Itching, scratching, and licking are signs your pet has a skin condition. Here, our Lincoln vets discuss some common causes, symptoms, and treatments for itchy skin in pets.
Itching, Scratching & Irritability
Most cats and dogs will inevitably encounter itching at some point. Conditions that cause itchy skin can lead to relentless scratching, make your pet miserable, and may lead to infection. If you notice your pet seems consistently itchy, you should visit your veterinarian for dermatological care to ensure your pet receives the correct diagnoses and treatment. Although many skin conditions are nothing to worry about, there are some situations in which excessive scratching can be a sign of a more serious underlying disorder or disease.
Causes, Symptoms & Treatments
There are countless reasons why your companion may start to scratch, lick or bite at their fur but some of the more common causes of itchy skin include:
Bites from fleas and ear mites are one of the most common sources of itching in dogs and cats. With fleas, you may notice 'flea dirt' (feces) in your pet's fur as well as small red bumps on their skin, especially on their belly, at the base of their tail, or around their groin area.
In the case of ear mites, your pet may have debris that looks like coffee grounds in their ear canal accompanied by a dark-colored waxy secretion coming from the ear. They may also have red or inflamed ears from excessive scratching. If an infection is present you may notice a foul-smelling odor coming from your pet's ear.
If your pet is diagnosed as having a parasite infestation, your vet will provide you with the appropriate medications or pet-cleaning products to help rid your pet of their pests.
When it comes to some parasites, you can also take proactive action and provide your pet with preventive medication to stop infestations from occurring in the first place.
This common skin irritation in pets develops due to contact with certain substances, such as grass, dirt, and plants. Symptoms include itchy/dry or cracked skin, rashes, blisters, redness, or swelling.
Antihistamines or oatmeal baths are effective ways to alleviate this condition. Your vet may recommend a cortisone cream or other alternative depending on the severity of your pet's skin condition. If possible, the best thing you can do is remove the irritant from your pet's environment.
Hot spots can affect both dogs and cats but are more commonly seen in dogs. Hot spots are moist, inflamed, infected areas of skin that feel warm to the touch. Although they can form anywhere on the body, dogs tend to get hotspots on their chest, head, and hips while cats most often are affected on their tail, head, neck, or thighs.
Hot spots can be extremely itchy and you will likely notice hair loss caused by frequent licking or scratching. Treatment of hot spots typically involves keeping the area clean, medicated baths, and topical ointments and creams to prevent or treat secondary infections.
Dry skin in pets can have a variety of causes. In some cases, one of the above conditions (such as a food allergy) may be causing dry skin, but in other cases, it could be a sign of a more serious underlying disease. Medical disorders such as Cushing's disease and hypothyroidism can cause dry skin in pets.
These conditions need medical treatment so you should always err on the side of caution and schedule a vet appointment if you notice your pet has dry skin.
Treating Itchy Skin in Pets
Treatment of your pet's itchy skin depends on the underlying cause of the itchiness. When you bring your pet in for a dermatology appointment, our Lincoln veterinarians will examine your pet and run any necessary diagnostic tests to get to the bottom of your pet's condition. We will then work with you to create a customized treatment plan to help them feel better.
Treatments may include things such as:
- Medicated baths
- Creams or ointments
- Parasite treatment
- Dietary changes
- Environmental changes