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Ask the Vet - Why is my Pet so Itchy?

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Dr Deegan, DVM:

Dr. Deegan, DVM

So many of us love our furry (and not so furry) animal companions and work every day to provide them with the best care we can.


One seemingly unavoidable issue that can frustrate many of us is when our pets experience itchiness. Common signs can present as persistent scratching, biting, rubbing or even excessive grooming. While this might provide temporary relief, the itching can actually cause harm to your pet, all of which can be very distressing for pets and their owners. So, let's explore some common reasons why pets get itchy...


As with we humans, pets can develop allergies. They can be allergic to a myriad of things such as foods, pollens, soaps/perfumes and very commonly flea bites. Allergies can cause intense itching which is uncomfortable and may lead to skin infections. If you suspect your pet has allergies, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment options.


External parasites (such as fleas, ticks, and mites) bite your pet and feed on their blood. This will cause inflammation, redness and itching (pruritis). Regular preventive measures like flea and tick control, routine grooming/bathing and maintaining a clean living environment will help keep you and your pets free from these pests!


Animals can also develop bacterial or fungal infections on their skin, leading to itchiness and discomfort. These infections can occur when skin is damaged in different ways (scratches, etc), dried out and/or from a weakened immune system. If you notice persistent itching along with redness, pimples (pustules), hair loss (alopecia), scabbing/crusts or even a foul odor, it is important to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.


As mentioned, dry skin is another common cause of itchiness in pets. It can occur due to various factors such as in hot dry climates, too much bathing, using harsh shampoos or underlying health conditions. To combat dry skin, ensure your pet receives a well-balanced diet rich in essential fatty acids, provide them with a clean living environment and use products specifically designed for your pet’s needs.


Lastly, believe it or not, stress and anxiety can manifest as itchiness in pets. Changes in their routine, environment or the addition of a new family member can trigger stress, leading to excessive grooming and scratching which in turn damages the skin and can lead to infections. Maintaining a calm and secure environment for your pet, providing mental stimulation and considering behavior modification techniques can help alleviate stress-related itchiness.


Understanding the reasons behind your pet's itchiness is the first step towards finding a solution and providing them with the relief they need. Remember, each pet is unique and what works for one may not work for another. If your pet is experiencing persistent itchiness, it is always best to consult with a veterinarian. By working together, you can uncover the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan to ensure your animal companion remains healthy, comfortable, and itch-free.



Kind regards,

Dr. Zach Deegan, DVM

Veterinary Director of Training and Development


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