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Potential Causes Of Itchiness In Pets

March 1, 2024

Do you frequently find your furry friend scratching against things? Does your dog or cat ‘ask’ you to scratch them, and then close their eyes in sheer bliss when you do? Itching can be a huge nuisance for people and pets. While the occasional itch is normal, constant itching indicates a problem. Of course, before you can solve the issue, you’ll need to determine why your pet is itching. A local Lowell, MI veterinarian provides some insight on this below.

What Causes Itchiness In Animals?

Pets can get itchy for many different reasons. Some are pretty easy to recognize. For example, if you notice flea dirt or, even worse, actual fleas, in your pet’s coat, then it is probably safe to say that your furry friend is carrying unwanted hitchhikers. Other issues, however, may be more difficult to classify.

Here are the most prevalent causes of itching in pets:

Parasites: Parasites are not at the very top of this list due to their popularity. Actually, they are one of the most common sources of itching. Ticks can also be the culprits. While tick bites do not often itch, certain pets do react to tick saliva. Remember that fleas and ticks can both transmit deadly infections and carry other parasites. Keep up with your pet’s preventative care!

We’re not done with parasites yet! Mites can also cause irritation. There are various types of mites. Sarcoptic mites cause mange—also known as scabies—in dogs and cats. Unfortunately, people can also contract them. Next, there are Demodex mites, which burrow beneath the skin.  Ear mites, as you might expect, live in pets’ ear canals and cause severe irritation. You may notice that your pet keeps shaking their head if they have ear mites.

Stress: Animals, like humans, can experience stress and anxiety. Fido and Fluffy may not be concerned about inflation or car repairs, but they definitely can get nervous and stressed. Major changes are often a source of anxiety for pets. Boredom, loneliness, discomfort, and conflict with other pets are also possibilities. 

Many pets cope with distress by overgrooming. This is comparable to obsessive behaviors in humans, such as nail biting or leg bouncing. Overgrooming in pets can cause hair loss, making them more prone to skin infections. Kitties also sometimes react by under-grooming, which can also cause problems.

If your Lowell, MI veterinarian clears your pet for medical reasons, you may need to look into soothing your pet’s stress. Toys and playtime can help a lot with this. Ask your vet for advice.

Fungal Infections: Next on the list are fungal illnesses. These take numerous forms, none of which are particularly pleasant. Dogs with skin folds or floppy ears are prone to yeast infections. Another possible cause is ringworm, a fungus. You may also notice a rash, crusty or scaly skin, redness, and, in some circumstances, an unpleasant odor, with this one.

Topical medicine can effectively treat many fungal infections. However, this must be prescribed by your veterinarian. Book an appointment right away. You’ll also need to be vigilant about cleaning and treatment to ensure that the problem is completely resolved. Otherwise, it may just rear its head again in a few weeks or months.

Bacterial Infections: While all of the above reasons are concerning, bacterial infections may be one of the most dangerous options, if not the most dangerous, on the list. These rarely go away on their own. They are generally caused by wounds or scratches that penetrate the skin. These can also result in peeling, redness, swelling, and pustules. If you suspect that your furry friend has a bacterial infection, seek veterinary attention immediately. Treatment options vary, but may include topical medicine, antibiotics, and other products.

Allergies: Allergies are unpleasant for both humans and pets. They can elicit a wide range of symptoms, including itching. Other indicators of a reaction include red, runny eyes, sneezing, snoring, skin irritation, and upset stomach.

As with humans, allergies in pets can be classified into several groups.

  • Seasonal allergies are often associated with grass, pollen, and specific plants or leaves. Mold and dust mites may also cause allergic reactions in pets. 
  • Food allergies are a completely different ballgame. These occur when a pet’s body recognizes a specific type of food—typically a protein, which can be found in foods like chicken or beef—as an ‘invader’ and responds accordingly. In many cases, the difficult thing about food allergies is determining the precise allergen. You may need to feed your animal bland food until symptoms improve. Then, begin reintroducing things one by one to determine what causes the reaction. This should only be done under the supervision of your veterinarian.
  • Contact Dermatitis. As the name implies, contact dermatitis is a skin irritation induced by direct touch with a substance or material. It is frequently associated with red, inflammatory, and/or flaky skin. You may also notice fur loss, skin discoloration, and tiny pimples or pustules. Contact dermatitis can be caused by several things, including mulch, shampoo, plants,  detergents, conditioner, plastics,  medications, soaps, rugs, fabrics, chemicals, and fertilizers for lawns and gardens.

Dry Skin: Not all reasons for itching in pets are complex medical conditions or allergies. Sometimes, it’s merely dry skin! Environmental factors can definitely come into play here. Winter’s dry air frequently produces dry, itchy skin in both humans and animals. 

Make sure your pet is well hydrated. A healthy diet is also vital here. Fatty acid-rich foods can help maintain your pet’s skin and coat healthy and nourished.

Medical Issues: Itching can also be caused by medical issues. These may range from hormonal imbalances to thyroid disorders, or even reactions to vaccines. 

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

Your pet can’t tell you when it’s time to take them to the Lowell, MI animal clinic, so look for symptoms that show more than just a random ache. Persistent itching is the most obvious indicator, but there are other signs to check for as well.

Here are some of the major ones:

  • Obsessively licking or biting a certain spot
  • Scratching/chewing themselves
  • Fur loss
  • Flea filth
  • Red skin
  • Ear discharge or discolored wax
  • Shaking or pawing at the head, face, or ears
  • Licking the paws
  • Discolored skin
  • Flaking and Scabbing
  • Swelling
  • Pustules, pimples, lesions, or abscesses

If you detect any of the following, contact your veterinarian right away.

 Itching can cause considerable discomfort in pets. We strongly advise you to call your Lowell, MI veterinarian immediately. While itching is not always a medical emergency, there is a risk of infection if the problem persists. Plus, your pet will be quite miserable until they get relief! While home cures, such as an oatmeal soak, may be helpful in some circumstances, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis so you can ensure you’re using the right treatment methods. Doing the wrong thing may make matters worse! 

Conclusion: A variety of factors can cause itching in pets, including parasites, allergies, and stress. While itching can be managed, it is critical to visit your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.

Has your pet been itchy recently? Do you have to schedule grooming? Contact your Lowell, MI veterinarian clinic now! We are always happy to help!