Why is my pet itchy? 

  • Diet 
  • Parasites 
  • Environment 
  • Pain 
  • Stress 

If you’ve noticed your dog or cat is always scratching, do you know what it is that makes them itch? At Brown’s we are asked several times a week for help with itching pets, sometimes to the point of desperation! The first thing to do is find out why your pet is itching, and then we can figure out how to help, by treating both the symptoms and the cause. There are five main umbrella causes for itching, although it is possible (if you’re unlucky) for there to be more than one! 

We will go into more detail on all of these topics so if you see one that resonates, watch this space! 

Diet 

The first thing we will always suggest to look at is your pet’s diet. Is it high quality protein based? Are there a mixture of whole foods present? Do they get “naughty” treats which are highly processed or sugary? These are all things that are important to consider when looking at your pet’s food, and don’t forget the treats! Even if you are feeding raw, a toast crust every morning or a roast dinner every Sunday is going to affect your dog’s skin condition. 

The pet food market for dogs has improved massively in the last few years but we believe there is still a long way to go in terms of cat products. Cats are what’s known as an obligate carnivore meaning they need to eat practically all meat and fish to survive. It’s because cats can’t make taurine, which affects their eyesight and heart, and meat and fish has it in abundance so carbohydrate and sugar heavy foods can wreak havoc with their skin- and kidneys- even more so than dogs. Candida, or yeast infections, are the most severe skin issues caused by diet. Candida is incredibly itchy and can cause further issues of stress and discomfort in your pet. 

Parasites 

If you’ve been following our pharmacy project both in store and online, you’ll know that we’ve been waging war on fleas and worms, ready for flea season this spring. If your pet is itching it’s always worth checking for fleas, even if you haven’t physically seen any. If you do spot them, treat your pet and house immediately or you could face an infestation. 

Arguably just as nasty, are mites- dust, mange, and storage mites. Your pet could pick up mange mites from other infected animals and the environment. They will be either sarcoptic (burrowing under the skin) or demodex (orange clusters at the base of the hair follicles.) Dust and storage mites are found around the home. Storage mites are often overlooked; they are found in dry/dusty food containers and treat tins, and itching will be localised to the muzzle. House dust mites are the most common by a long way, and the itching will either be all over or localised to the parts of the body that make contact with the floor. 

Pain

Pain can manifest in many ways in dogs and cats but itching, scratching, and licking are some of the most common signs. If your pet is biting and scratching in a specific area, examine the skin and ensure it’s clear of injury and foreign objects such as thorns. 

If itching is local to the mouth specifically, or your pet is rubbing their mouth against their paws or the floor, there may be dental issues. Check your pet’s teeth or ask your vet, and consider any other symptoms such as reluctance to eat food or bad breath. 

Itching and nibbling around the joints is a telltale sign of pain, especially in older pets and more susceptible breeds such as Retrievers and German Shepherds. Keep an eye on your pet’s coat too- is it more coarse or twisting in a different direction around the area? The muscle could be tense underneath due to discomfort. 

Stress 

A massive subject in itself, stress and anxiety is becoming more and more recognised among pet owners. It can be very subtle and difficult to spot, especially in cats (who are difficult enough to understand at the best of times!) Stress is mainly from external factors which makes it hard to control, but not impossible. 

Licking and nibbling is a way for pets to relieve stress and calm themselves down. Using a head cone or chastising your pet for licking will only aggravate the symptoms here, so consider calming remedies such as Dorwest Valerian Compound or Pet Remedy Diffusers. There are also a variety of soothing techniques to use to comfort your pet, such as activity toys and providing them a calm and safe space they can escape to. At Brown’s we find this type of issue more around Bonfire Night, but it is by no means exclusive to fireworks and loud noises. 

Environment 

The most prevalent skin allergy is Atopic Dermatitis, which essentially means the body is having a reaction to inhaled allergens, such as pollen. If you’ve ever experienced hay fever then you will be familiar with the sensation; runny nose and eyes, sneezing, and incessant itching! This type of skin problem will be seasonal when trees and grass are pollinating. 

Other inhaled allergens can be all year round such as mould spores, indoor air fresheners, washing powders, and materials such as feathers or wool. Atopic allergies will be expressed the most ‘obviously’ on the skin. There will be itching all over, inflamed red skin, and possibly a rash. 

Again, we will be visiting all of these topics in detail so if you have an itchy dog or cat, keep an eye out for more information or come and see us in store.