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A Roanoke, VA Vet Weighs In About Itchiness In Pets 

March 1, 2024

Do you often find your pet scratching against things? Does your furry friend beg for you to scratch them, and then act like they’re in seventh heaven when you do? Itching is always an annoyance, for both people and pets. While the occasional itchy spot is fairly normal for our animal companions, persistent itchiness is a sign that there is something going on. Of course, before you can address the matter, you’ll need to figure out exactly why your pet is itching. A local Roanoke, VA vet offers some insight into this below.

What Causes Itching In Pets?

Itchiness in pets can happen for many reasons. Some are fairly easy to spot. For instance, if you see flea dirt—or worse, actual moving fleas—in your pet’s coat, then it is probably safe to assume that your furry pal has fleas. However, others can be a bit trickier to sort out.

Here are the most common reasons for itching in pets:

Parasites: Parasites are definitely not at the top of this list because of popularity. Fleas are, of course, the main culprit here. While tick bites don’t normally itch, some pets do react to tick saliva. Don’t forget that both fleas and ticks can carry dangerous diseases, and can also be carriers of other parasites. Keep up with your furry pal’s preventative care!

We’re not quite done with parasites, though: mites can also cause itching. There are several kinds of mites. Sarcoptic mites are responsible for mange—also often called scabies–in dogs and cats. Unfortunately, people can also contract them. Next there are Demodex mites, which burrow under the skin.  Ear Mites, as you can probably guess, take up residence in pets’ ear canals, causing serious itching. You may notice your pet persistently shaking their head.

Stress: Just like people, our animal companions can suffer from stress and anxiety. Your furry pal may not be worrying about inflation or wondering whether you’ll get that report done on time, but they do get uneasy over things. Major changes are one common stressor in pets. Boredom, loneliness, discomfort, and friction with other pets are a few other options. 

It’s not uncommon for pets to cope with their distress by overgrooming themselves. This is similar to compulsive behaviors in people, such as nail biting or leg bouncing. With pets, that overgrooming can lead to hair loss, which then leaves them susceptible to skin infections.

If your Roanoke, VA veterinarian gives your pet the all-clear as far as medical reasons, try things that will help your pet relax. Toys and playtime are often the top recommendations. Medication and behavior modification may also help.

Fungal Infections: Next on the list, we have fungal infections. These come in many forms, none of which are exactly pleasant. Dogs with skin folds or floppy ears are often susceptible to yeast infections. Ringworm—which is actually a fungus—is another possible cause. You may also notice a rash, crusty or scaly skin, redness, and, in some cases, a foul odor.

Many fungal infections can be cleared up by topical medication. This of course will need to be prescribed by your vet. Make an appointment right away. You’ll also need to be diligent about cleaning and treatment, to ensure that the issue is truly defeated.

Bacterial Infections: While all of these reasons are concerning, bacterial infections may be one of the most dangerous. These do not generally go away on their own. They are often a result of wounds or scratches that tear the skin. These can also cause peeling, redness, swelling, and pustules. If you suspect your pet has a bacterial infection, seek immediate veterinary care. Treatment options vary, but may include topical medication, antibiotics, or other products.

Allergies: Allergies are no more fun for Fido and Fluffy than they are for us. They can cause a slew of reactions, including itchiness. Other signs of reactions include red, runny eyes; sneezing; snoring; skin irritation; and upset stomachs.

As with people, allergies in pets can be grouped into a few categories. 

Seasonal Allergies typically involve things like grass, pollen, and certain plants or leaves. Pets may also react to things like mold and dust mites.

Food Allergies are a whole different ball game. These develop when pets’ bodies decide that a certain type of food—typically a protein, such as found in chicken or beef—is an ‘invader’ and launches a response against it. The tricky part with food allergies is often narrowing down the exact allergen. You may need to put your pet on a very bland diet until symptoms resolve. Then, start reintroducing things one by one to see what sparks the reaction. This should only be done under the supervision of your veterinarian.

Dry Skin: Not all of the causes for itching in pets are complex medical issues or allergies. Sometimes it’s just dry skin! Environmental conditions often come into play here. Winter’s dry air often causes dry, itchy skin in both people and pets. Using the wrong grooming products can also cause this. Pets have very sensitive skin!

Make sure your furry pal is staying properly hydrated. A good diet is also important here. Foods that are high in fatty acids can keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy and well-nourished.

Contact Dermatitis: As the name suggests, contact dermatitis is a skin irritation that is caused by direct contact with a substance or material. It’s often accompanied by red, inflamed, and/or flaky skin. You may also notice hair loss, skin discoloration, and small pimples or pustules.

The list of possible culprits here is quite long. Some things that can cause contact dermatitis include the following:

  • Plants
  • Detergents
  • Mulch
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soaps
  • Rugs
  • Fabrics
  • Plastics
  • Medications
  • Chemicals
  • Lawn/Garden products, such as fertilizers

Contact dermatitis can be extremely uncomfortable for pets. While in some cases, home remedies, such as an oatmeal bath, may help, we would recommend contacting your vet right away. This isn’t necessarily a medical emergency, but there is a chance for infection if the issue persists. Plus, your furry pal will be quite miserable until they get relief!

How Can I Keep My Pet From Itching?

Many things can help soothe itching in pets. Some of the options include medication, antihistamines, steroids, antibiotics, and medicated shampoos. Your vet may also suggest an oatmeal bath or even a specific oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil. However, it’s important to choose the right method. That’s why we always, always recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian.

When Should I Start Worrying About My Pet’s Itching?

Your pet can’t tell you when it’s time for them to go to the doctor, so it’s important to keep an eye out for signs that there’s a bit more going on than the occasional random itch. Persistent itching is of course the biggest clue, but there are other things to look for as well.

Here are some of the main ones:

  • 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
  • Licking the feet
  • Discolored Skin
  • Flaking
  • Scabbing
  • Swelling
  • Pustules, pimples, lesions, or abscesses

Contact your Roanoke, VA vet immediately if you notice any of these things.

Conclusion: Itching in pets can be caused by many different things, from parasites to allergies to stress. While itching can be treated, it’s important to consult your vet for a proper diagnosis. 

Has your pet been itchy lately? Do you need to schedule grooming? Contact us, your Roanoke, VA veterinary clinic, today!

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