Why is My Pet Scratching?

In veterinary practice every day we see a variety of problems presented to us about your pets. One of the more common problems or complaints we hear about is, “Doc, why is my dog scratching? I don’t see any fleas and besides, I have given Muffy a flea bath and applied some of that topical stuff…but she still itches!”

While fleas can cause the “itchies” and sometimes severe skin disease, they are only one of many reasons or conditions that can cause pruritis (fancy term for itchy). Other bug critters can also lead to skin irritations including mites, lice, chiggers and, occasionally, immature worms migrating under the skin called cutaneous larval migrans. Yuck!

Other types of allergic diseases that can cause scratching include food intolerances, or contact allergies to certain fibers, detergents, or chemicals. Inhalant allergic disease to different pollens such as ragweed (allergy sufferers know there are many more on this list) can cause problems for pets, just as they do their human owners.

In addition to the itching, a secondary superficial skin infection can exacerbate the itch. Your pet may also have a “greasy or wax-like” feel to the skin with an odor which could well be a yeast infection. There are also auto-immune diseases associated with skin disease and scratching. Believe it or not, your dog may be licking an area of their body frequently due to a behavioral problem. This can be in a local area (acral lick dermatitis) or more generalized, almost like an obsessive compulsive disorder. There are other reasons for pruritis as well and the list continues.

If your dog is scratching excessively, while flea allergies might be suspected,  there is a long laundry list of other reasons that your dog is uncomfortable. Through steps such as a discussion of your pet’s medical history, diagnostic testing, and possibly even a referral to a veterinary dermatologist, your pet can become more comfortable, and sometimes cured of his scratching. While your dog is the patient in this case, you, as the owner, need to be patient and understand there is not always a complete cure, especially in the case of inhalant allergies. However, your pet’s condition can be dramatically improved and the scratching controlled.

Work with your veterinary team to find out exactly what’s causing the itching. And feel free to post your comments our questions below. I’m happy to help.

Editor’s Note: If your pet does have fleas and ticks, use SENTRY Fiproguard. It starts to kills fleas and ticks in just 5 minutes!

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