Hearing or seeing your pet constantly chew and/or scratch can be a frustrating situation, which can make you feel helpless. Itching doesn’t have to be limited to scratching alone. It can also involve chewing, licking, rubbing, scooting, etc. Persistent chewing and scratching can lead to infection and sores and can in turn be quite painful for them. This can put a serious strain on your relationship with your furry friend. Below is information about the most common underlying causes of itching and allergies to help you, the owner, through this stressful ordeal.
Most common causes of chronic itching
External parasites and allergies are the two most common causes of itching in your pets. Examples of some of these external critters that can cause your pet to itch are fleas and mites. Another common cause of skin and ear conditions in small animals is allergies.
Major types of allergies
Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats. It can be difficult for pet owners to suspect fleas if they have not seen fleas on their pet. Most flea-allergic pets lick, groom, and chew after being bitten by a flea. This causes the flea to either jump off the pet or be eaten by the pet. For this reason, dogs and cats with severe flea allergies will not be found with fleas on them! For the flea allergic patient, 100% flea control is crucial to remain symptom-free. Even very minimal exposure may be enough to keep a flea-allergic patient itchy!
Many owners may not immediately suspect their dog has a food allergy because it can take years for their dog to develop an allergy to the dog food it is fed everyday. Food hypersensitivity can occur at any age in a dog’s life. Gastrointestinal issues are the most common symptoms of possible food allergies but other symptoms can occur like recurrent ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea and itchiness that can lead to self trauma such as hair loss, scabs or "hot spots".
Environmental allergies generally occur at certain times of the year. Some of the common causes of seasonal allergies include dust, dust mites, pollen, and grass. Seasonal allergies can turn into year-round allergies for older dogs. The more your dog is exposed to the allergens they are sensitive to, the more intense and long-lasting their allergic response becomes.
Diagnosing and Treatment
The best way to treat an allergy is avoidance of allergen all together. This may or may not always be possible. It depends on your animal's type of allergy. For example, the best way to treat flea allergy dermatitis is to kill the fleas, whereas the best way to treat a food allergy or food intolerance is a change in diet.
In addition to any lifestyle changes that might be necessary, your veterinarian may also prescribe a medication for your dog that will help control the allergic reaction symptoms, such as itching and any secondary skin infections that might have developed as a result of the irritant.