Have you ever heard your dog’s collar jingling in the night as they franctically try to “itch that spot,” or perhaps you notice your pet obscessively licking on their paws, or even their belly? Or have you seen your cat lick all the hair off their belly? Although early on you may not have concerns about your pet’s “pruitis” or “itching” but if left untreated, itching can lead to secondary infections in the skin, including “hot spots” which are areas of inflamed and oozing skin.
Itching, unfortunately, is a symptom of a problem in your pet. Pets will itch for many reasons.
Before I begin to diagnose a pet’s itching problem, I ask a few questions.
First of all, does your pet itch or lick all the time or just during certain times of the year? And did the problem just start or has it been going on for a period of time?
Or has your pet been around other pets that are itching? These are all crucial pieces of the puzzle as we try to diagnose your pet’s itching.
Although there are innumberable reasons for “pruitis” or “itching “ in pets, I will list the most common reasons I see here in the Vail Valley.
- Diet: Pets can develop allergies to the food they are on, or new foods. Most commonly, pets will react to the “protein” source in the food, for example, it could be chicken, lamb, beef, or fish that your pet is allergic to. In addition, pets can also less frequently develop allergies to the grains in food. The hallmark sign of food allergies is your pet itches year round rather than “seasonal.” Ask your vet about a “food trial” with hypoallergenic diets to help in the diagnosis of food allergies.
- Parasites: Pets are very prone to parasitic problems of the skin. Pets that are active outside hiking can often pick up “ectoparasites” such as ticks, fleas and lice! Young pets can have sporadic hair loss due to “mange,” or “demodex” which is also a skin parasite.
- Allergies: If your pet itches seasonally, this is often due to a “contact allergy” or “inhalant” allergy which is an allergy to pollens, grasses, trees and the many other “allergens” seen during certain seasons of the year.
- Infections: your pet can be prone to many infectious agents that can cause itching including bacterial infections, yeast or “malassezia, and ringworm!
- Metabolic disease: In older pets, many diseases such as thyroid disease, and adrenal gland disease can cause skin issues including hair loss, pigmentation, and thinning hair coat. Older pets are prone to metabolic diseases which result in itching and scratching incessantly.
In summary, there are innumberable reasons for “pruitis” and itching/licking in pets. It is important that your veterinarian is alerted to the problem and can examine your pet, peform a detailed skin exam , and even perform higher levels of diagnostics such as allergey testing, comprehensive blood profiles to check for internal metabolic diseases, skin scrapings for ecotparasites, fungal cultures and even biopsies! They key is to be proactive about your pet’s itching before more serious conditions occur !