Vet Blog

7 Reasons Your Pet Can’t Stop Scratching

May 23, 2023

An itchy pet is an uncomfortable pet, and they will scratch, lick, and chew until they find relief, which often does not happen until they receive veterinary treatment.

Many reasons can spur your pet's need to scratch, and chief among them are allergies. Read on to discover if your furry pal's itching is related to allergies, or some other common cause.

Your Pet Has Flea Allergies

Flea allergies are the most common allergy form in pets and can cause such intense itching that pets will chew themselves raw. Allergic pets develop a hypersensitivity to the protein in flea saliva, so just a handful of flea bites can make them break out in an itchy rash, complete with sores and scabs. A flea allergy generally causes a hairless hind end, as fleas like to set up shop around the base of your pet's tail. As they bite your pet, your furry pal will attempt to bite back in an effort to stop the itching, but instead will end up chewing off their hair and licking their skin raw. Quality flea prevention administered year round is the most effective method for treating a flea allergy.

Your Pet Has Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergies, which also are referred to as atopic dermatitis or atopy, can be triggered by any substance in your pet's environment. These allergens are often inhaled, or affect your pet through breaks in the skin barrier. Common environmental allergens include pollens, dust mites, molds, and dander. Atopic pets can develop itchy skin anywhere, but their ears and paws typically are affected. If your pet has a grass allergy and spends a great deal of time outdoors, they likely will have an itchy belly and paws, which you may notice as brownish saliva staining where they have licked and chewed.

Although environmental allergies can be challenging to manage, there are numerous therapies that are highly effective, especially when used together. As your pet ages, their allergies will change, often becoming more severe and extending for longer periods throughout the year. Fortunately, making changes in a multimodal treatment plan to adapt to your pet's evolving needs can keep them comfortable and itch-free.

Your Pet Has Food Allergies

Food allergies are uncommon in pets, and allergies to grains are downright rare. Most pets with food allergies are sensitive to the protein source in their diet, such as chicken, lamb, or beef. Diagnosing a food allergy-or more than one-is a time-consuming, difficult process. It requires a strict food trial lasting up to 12 weeks to determine if a pet is allergic to a particular food. If one food allergy is diagnosed, a hydrolyzed prescription diet generally is recommended, which manages itchy allergy signs without the hassle of diagnosing additional food allergies.

Your Pet Has Parasites

In addition to fleas, other external parasites can cause your pet to itch. Ticks, mange mites, and ear mites can cause an uncomfortable skin-crawling sensation, but they also can cause an obsessive urge to scratch. To make matters worse, these parasites-with the exclusion of the demodectic mange mite-can hop onto other pets or people, spreading itchiness wherever they go.

Your Pet Has a Poor Diet

A diet that lacks the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients can cause dry, flaky, itchy skin and a dull hair coat. Boost your pet's nutrition with a skin supplement, or swap out their regular diet for a higher-quality version that contains omega-3 fatty acids. These powerful fatty acids help keep the outermost skin layer healthy and strong, while preventing moisture from escaping.

Your Pet Has a Chronic Condition

Certain chronic conditions, like hypothyroidism, Cushing's disease, or autoimmune disorders, can cause skin issues in pets. A rough hair coat, dry skin, and skin infections can cause your furry pal to scratch, while autoimmune conditions and skin cancer can create sores, lesions, and bumps.

Your Pet is Stressed

Stress and anxiety can cause your pet to develop a compulsive desire to lick and chew, making them appear itchy. For many pets, licking is a calming behavior, so they may lick their paws or a certain area on their body excessively to cope with separation anxiety or storm fear. Stressed pets may over-groom themselves to the point of baldness or skin infections, and the only way to treat the "itching" problem is to treat the underlying anxiety.

Itching, no matter how minor, can be incredibly irritating for your four-legged friend. If you notice your pet scratching, licking, and chewing, schedule an appointment with our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center team.