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Pawsible Causes Of Itchiness In Pets

March 1, 2024

Do you frequently see your pet rubbing up against objects? Does your furry companion sometimes ‘request’ that you scratch them and then act as if they’re on cloud nine? Itching—or pruritus, as it’s officially called—is an annoyance for both people and animals. While the occasional irritating area is normal, persistent itching usually indicates a problem. Of course, before you can resolve the problem, you’ll need to figure out why your pet is itching. In this article from Westside Animal Hospital a local Pooler, GA veterinarian goes over some possible options.

Why Do Pets Become Itchy?

Itching in pets can happen for a number of causes. Some are easy to recognize. For example, if you discover flea dirt—or worse, actual moving fleas—in your four-legged companion’s coat, it’s safe to assume that he or she has fleas. Other issues, however, may be more difficult to narrow down.

These are the most common causes of pruritus in pets:


Allergies can be extremely uncomfortable for both people and pets. They can cause a variety of issues, including itchiness. Other symptoms of a reaction include red, runny eyes, sneezing, snoring, skin irritation, and upset stomach.

As with people, allergies in pets can be divided into numerous categories.

Food Allergies develop when a pet’s body perceives a specific type of food—usually a protein—as a ‘invader’ and reacts accordingly. Identifying the precise allergen can be the most difficult aspect of food allergies. You may need to put your pet on a very simple diet until the symptoms lessen, and then gradually reintroduce things to establish what is causing the reaction. This should only be done under veterinary supervision. 

Contact Dermatitis As the name suggests, contact dermatitis is a skin irritation caused by direct contact with a substance or material. It is frequently linked to red, inflammatory, and/or flaky skin. Pets may also experience hair loss, skin discoloration, and tiny pimples or pustules. Contact dermatitis can be caused by a multitude of items, including shampoo; conditioner; mulch; soaps; materials such as rugs, fabrics, and plastics; pharmaceuticals; plants; detergents; chemicals, including lawn and garden fertilizers; and more.

Seasonal Allergies are frequently caused by grass, pollen, and certain plants or leaves.

Dry/Cracked Skin

Itching in pets is not always the result of complicated medical conditions. Sometimes it’s just dry skin! Environmental influences are typically at play here. Winter’s dry air frequently causes dry, itchy skin in both humans and animals. Using the wrong grooming products can also cause this. Pets have very delicate skin, so harsh shampoos can be very irritating for them.

Make sure your pet is properly hydrated! You may want to put out extra water stations.

A healthy diet is also essential here. Fatty acid-rich diets can assist to keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy and nourished.

Parasitic Infections

Fleas are, of course, the main perpetrators here. Ticks can sometimes be to blame, though. While tick bites do not often itch, pets sometimes respond to their saliva. Remember that fleas and ticks can both carry life-threatening illnesses, and can transmit other parasites. Keep up with your furry friend’s preventative care!

We’re not done with parasites yet, unfortunately. Mites can also cause irritation. There are several types of mites. Sarcoptic mites cause mange (commonly known as scabies) in dogs and cats. Unfortunately, humans can contract them as well. Next, there are Demodex mites, which burrow beneath the skin.  Ear mites, as expected, dwell in pet ear canals and cause significant irritation. Pets with ear mites often shake their heads a lot.

Emotional Distress

Stress is another possibility. Your furry best friend may not be concerned about finances or office turmoil, but they can nevertheless become nervous about certain things. Major changes can be extremely stressful for pets. Boredom, loneliness, discomfort, and disagreements with other pets are possibilities as well. 

Overgrooming is a common approach for pets to deal with stress. This is similar to people’s nervous tics, such as nail biting and leg bouncing. Overgrooming in pets can result in hair loss and skin irritation, which both make them more susceptible to skin infections. Some pets, such as cats, react to anxiety by undergrooming, which can also cause issues.

If your Pooler, GA veterinarian doesn’t find any medical reasons for the issues, stress may be the problem. Ask for specific advice on helping your furry pal feel better.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections are next on the list.  Dogs with skin folds or floppy ears are susceptible to developing yeast infections. Another possible cause is ringworm, which is actually a fungus. You might also notice a rash, crusty or scaly skin, redness, and, in some cases, an unpleasant odor.

Topical medications can effectively treat a wide range of fungal infections. However, these must be prescribed by your Pooler, GA veterinarian. Schedule an appointment right away. You’ll also need to be diligent with cleaning and treatment to ensure that the problem is totally cured.

Bacterial Infections

Although all of the above reasons are cause for concern, bacterial infections are some of the most serious. These rarely disappear on their own. They are typically caused by wounds or scratches that tear the skin, and can result in peeling, edema, inflammation, and pustules. If you suspect your pet has a bacterial infection, take him or her to the veterinarian immediately. Treatment options vary, but may include topical medications, antibiotics, and other medicines.

Contact dermatitis can cause severe discomfort in pets. While home remedies, such as an oatmeal soak, may be effective in some cases, we strongly advise you to contact your veterinarian immediately. While there may not always be a medical emergency, if the issue continues, there could be a risk of infection. Plus, poor Fido and Fluffy will be pretty miserable until they get treatment!

When Should I Get Concerned About My Pet’s Itching?

Your pet cannot tell you when it’s time for them to see a doctor, so keep an eye out for signs that there’s more going on than just the occasional random scratch. Persistent itching is the most obvious signal, but there are other signs to look for.

Here are some of the major ones:

  • Obsessively licking or biting themselves
  • Fur loss
  • Flea filth
  • Rubbing against objects (including you)
  • Licking the paws
  • Discolored skin
  • Red skin
  • Lesions
  • Flaking
  • Ear discharge or discolored wax
  • Shaking or pawing the head, face, or ears
  • Scabbing
  • Rashes
  • Swelling, pustules, pimples, lesions, or abscesses

If you notice any of the following, contact your veterinarian immediately.

How Do I Help My Itchy Pet?

Fortunately, there are numerous solutions, including medicine, antihistamines, steroids, antibiotics, and medicated shampoos. Your vet may also recommend an oatmeal soak or a specific oil, such as coconut or olive oil. However, it’s crucial to make sure you’re taking the right course. Otherwise, it could do more harm than good! To ensure a correct diagnosis, set up an appointment with your vet right away.

Conclusion: Parasites, allergies, infections, and stress can all be potential causes of itching in pets. While itching can be controlled, it is vital to see a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Has your furry friend been itching lately? Do you need to schedule grooming? Contact your Pooler, GA veterinary clinic right away!

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