always the possibility of infection. Besides, your pet will be miserable until they get relief!

In Conclusion: Pets’ itching can be caused by many different things, from parasites to allergies to stress. Although most sources of itching can be treated, it is important to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Do you need to schedule grooming for your pet? Contact us today! As your Jefferson, IA area veterinary clinic, we are here to help!