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Is Your Pet Itching?

March 1, 2024

Has your pet been itching a lot lately? Does your furry friend beg for you to scratch them and then act like they are in sheer bliss when you oblige? Itching can be a source of discomfort for both humans and animals. While the occasional itch is natural, constant itching means that something is amiss. This is true for both people and pets! Of course, before you can deal with the issue, you’ll need to find out why your animal companion is itching. A local Galena, MD veterinarian provides some insight on this below.

What Are Some Common Causes Of Itching In Pets?

Itchiness in pets can occur for a variety of reasons. Some are pretty easy to recognize. For example, if you find flea dirt—or worse, actual moving fleas—in your pet’s coat, you can obviously assume he or she has fleas. Other causes, however, may be more difficult to pinpoint.

Here are the most prevalent causes of itching in pets:


Skin infections can cause itchiness, redness, irritation, flaking, and other issues. Many of the possible options can be grouped into two categories.

Fungal Infections: Fungal infections take numerous forms, none of which are very pleasant. Dogs with skin folds or floppy ears are prone to yeast infections. Another probable cause is ringworm, which, despite the name, is actually a type of fungus. Pets with fungal infections may develop a rash, crusty or scaly skin, redness, and, in some circumstances, may emit unpleasant odors.

Topical medicine can effectively treat a variety of fungal infections. This, of course, 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, the issue may return.

Bacterial Infections: Bacterial infections are one of the most serious possible causes of itching. These are generally caused by wounds or scratches that break the skin, and rarely go away on their own. They can also result in peeling, redness, swelling, and pustules. 

If you suspect that your furry friend has a bacterial infection, seek immediate veterinary attention. Treatment options vary, but may include topical medicine, antibiotics, and other products.

Allergic Reactions

Do you have allergies? Even if you don’t personally, you likely know someone who does. Allergic reactions can be pretty unpleasant for both humans and pets. They can trigger a wide range of symptoms, including itching. Other indicators of a reaction include red, runny eyes, sneezing, snoring, skin irritation, and upset stomach.

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 found in chicken or beef—as an ‘invader’ and responds a bit too strongly. The difficult thing about food allergies is often identifying the precise allergen. You may need to put your dog or cat on a very bland diet until the symptoms subside. Then, you can start reintroducing things one by one to determine what causes the reaction. This should only be done under the supervision of your Galena, MD  veterinarian.

Contact Dermatitis. As the name implies, contact dermatitis is a skin irritation that is induced by direct touch with a substance or material. It is frequently associated with red, inflammatory, and/or flaky skin. Your four-legged pal may also experience hair loss, skin discoloration, and tiny pimples or pustules.

The list of likely culprits is rather long. Contact dermatitis can be caused by the following:

  • Soaps
  • Plants 
  • Detergents
  • Mulch 
  • Shampoo Conditioner
  • Rugs 
  • Fabrics
  • Plastics 
  • Medications
  • Chemicals, such as fertilizers for lawns and gardens

Contact dermatitis can cause considerable discomfort in pets. 

Dry And/Or Irritated Skin

Itching in pets isn’t always caused by complex medical conditions. Sometimes, it’s just dry skin! Environmental factors frequently come into play here. Winter’s dry air often results in dry, itchy skin in both humans and animals. Using harsh grooming products can also result in this. Pets have extremely sensitive skin, so you should never use products made for humans on them.

Make sure your pet is well hydrated. A healthy diet is also vital, and can help keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy and nourished.

Parasitic Infestations

Fleas are, of course, the primary villains here. Ticks are sometimes the culprit, though. While tick bites do not often itch, certain pets react to tick saliva. Remember that fleas and ticks can both transmit dangerous diseases and carry other parasites. Keep up with your furry friend’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 called scabies—in dogs and cats. Unfortunately, humans can contract them. Next, we have 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 four-legged friend keeps shaking their head.

Emotional Distress (Boredom, Stress, Loneliness, Etc.) 

Animals, like humans, can suffer from stress and anxiety. Fido and Fluffy may not be concerned about inflation or a leaking roof, but they can become quite anxious about things. Major changes are a major source of stress for pets. 

Other options include:

  • Boredom
  • Stress
  • Loneliness
  • Discomfort
  • Tension With Other Pets
  • Separation From Prior Owner
  • Age-Related Cognitive Issues
  • Fearfulness

Pets often over groom to cope with stress. This is comparable to some nervous tics in humans, such as nail biting or leg bouncing. Overgrooming in pets can cause hair loss, making them more prone to skin infections. Kitties can react by undergrooming, which can also cause problems.

If your veterinarian does not find any medical problems, this could be the issue. Ask your Galena, MD vet for specific advice.

What Do I Do If My Pet Is Itching?

While home cures, such as an oatmeal soak, may be helpful in some circumstances, we strongly advise you to call your veterinarian immediately and get a proper diagnosis. Itching is not always a medical emergency, but there is a risk of infection if the problem persists. Plus, your pet will be suffering until they obtain relief!

How Can I Keep My Pet from Itching?

Many things can assist to relieve itching in pets. Medications, such as antihistamines, steroids, antibiotics, and medicated shampoos are some of the available treatment options. Your veterinarian may also recommend an oatmeal bath or a special oil, like coconut or olive oil. Keeping up with cleaning, preventative care, grooming, and veterinary care are also important.

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

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

Here are some of the major ones:

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

If you spot any of these, contact your Galena, MD veterinarian right away.

Conclusion: itching in pets can be caused by many things, including parasites, allergies, infections, and stress. While itching can be managed, you’ll need to schedule a veterinary appointment for a proper diagnosis.

Has your pet been itchy recently? Do you have to schedule grooming? Contact us at your Galena, MD veterinary clinic now!

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