When Itchy Met Scratchy

posted: by: Wellington Veterinary Hospital Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

As all pet owners know, our cats and dogs scratch from time to time, but when this behavior leads to self-trauma, discomfort, and a lack of sleep (on your part as well as your pets’) then it is time to visit your friendly neighborhood veterinarian to solve the mystery of the itch!
Here are some of the most common reasons your pet may be itchy:
  • Food allergies
  • Environmental allergies (atopy)
  • Ectoparasites (e.g. fleas, lice, sarcoptic mange, demodex)
  • Infections (e.g. bacterial, fungal)
  • Behavioral
Come prepared to the appointment with answers to these common questions your veterinary team may ask you:
  • What is the current diet (bring the food along to your appointment!) and for how long has this diet been fed.  Don’t forget about the treats too!
  • Does this itchiness follow a seasonal pattern (e.g. when did it start?)
  • Any change in your pet’s environment?
  • Do any other pets or family member show any symptoms?  (for example, red bites near your ankles may represent fleas in the home!)
  • What previous treatments have been tried, and if any, how did your pet’s level of itchiness respond?
Your vet may want to run some tests to see if they can figure out an underlying cause to your pets itchiness.  The following may be discussed:
  • Dietary trials (e.g. hypoallergenic foods)
  • Skin scrapings/plucks to look for parasites
  • Skin cultures  to investigate underlying infections
  • Skin biopsies via skin samples
  • General blood work to look into any underlying disorders contributing to the itchiness
As you can see, there are many potential causes of an itchy pet.  In many circumstances, the source of the itchiness is unknown at first, but with appropriate observation, diagnostic tests, and dedication, you and your veterinary health team will crack the mystery of the itch one cat or dog at a time.