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A Bellaire, TX Veterinarian Weighs In About Itchiness In Pets 
March 1, 2024

Do you often find your furry buddy scratching against things? Does your dog or cat beg for you to scratch them, and then act like they’re in sheer bliss when you oblige? While the occasional itchy spot is fairly normal, persistent itchiness can be a sign of trouble. A local Bellaire, TX vet offers some insight into this below.

How Can I Stop My Pet From Itching?

There are many treatment options that can help here, such as 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. Before you can help your pet stop itching, you’ll need to figure out exactly why they’re itching in the first place. You’ll need to make an appointment with your Bellaire, TX veterinarian, so your pet can be properly diagnosed and treated. To ensure accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for your pet’s itchiness, consider utilizing ‘Veterinary Diagnostics’ services, offered by specialists equipped to identify complex pet health issues.

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

Fluffy and Fido can’t tell you when it’s time for them to go to the doctor, so it’s important to watch for signs that something is wrong. In this case, 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:

  • Obsessively licking or biting an area
  • Scratching/Chewing themselves
  • Discolored Skin
  • Flaking
  • Fur loss
  • Flea dirt
  • Licking the paws
  • Red skin
  • Lesions
  • Discharge or dark/discolored wax from the ears
  • Shaking/Pawing at the head, face, or ears,
  • Scabbing
  • Swelling
  • Pustules, pimples, lesions, or abscesses

Contact your Bellaire, TX veterinarians right away if you notice any of these things. For more detailed insights into how changes throughout the year can affect your pet’s health and behavior, check out ‘Fluffy’s Year In Review‘.

What Are The Main Causes Of Itching In Pets?

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

Here are the most common reasons for itching in pets:

Fungal Infections: Fungal infections come in many forms, none of which are exactly pleasant. Dogs with skin folds or floppy ears—such as Shih Tzus or Beagles—are often susceptible to yeast infections in those little crevasses. Another possible cause is ringworm, which despite the name, is actually a fungus. 

Many fungal infections can be cleared up with topical medication. However, these will need to be prescribed by your vet. You’ll also need to be diligent about cleaning and treatment, to ensure that the issue is truly defeated.

Bacterial Infections: Bacterial infections may be one of the most dangerous causes. They’re often a result of wounds or scratches that tear the skin. These can also cause peeling, redness, swelling, and pustules, which generally do not clear up on their own. Treatment options vary, but may include topical medication, antibiotics, or other products.

Parasites: Fleas are, of course, the main culprit here, though ticks are sometimes to blame. Although tick bites don’t normally itch, some pets do react to their saliva. It’s important to remember that both fleas and ticks can carry dangerous diseases, as well as other parasites. Keep up with preventative care!

Fleas and ticks aren’t the only possibilities. Mites can also cause itching. Sarcoptic mites are responsible for mange—or scabies—in both dogs and cats. (Unfortunately, humans can also contract them.) Next there are ear mites, which, as you can probably guess, take up residence in pets’ ear canals, causing serious itching. You may notice your pet persistently shaking their head. Demodex mites burrow under the skin

Stress: Just like people, pets can suffer from stress and anxiety. Major changes are one common stressor in pets. Boredom, loneliness, discomfort, and friction with other pets can also upset our four-legged buddies. Many of our furry friends cope with their distress by overgrooming themselves. That can lead to hair loss, which then leaves pets susceptible to skin infections.

If your veterinarian gives your pet the all-clear as far as medical reasons, stress could very well be the culprit.  Try things that will help your pet relax. Toys and playtime are often the top recommendations. Small comforts, like beds and, for kitties, boxes, can also help. Medication and behavior modification may also help. Of course, you’ll also need to pay a lot of attention to your fuzzy pal, and make sure they feel loved and safe. 

Allergies: Allergies are just as miserable for Fido and Fluffy as they are for us. They can cause a slew of reactions, including itchiness; red, runny eyes; sneezing; snoring; skin irritation; and upset stomachs. Some pets develop more serious symptoms, such as seizures. 

As with people, allergies in pets can be grouped into a few categories. Seasonal allergies typically involve things like grass, pollen, certain plants or leaves, mold, and dust mites. Food allergies 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 an immune response against it. 

The tricky part with food allergies is often narrowing down the exact allergen. If food allergies are suspected, you may need to put your pet on a very bland diet until symptoms resolve. Then, start reintroducing ingredients one by one, to see what sparks the reaction. This must be done under the supervision of your veterinarian.

Dry Skin: Not every possible cause for itching in pets is a complex medical issue. Sometimes, it’s simply dry skin! Environmental conditions often come into play here. Dry air often causes dry, itchy skin in both people and pets. Using the wrong grooming products can also make Fido and Fluffy itchy. 

Making sure your furry pal is staying properly hydrated is very important. A good diet is also crucial. For instance, foods that are high in fatty acids can keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy and well-nourished. Ask your vet for recommendations.

Contact Dermatitis: Contact dermatitis is caused by direct contact with a specific substance or material. It’s often accompanied by red, inflamed, and/or flaky skin. You may also notice fur loss, skin discoloration, and small pimples or pustules on your pet’s skin. 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 veterinarians right away.

Here are a few of the things that can cause contact dermatitis:

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

This isn’t necessarily a medical emergency, but there is a chance of infection if the issue persists. Plus, your furry buddy will be quite miserable until they get relief!

Conclusion: Itchiness in dogs and cats can be caused by a variety of different things, from parasites to allergies to stress. Before you can treat the issue, you’ll need to take your pet to the vet for a proper diagnosis. 

Our Advice on Itchiness In Pets in 2024

Can itchiness be a symptom of an underlying metabolic disorder or hormonal imbalance in pets?

Yes, itchiness can be a symptom of underlying metabolic disorders or hormonal imbalances in pets. Conditions such as hypothyroidism, where the thyroid gland is underactive, and Cushing’s disease, which involves excessive cortisol production, can cause skin issues and persistent itching. These disorders affect the skin’s health, leading to symptoms like dryness, hair loss, and recurrent infections, which contribute to itchiness. If a pet’s itching persists despite treatment for common causes, it is essential to consult a veterinarian to rule out and manage potential metabolic or hormonal conditions.

How can pet owners safely and effectively provide relief to their pets while awaiting a veterinary appointment for itchiness?

Pet owners can safely provide relief to their pets by using cool compresses or oatmeal baths to soothe irritated skin. Applying vet-approved topical treatments, such as hydrocortisone sprays or creams, can reduce itching and inflammation. Ensure the pet is not exposed to potential allergens or irritants, and keep their environment clean and comfortable. Regularly checking for parasites and maintaining good hygiene also helps. Avoid using human medications or over-the-counter products without veterinary guidance, as they can be harmful. Consulting with a veterinarian remains essential for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Are there any long-term consequences of untreated or chronic itchiness in pets?

Untreated or chronic itchiness in pets can lead to severe long-term consequences. Persistent scratching and biting can cause skin infections, open sores, and scabbing. This may lead to secondary bacterial or fungal infections. Chronic itchiness can also result in hair loss, thickened skin, and hyperpigmentation. Additionally, the constant discomfort can affect a pet’s quality of life, leading to increased stress and behavioral issues. If left untreated, the underlying cause of the itchiness, such as allergies or infections, can worsen, potentially leading to more serious health complications.

Can certain medications cause itchiness as a side effect in pets?

Certain medications can cause itchiness as a side effect in pets. Common culprits include antibiotics, which may lead to allergic reactions and some flea and tick preventatives that can cause skin irritation. Additionally, medications like steroids or hormonal treatments might cause changes in skin sensitivity, leading to itchiness. If a pet begins to itch after starting a new medication, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian promptly. The vet may adjust the dosage, switch medications, or provide additional treatments to alleviate the itching and ensure the pet’s comfort and safety.

How often should pet owners bathe their dogs or cats to maintain healthy skin and coat?

Pet owners should bathe their dogs every 4-6 weeks to maintain healthy skin and coat, depending on the breed, activity level, and skin condition. Cats typically require fewer baths, often only a few times a year, as they groom themselves regularly. However, long-haired cats or those with skin issues may need more frequent bathing. Always use pet-specific shampoos and consult with a veterinarian for personalized recommendations based on the pet’s specific needs and health conditions. Overbathing can strip natural oils, so maintaining a balanced bathing schedule is essential.

Have you noticed your pet itching a lot lately? Is your furry pal due for parasite control or an exam? Contact us, your Bellaire, TX veterinary clinic, today!