Do you frequently notice your pet scratching furiously at itself? Many pet owners watch their dogs and cats constantly scratch without thinking much of it, but it could be more than just run-of-the-mill itchiness that your pet is dealing with. That’s why MissionVet recommends that pet owners bring their overly-itchy pets to a veterinary dermatologist for an exam.

Causes of Itchiness in Pets

While there can be a few different culprits for excessive itchiness, the cause of the constant scratching exhibited by pets can be elusive for many pet owners. Fortunately, approximately 95 percent of itchiness in our pets will be related to one of these five categories:

  • Bacterial infections: The number one cause of skin infection is bacteria. Bacterial infections often look like other skin conditions, which can make them difficult to diagnose. Lots of different types of bacteria can cause infection on your pet’s skin that leads to irritation and itchiness.
  • Parasite hypersensitivity: Fleas and ticks are common parasites on our pets. Cats and dogs can also get lice and mites that cause them to scratch a lot. Since these are often the easiest source to eliminate, your veterinarian will probably first look to see if parasites are present on the skin.
  • Atopy: If your pet is allergic to things in its environment, this is called atopic dermatitis. These allergies are non-food and non-flea related allergies. Common allergens include pollen, grass, dust, mildew, hair, and mold. Exposure to these allergens causes irritation that leads to scratching.
  • Food allergies: Dogs and cats, like humans, can be allergic to food products. While some pets will get rashes, hives, or swelling, others will experience food allergies by chewing, scratching, or rubbing against things.
  • Yeast infections: Yeast commonly lives on your pet’s skin and in his or her ears. When yeast is present in small numbers, your pet won’t notice. If there is an overabundance of yeast, however, your pet may become extremely itchy.

Other possible causes for extreme itchiness in your pet include fungal infections, mange, and endocrine diseases. While these aren’t as common as the conditions listed above, you may notice that a veterinary dermatologist wants to rule them out during an examination as well.

It is also possible for your pet to have more than one of these diagnoses at a time. It that is the case, you may need to treat more than one condition at a time. It is best to follow the advice of your veterinary dermatologist when it comes to treatment options.

Treating Itchiness in Pets

When it comes to treating your pet’s itchiness, the veterinary dermatologist’s recommendation will be based on the cause of the itching. After determining the source of the itchiness, your veterinarian will recommend one of the following options:

  • Keep your dog or cat away from any food items to which he or she is allergic. This may require a change in your pet’s diet to a different type of commercial food, prescription food, and possibly even homemade food.
  • Use anti-itch medications to reduce irritation and inflammation. Only use these if prescribed by a veterinarian. These types of medications can include antihistamines, glucocorticoids, cyclosporine, and veterinary specific drugs.
  • Remove parasites from your pet’s skin and fur. There are many different methods for flea and tick removal, so your veterinary dermatologist may be able to recommend one for your pet.
  • Put your pet in an Elizabethan collar, commonly referred to as a cone, to prevent further scratching of the eyes and face.

It is important that you follow the instructions given by your veterinary dermatologist. Using creams or medications that weren’t prescribed to your pet can lead to serious side effects and health problems.

Preventing Itchiness in Pets

You won’t be able to prevent all types of itchiness, but here are a few simple tips for preventing itching in those times when it is possible:

  • Use flea and tick preventatives as directed all year to prevent parasites from making your pet itch.
  • Bathe your pet with moisturizing shampoo and conditioner regularly to remove bacteria from the skin.
  • Dry your dog or cat off thoroughly any time he or she gets wet to prevent fungal infections.
  • Keep pets away from irritants that cause itchiness as often as possible. This may not always be possible with some allergens such as grass and dust.
  • Change your pet’s diet to prevent them from eating any ingredients that cause an allergic reaction.

When it comes to preventing itchiness in your pet, your veterinary dermatologist is an expert, and he or she will be able to tell you just what to do to prevent itchiness caused by an allergy or irritant to which your dog is sensitive. Working with a veterinary dermatologist is your pet’s best bet for being itch-free.

A veterinary dermatologist also treats skin conditions such as ringworm, mange, ear disease, crusty skin, hair loss, and skin infections, as well as skin cancers. At MissionVet the dermatology team performs intradermal skin testing, immunotherapy, skin biopsies, and more.