Slurp … slurp … slurp … 

Does this noise drive you crazy all night long? Add the non-stop licking and chewing to the shaking of your bed as your pet scratches at her itchy paws, ears, and belly, and it’s no wonder you’re tired and irritable, your dog is exhausted and miserable, and no one is getting any sleep. You’ve tried antihistamines, cutting corn and grains from the diet, and oatmeal baths, so why is your pet still so itchy? 

Pets suffer from itchy skin for many reasons, and making an accurate diagnosis is essential for proper, effective treatment. Here are six of the most common reasons your pet may have itchy skin.

#1: Fleas

Fleas can be a common culprit behind your pet’s itchy skin. Many cats and dogs suffer from flea allergy dermatitis, which is caused by a hypersensitivity to flea bites. Pets who are allergic to fleas can break out in an itchy, inflamed mess from a single flea bite. Classic flea allergy signs include scabs on the skin and hair loss on the pet’s back half, starting at the tail base. As your pet loses hair, you may see the fleas crawling on the skin. You may also notice them on the belly  or groin, which have less hair. 

Breaking the flea life cycle is critical to treating flea allergies and requires year-round quality flea prevention for every pet in your home. And, treatment doesn’t stop at pets—you must also treat your home and environment with a long-lasting product that kills fleas in every stage of life. Antibiotics, medications, or medicated shampoos may also be needed to help your pet who is suffering from flea allergies.

You can, however, prevent your pet from becoming a flea-bite victim by sticking to a year-round flea prevention regimen. 

#2: Allergies

Pets can be allergic to many things, including trees, grass, weeds, food, mold, pollen, dust, and fleas—essentially anything they contact. The most common cause of allergies in pets (over 90%) are environmental allergens (trees, weeds, grasses, etc.), which are here to stay year-round in south Florida. In pets, allergies tend to manifest as itchy skin and skin and ear infections, rather than the sneezing and watery eyes seen in people. Antihistamines, such as Benadryl, are often ineffective in combating pets’ allergic reactions, which appear as skin issues, because they work to dry up watery eyes and runny noses. 

To effectively manage your pet’s allergies, our team will first determine what causes the allergic reaction. Many pets are allergic to multiple allergens, making diagnosis difficult. If your pet is allergic to an ingredient in the food, an elimination diet trial will be necessary. For pets who have environmental allergies, we will perform tests to determine which tree, mold, pollen, or other allergen causes the itchy skin. Once we’ve found your pet’s allergy triggers, we can form a treatment protocol, which may include medications that target solely the itch response, such as Cytopoint, medicated shampoos, immunotherapy, prescription diet, or fatty acid skin supplements.

And, this video of Lola, who also suffered from allergies and skin infections.

#3: Dry skin

Although we seldom need to crank up the heat or fire up the wood stove during our winters, our pets can still have dry skin. Dull hair coats and dry, flaky skin can be caused by poor or unbalanced nutrition, not necessarily the effects of harsh heating. Soothing shampoos, proper grooming, and supplements are highly effective in combating dry, irritated skin. Also, increasing your pet’s fatty acid intake and providing a well-balanced diet will help them turn over a new leaf (i.e., a new layer of healthy skin cells). 

#4: Infection

When pets suffer from itchy skin, they scratch and chew and damage the epithelial layer, and opportunistic bacteria, yeast, or fungal organisms then take root and overwhelm the body’s defenses. Although low numbers of yeast are naturally found on the skin and ears, unhealthy skin can have a yeast overgrowth, particularly in skin folds. Determining the cause of infection is necessary to prescribe the correct treatment. Ringworm requires antifungal medications, whereas bacterial infections need antibiotics for resolution.

#5: Endocrine disorders

Thyroid and cortisol imbalances commonly cause skin disease, as shown by itchy skin, a dull hair coat, dandruff, or hair loss. For pets with these disorders, medications will help return balance to hormone levels, alleviating skin problems. 

#6: Mites

Three types of mites—ear, demodectic, and sarcoptic—are most commonly seen in pets. Ear mites hang out solely in ears, tend to be seen in cats more frequently than dogs, and cause unbearable itching and large amounts of ear debris. Demodectic and sarcoptic mites are skin mites that are also incredibly itchy. Pets normally have demodectic mites, but during times of stress, illness, or any time the immune system is compromised, these opportunistic mites can overwhelm a pet’s natural defenses and overrun the skin. Treatments for mites include topical medications, oral medications, and medicated shampoos. 

Is your itchy pet keeping you from getting any shut-eye? Give us a call to get your furry friend—and you—some relief.