Constant itchiness can be a nuisance to pets. They hardly relax or sleep as they are always scratching, licking, or rolling on the rug due to itchiness. The cause of the scratching sometimes followed by chewing the fur and headshaking can be something obvious like fleas. Other times the cause is invisible to the naked eye.
In addition to the itching, you may notice the pet’s skin has some redness, is flaky or crusting and the area may have a thinned coat.
Parasites are the most common reason why your cat or dog is constantly scratching and licking themselves. They could be fleas, ticks, or mites. Ticks are easily visible or you can feel them if you run your hand across the pet’s fur, fleas often go unseen until they are quite a number.
In cats, it may even be harder to spot them as cats are always grooming themselves. So, just because you do not see live fleas on your pet does not mean they are flea-free.
Look out for flea dirt, this is usually speckling that looks like dirt on the pet’s coat but turns red when made wet as it is digested blood passed by the fleas.
Other parasites that can cause itchiness are mites, they are usually microscopic. An infection with mites is called mange.
Skin infection is another reason for itchiness in pets. Infection can occur on a single area like in the ears or between the toes or can occur in multiple areas or across the entire body. A physical examination by the vet will prescribe appropriate antibiotics, antifungal medication, or even anti-inflammatory drugs to treat the infection. On your part, there are a few measures you can routinely do to prevent your pet from itching.
First, you need to keep your pet on a year-round flea and tick control recommended by your veterinarian. Most of these products will also tackle the mites as well. If your pet has an allergy, follow the treatment plan given by your vet. Most allergies can be managed with appropriate treatment but stopping the treatment often leads to the condition worsening again. Also, regular bathing can help reduce the allergen loads on the skin and improve itch levels.
Lastly, compulsive scratching might be a response to fear, stress, or inadequate stimulation. Be sure your dog or cat is getting enough exercise, attention, and love.
Since there are many reasons why a pet chews or scratches its skin, be sure to check with a vet as soon as you notice a problem.
Maryanne is a pet owner. [email protected]