Updated: Apr 6
Is your scratching pet keeping you up all night? However, face-rubbing, foot-licking and fur-plucking can be more than pesky aggravations.
Itching causes irritation, irritation causes injury, and injury causes isolation," says Dr. Goldstein, DVM. "An injuried animal is afraid and often seeks isolation," he says.
Chronic itchiness may lead to fear, anxiety and stress. In other words, itching isn't a disease; however, itchiness can point to potential health issues that may require medical treatment.
SKIN: The skin is the first line of defense against the outside world. Overall itching can be linked to skin parasites, food ingredients or inhaled substances (such as dust or pollen).
The location of the itch may point to the cause. For instance, back-end itching (tail) generally points to fleas. Face-rubbing often means a food allergies. And foot-licking may indicate pollen or an outdoor allergen.
Besides fleas, there're skin parasites that cannot be seen with the naked eye - but can drive our pets crazy. Sand fleas are ramped in Texas and mimic the signs of regular fleas. Skin mites can cause mange that leads to hair loss and smelly discharge. A fungus can cause ringworm and bald spots. Some of these issues can be passed back and forth in your pack making it even more difficult to treat.
EARS: Infestations of parasites or foreign bodies (such as grass seed) can turn ears into a itchy nightmare. In addition, infections from yeast or bacteria can lead to many sleepless nights. Ear infections are painful and often smelly.
Think of the agony you feel when you can't reach an itchy mosquito bite on your back? Now, imagine a colony of mites setting up camp in your ear! This is the misery your bestie experiences.
HIDDEN PAIN: Pain can prompt signs of itchiness. An arthritic pet may lick achy joints to help relieve the pain. A pet experiencing internal pain may lick their stomachs. Hair loss or fur barbering caused my excessive licking may point to more serious issues.
Face-rubbing on furniture or carpet may indicate itchy ears, but it may also point to tooth or mouth problems. Dogs and cats cannot tell is when or where it hurts; it's up to us to read the signs and get veterinary assistance to help determine the causation.
Itchiness can lead to fear and pain. Even when the culprit is a single chigger bite, it can lead to larger issues. Constant irritations can cause an animal to be irritable and/or stressed. Pain can make a pet afraid to be touched for fear of making the pain worse.
Self-soothing can cause injuries. Emotional distress doesn't subside with a cure. It can lead to patterns of mutilations with attempts by animals to self-soothe. When Constant scratching injuries the skin; pets become increasingly stressed. When stress-scratching combines with physical symptoms; it can become a puzzle to diagnose the underlying issues (and thus become a chicken or egg puzzle to solve).
Finally, cats and dogs remember negative experiences long after the itch has been cured. Some dogs may even show signs of fear and/or aggression when someone approaches their ears. This is why it is important to diagnose and treat the cause of itchiness as soon as possible.
SIX WAYS TO HELP YOUR POOCH
Prevent Pests: Cats groom away most of their fleas. However, dogs may react to a single flea bite. Even if you do not see pests, treating your pets with safe preventive treatments can go a long way towards averting itchiness.
Rinse Away Allergens: Pet fur acts like a dust mop; it attracts allergens and holds them close to the skin. Rinsing pets once a week can help limit pollen contact. Soak Fido's feet in warm water daily to prevent the foot pads and webbing from absorbing and reacting to grass allergens.
Bathe with Aveeno: Colloidal Oatmeal soothes itchy skin by helping to relieve skin inflammation. To soothe between baths, put colloidal oatmeal into a clean sock, then run warm water over the sock. Use the wet sock to treat irritated skin.
Offer a Supplement: Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids can help reduce itching and inflammation. These are available via your veterinarian. Ask your veterinarian for dosage recommendations. A zinc supplement can help with skin irritations. Ask your veterinarian if chelated zinc may help your pooch. CBD can help with inflammation cause by itchiness; however, it will not help the cause, it will just treat the symptoms. In addition, itching associated with seasonal allergies can be treated naturally with Quercetin (a natural allergy supplement).
Cool with Calendula: The herb Calendula can quickly soothe irritated skin. You can find Calendula Tinctures at health food stores. Mix 10-15 drops into a clean 4-oz squirt bottle; then spray affected areas to reduce itchiness. Only use tinctures that are alcohol free to avoid burning skin. Alcohol products may also be harmful to pets.
Switch Foods: Pets with food sensitivities may be helped by amending their diet. It can be tricky figuring out which ingredients are causing your pet problems. However, it is best done with veterinarian supervision.