Do You Have an Itchy Dog?

Does your dog scratch and itch frequently? Does he obsessively lick, bite, or chew his skin? A dog that is itchy is not a happy or comfy dog. In fact, it’s much more likely that your dog is miserable.

It’s hard to watch your dog suffer, but sometimes trying to figure out the root cause of why your dog is itching, and then treating it properly, can be tricky. Sometimes it can be a downright mystery.

And I don’t know about you, but listening to a dog itch, lick, bite and chew constantly, can also be highly annoying. There’s nothing quite like lying in bed at 2 AM and listening to your dog’s tongue slurping repetitively. Especially when you have a 6 AM wake-up call to get ready for work.

So, not only is your dog miserable, but you are tired and miserable right along with them! Not a fun situation for all parties involved.

Signs of an Itchy Dog

Obviously scratching will be a huge indicator. Another indicator is constant licking, face rubbing, and chewing, licking, or biting their paws. Butt scooting can also be a sign, and if you notice rashes, red and inflamed areas, hotspots, or even ear sensitivity… all of these can be symptoms of an itchy canine.

Sometimes a dog can suffer from dandruff and itch because of that. With dandruff, you may notice unsightly white flakes, and your dog’s skin appear to be cracked and leathery-looking.

If your dog is itching due to some kind of bacterial or yeast infection, it could be coupled with a foul odor. Hotspots in particular cause a fair amount of itching, as well as be extremely painful for your dog. So, if you notice any signs of hotspots, you should see your vet as soon as possible to prevent further pain and irritation.

Other Signs and Symptoms of an Itchy Dog

  • Hair loss
  • Oozing, pus-filled bumps
  • Bleeding
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Matting and moist fur
  • Restless behavior

What are the Causes of an Itchy Dog?

There are a wide range of causes, but noticing the time of year that your dog seems to itch the most can be very revealing. Changes in the seasons and the weather can be a major source of irritation for dogs.

But what exactly does itching have to do with weather?

Good question.

Often, dogs that itch mainly during the winter months could be suffering from a nasty case of dry skin. Dogs that seem to itch more often during the spring, could be suffering from seasonal allergies. Additionally, dogs that seem to itch more during the summer, could be plagued with an overgrowth of yeast. During the summer months, it is often hot and humid, making conditions ripe for yeast to proliferate.

However, if your fur kiddo appears to itch year-round, then most likely, some type of allergy is the culprit. However, it could be an allergy to anything, it doesn’t necessarily mean seasonal allergies.

Though seasonal allergies are quite common, your dog can also suffer from an allergy to certain foods, or there could be something in your dog’s environment that is triggering an inflammatory response.

Another cause of itching that can last all year long is sarcoptic mange, otherwise known as scabies. Scabies are little mites that live on the surface of the skin, and when they begin to grow out of control, a nasty case of mange is the result.

You’ll want to treat this condition swiftly and aggressively, as scabies can spread from pet to pet, and pet to human, and the condition can be painful for your dog. Like a lice infestation, you’ll want to treat your home as well, and any bedding so that there are no infestations later down the road.

Summertime Itching

Obviously if your fur baby is suffering from some type of food or environmental allergy, it doesn’t matter if it’s summertime or winter. However, if your dog appears to be scratching more during summer months than at other times of the year, that could be a clear warning signal. If that’s the case, you should ask your vet to check your dog for a yeast overgrowth.

Yeast overgrowth can often be mistaken for allergies. However, yeast absolutely loves the hot and humid summer months. You will find yeast hiding out in the moist nooks and crannies of your dog, having a hay-day. These moist places are mainly in dogs’ ears and groin area, in folds of skin, and in the creases of their paws.

If you notice your dog appears to be chewing and biting his paws, or chewing his nails, or licking obsessively, then it’s highly probable that yeast is the culprit.

Sometimes your dog may also do the “butt scoot” across the floor or on the grass. This is because yeast can also cause anal itching.

Unfortunately, your dog’s response to summertime itching can create painful hotspots where your dog bites, chews, and scratches until the area becomes inflamed and even develops sores and crusting.

Springtime Itching

If your dog seems to be suffering more during the springtime, seasonal allergies could be the problem. You will notice your dog mostly itching his face, his paws, and his ears and belly. Be careful though, because seasonal allergies can sometimes be confused with a yeast overgrowth, and vice versa.

Inhalants, such as pollen, grasses, smoke, and dust can irritate your dog as well. Some dogs can even suffer an allergy to flea bites, stemming from a reaction to the saliva of fleas. Though fleas can be a year-round problem, they sometimes seem to be more prevalent during spring months. Perhaps it’s the change in the air, even fleas like to frolic!

Another springtime woe that can cause itching is flying insects. This can be a summer problem as well. Bees, wasps, mosquitoes, and flies are all stinging or biting insects that can plague your dog and trigger itching. This is especially true if your furry friend is outdoors often.

Outdoor Woes

Outdoor canines should be careful of spider bites. Although they aren’t too common, there are certain spider bites that can cause serious damage to your dog’s skin and coat.

Outdoor dogs also must beware of sunburn, especially if the dog is light or white-colored. Sunburn can cause itching and flaking, and just like with people can even turn into skin cancer later down the road.

Wintertime Itching

If your dog is itching mostly during the wintertime, the likely cause is dry skin. Dry skin can plague your dog during this time of year because winter months are drier. Most of us tend to run our heater indoors during winter as well, which compounds the problem. Sometimes running a humidifier inside your home during cold months can help with this problem.

Other Causes of Itching in Dogs

Doggy Dandruff

Doggy dandruff manifests as unsightly white flakes that are visible in your dog’s coat. Your dog can have dandruff whether he has oily skin or dry skin, but regardless of the type, it will typically need to be treated with medicated anti-dandruff shampoo.

Ringworms

Another cause of itching can be related to worms. Ringworm can affect your dog’s skin and cause crusty, oozing pustules, scaly skin, as well as balding and hair loss. Unfortunately, ringworm requires a visit to the vet for proper treatment, and is also highly contagious.

Food Allergies

These can be hard to nail down. It could be one of the ingredients in your dog food, it could be a response to table scraps they may have gotten at that last dinner party you hosted, or they could have an allergy to some additive or filler in their treats.

Finding out if your dog has a food allergy is more a process of elimination, and can take some time. In fact, you vet may even recommend a special “food elimination” diet if they suspect your dog has food allergies.

Environmental Allergies

These can be allergies to things like a certain cleaner or detergent in your home, dust mites, or even carpet fibers. Smoke, pollen, ragweed and more can affect your four-legged companion. Dogs, like people, can really be allergic to just about anything. So, it’s important that you observe your dog closely, and take notes as you try to narrow down the suspects.

Bacterium

Bacterial infections can most definitely cause itching. A bacterial infection will need to be diagnosed by your vet and most likely treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, bacterial infections can mimic other skin conditions found in dogs, so make sure you see a professional for a proper diagnosis.

Ear Mites

These little bugs can infect the internal and external ear canal, causing both ear and skin infections. Left untreated, ear infections can lead to impaired hearing. Ear mites like to eat the oils and ear wax in your dog’s ear, and make a nice comfy home there. If your dog appears to be sensitive to you touching their ears, ear mites could be the problem.

Lice and Ticks

Lice and ticks can sometimes be a source of canine itching. However, they are not nearly as common as some of the other pests, so look to those first.

Hormonal Issues

Endocrine malfunctions can sometimes be a cause of itching and other skin ailments. If your dog’s endocrine system is not functioning properly, it messes with your dog’s levels of hormones, pushing them out of balance. When this happens, your dog’s skin can suffer for it. This is especially true if there is a cortisone or thyroid imbalance, both of which can affect the skin.

Ideas for Relieving Your Itchy Dog

Change Their Food

If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, start by eliminating the most common trigger foods. Wheat, beef, and corn are the usual suspects. You can also give your dog nutritional supplements to keep his skin moisturized and healthy. Coconut oil and vitamin E is also good for this. If you decide to try a different brand of dog food, inspect the ingredients carefully.

Eliminate Bugs

If your dog is itching due to some type of parasite, such as fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites or mange (scabies), you will need to treat him for that particular parasite. Treatment options will be different for each one. With fleas and lice, as well as sarcoptic mange, you may also need to treat your home and furnishings to prevent infestation.

Medications May Help

If your vet has narrowed down the source of your dog’s itching, there are a variety of medications that can be prescribed. Topical and oral antibiotics, as well as steroids and anti-itch creams may be recommended. Sometimes special shampoos and dips could be necessary.

Try Preventatives

Cone collars could be necessary to keep your dog from licking and chewing spots you are trying to heal. You can also try bitter sprays to discourage licking, and make sure you give your dog preventative flea, tick, and worming medications on a regular basis.

Give Your Dog a Bath

Bathing your dog regularly can help with itching, depending on the cause. However, do not go overboard, as excessive bathing can make some types of itching worse, especially if your dog is itching due to dry skin.

Keep Your Dog Active and Busy

A dog that is bored or anxious will bite and scratch himself to keep busy. You might consider offering your fur kiddo toys and special chews to redirect his destructive scratching and licking. And it goes without saying that you will want to make sure your dog receives plenty exercise, and plenty of love each day. A tired, well-loved dog will be much too content to do more than lie down for a nice afternoon nap, cuddled next to their favorite human.

 

*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.

References:

1 http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/allergies-dogs#1

2 https://www.vetary.com/dog/condition/itchy-skin

3 https://www.rover.com/blog/dogs-allergic-reaction-signs/

4 http://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/evr_dg_itch_and_scratch_bite_and_lick

What Causes Itchy Skin in Dogs?

In vet speak, itching is also known as pruritus. Your dog could be excessively licking, chewing, or itching on one area of his body, or he could be itching all over.

Where and how much your fur baby itches depend on the underlying cause of the itching, and nailing down the source can sometimes be challenging.

Unfortunately, if itching is not addressed quickly, it can lead to inflammation and infection, as well as major discomfort for your four-legged friend. Excessive itching can be highly stressful and cause significant distress, and should never be ignored.

Some Causes of Itching in Dogs

Hormonal Imbalances

If your dog’s endocrine system is not working properly, hormone levels such as cortisone and thyroid can also become out of whack. When this imbalance happens, it can affect your dog’s skin and trigger itching.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections can easily be confused with yeast or bacterial infections, so it’s important to see your vet to get an accurate diagnosis. Fungal infections can affect any part of the body, and fungi such as ringworm are extremely contagious.

Medications that are used to treat bacterial infections will not work with fungal infections, which is why it’s important to know the difference and treat appropriately.

Yeast Infections

All dogs carry yeast, both inside and outside their bodies, as well as in their ears. However, the yeast numbers are low, and don’t cause any health issues. It’s only when a yeast overgrowth occurs that infection becomes a problem. Yeast overgrowth tends to be most prevalent in all the moist places on your dog, such as folds of skin, ears, and anus.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections are very common, and can easily mimic other canine skin conditions. The best way to determine if your dog has a bacterial infection is to see your vet. Then your dog can receive the proper antibiotics recommended for treating the problem.

Environmental Allergens

Sometimes dogs itch because of common irritants such as pollen, dust, grasses, molds and mildews, and even tobacco or wood smoke. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that if you can be allergic to it, so can your fur kiddo.

Food Allergens

Again, just like with people, dogs can be allergic to certain foods. It’s best to start by eliminating foods that are known to be allergens, such as beef, corn, and wheat. If you don’t see improvement in doing that, then look to other ingredients in your dog’s food. Your vet may even recommend an “elimination diet” to narrow down the source of your dog’s allergy and treat them effectively.

Flea Allergy

Another very common allergen source with dogs is flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD for short. This allergy is a reaction to flea saliva that is injected into your dog’s skin with a flea bite. You may notice your dog biting and scratching around his tail, and you may notice hair loss in that area.

Flea allergies can also trigger excessive grooming, so much so that it can sometimes be hard to find an actual flea. Your dog has licked them all up and ate them already. However, even the bite of one single flea on a dog with a flea allergy can cause an intense reaction and make your dog miserable.

Mange

Mange is the result of sarcoptic mites proliferating and plaguing your dog. Mange is also known as scabies, and can cause extreme itching as well as redness and irritation, hair loss, pustules, and even broken skin, bleeding, and infection when it’s bad. Unfortunately, scabies can be contagious, so it’s important to catch this condition early and treat it aggressively.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are a common affliction for dogs. Ear mites like to chow down on your dog’s ear wax and ear oils, both in the internal and external ear canal. This can cause itching and irritation, and can lead to more serious skin issues and ear infections down the road. If left untreated, even hearing can be impaired! So, ear mites are certainly an ailment you don’t want to ignore.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of health concerns that can cause itchy skin in dogs. A dog’s skin and coat can be every bit as sensitive as a human’s skin, so it’s important to make sure you are feeding your pooch a healthy diet.

Make sure it’s one that promotes healthy skin and fur, and make sure your fur kiddo is getting plenty of water, as well as activity and exercise. Water will help keep your dog’s skin hydrated, and exercise will help to combat boredom and emotional issues that can lead to scratching, biting, and chewing behaviors.

If you suspect there is infection going on, or some other underlying medical cause that is contributing to your dog’s itching, then seeing a vet as soon as possible is important for early and effective treatment. The less your dog must go on suffering, the better. No one likes itchy skin, especially not your dog.

 

*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.

References:

1 http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dogs-and-compulsive-scratching-licking-and-chewing

2 http://thebark.com/content/vet-advice-relief-your-dogs-itchy-skin

3 http://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_dg_common-dog-skin-problems

4 http://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/care/reasons-for-dog-scratching-himself

What to Do If Your Dog Has Itchy Skin

So, your dog has an itching problem. Unfortunately, the cause of itching can be shrouded in mystery, and take some serious detective work to uncover.

The treatment of itching can be just as complicated, and will depend entirely on the accuracy of your detective skills in figuring out the underlying problem.

If you are not treating your dog for the right problem, then you will not be able to correct the problem. In some cases, you could even make the problem worse by administering the wrong treatment for your fur baby.

With that said, here are some things to do if your dog has itchy skin:

Determine the Source

See your vet if necessary. The right diagnosis will determine the right treatment. Once you determine a course of treatment, follow it through to completion. In many cases, if your dog is prescribed medications such as antibiotics or steroids and you do not treat them for the prescribed length of time, the condition could reappear, and you’d have to start all over.

For some itch relief you can try at home, consider these options:

Give Your Dog Supplements

Skin and coat supplements for dogs like vitamin E and fatty acid supplements like fish oil can be very beneficial to the health of your dog’s skin and coat. You can also rub vitamin E oil directly on your dog’s skin, especially in the areas that are dry and prone to itchiness.

Feed Your Dog Yogurt

Make sure it’s plain though. A regular intake of yogurt can help keep gut bacteria in balance, and stave off potential yeast infections. A daily dose of plain yogurt in your dog’s diet can also help build hiss immune system, and by extension, keep his skin healthy.

Use Epsom Salts

Soak your dog in a warm bath with Epson Salts. Just like with people, Epsom Salts can be soothing and help speed up healing, especially when your dog’s skin is cracked or is riddled with sores. Epson Salts are also great for reducing inflammation and swelling.

Spray Him Down

Try an apple cider vinegar spray. You can mix it with equal parts water, and use it to spray your dog’s itchy areas and provide soothing relief. There are also anti-itch sprays that you can purchase and try as well.

Bathe and Groom

Bathe your dog often and groom them every day. Keeping your dog clean can go a long way in keeping your dog’s skin healthy and itch-free. Just don’t overdo it, as too much bathing can sometimes dry out his skin and making itching worse. Brushing regularly can help your dog too, by stimulating natural oils and helping to control itching and irritation.

Try Coconut Oil

Give your fur kiddo a daily dose of coconut oil by simply mixing it with his food. Coconut oil can be a great addition to a healthy diet. Not only does it give your dog energy, but it’s wonderful for your dog’s coat and skin as well.

Consider Soothing Oatmeal

Try an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal has been used to treat itchy and irritated skin for ages, and in some cases, it can offer almost immediate relief from agitated itching. You can either make your own shampoo, or buy one already mixed in the store. Either way, your furry friend will thank you.

Dietary Tweaks

Sometimes itching can be relieved with simple diet changes. Experiment and see what works for your dog.

Be Proactive

Prevent parasites. In many cases, your dog’s itching may be preventable, especially if they are related to parasites. There are medications that can help prevent parasites, and keeping your dog up to date with these methods is important.

Know Your Dog

Some breeds are predisposed to certain skin conditions, including conditions that can cause itching. It’s important to know this information, and if you have a dog breed such as this, you need to take the steps necessary to treat and/or prevent future health concerns.

Schedule Check Ups

See your vet regularly. It’s important to let your vet monitor your dog’s health and well-being, and make sure that he is functioning at optimal performance. A healthy dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog?

…Is one that doesn’t itch.

 

*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.

References:

1 http://thebark.com/content/vet-advice-relief-your-dogs-itchy-skin

2 http://www.petmd.com/dog/wellness/evr_dg_home_remedies

3 https://www.rover.com/blog/stop-dog-allergies/

Skin Allergies in Cats: What Every Pet Parent Should Know

If you own a cat, you may already know that your feline can be every bit as sensitive to allergens as humans can. They can react to outside allergens no matter the source, whether they are environmental, parasite-related, or even diet-related.

Most often, their reaction to allergens is itching, sometimes excessively so, and often it’s the only sign your cat will give you alerting you that something is wrong. It should come as no surprise that everything that can cause allergies in humans can also cause allergies in cats.

Common Allergens in Cats

Some of the most common allergens found in cats are:

  • Grass and weed pollens
  • Trees
  • Fabrics
  • Plastics and rubber
  • Dairy
  • Foods
  • Additives
  • Dust and house mites
  • Flea saliva

When a cat encounters one of these allergens, either by ingesting or inhaling it or even just touching it, it can cause an inflammatory response in his immune system. When this happens, your cat may itch in response to the release of chemicals in its body.

In most cases, allergies develop over an extended period of time, after repeated exposures to the allergen. Sometimes the allergens are seasonal, like certain tree pollens.

The exception to this is usually an insect bite, as allergies from an insect bite can develop much faster. Interestingly, allergies are a learned behavior of the immune system, and that learned behavior can be passed down genetically through generations of cats.1

For most felines, allergies tend to develop early on, usually starting anywhere from age 1 to 3.2 Sometimes they can start later, but it’s much rarer. The difficulty with allergies is that once a cat develops one, it’s common to begin to develop more, and the allergic response can become even more severe over time.

Some of the symptoms of allergies that you may notice in your cat are:

  • Hair loss
  • “Twitchy” skin
  • Pulling out hair “tufts”
  • Mutilations and lesions
  • Hot spots
  • Crusty sores

Unfortunately, this is because when your cat gets itchy, they will lick, scratch, and bite at the offending areas, sometimes so much so that they harm themselves.

When your cat displays behaviors like these, it’s called excessive grooming. Your cat will often do this in secret, or when you’re not looking, so it can be difficult to catch on to. Because of these compulsions, cats often wind up developing secondary infections because of the trauma they inflict upon their skin.

For most cats, allergies tend to be seasonal or related to inhalants such as house mites and dust mites. The best course of action is to take your cat to the vet so that they can run some allergy tests, and then begin to remove the things that are suspected to be an issue from your cat’s diet or environment and see if his health improves.

Food Allergies are the third most common allergy in felines.3 Itchy, irritated skin, and hair loss are the most common symptoms of a food allergy in cats, although gastrointestinal symptoms may affect your pet. The most common food allergies are related to the protein and carbohydrates compounds in your cat’s diet. These common allergens include dairy, fish, chicken, and beef.

By process of elimination, you should be able to at least narrow down the source of the allergy. Sometimes allergens can be suppressed with medications for several weeks. That will take care of the problem for a while, at least until the next year rolls around.

However, there are other allergens that are not seasonal, so they never completely disappear despite all your best efforts. In this case, your cat could undergo a variety of treatment options and doctor visits and still never fully resolve the problem.

Thankfully, while you can’t always eliminate all potential allergens from your cat’s life, you can take steps to reduce them significantly. You can also use topical treatments such as anti-itch creams, steroids, and even steroid injections. Shampoos and rinses also sometimes help improve your cat’s skin and coat health, along with other treatment methods such as antihistamines and omega-3 fatty acids.

Ultimately, you know your pet best, and only you can decide whether something is wrong and whether it warrants a visit to the vet. It can be frustrating trying to pinpoint exactly what is causing your cat so much distress, but once you’ve pinned down the culprit and eradicate it, it is well worth it.

Then you get to watch your cat begin to flourish again. His hair will grow back nice and shiny, and he will be purring in bliss, with no itching, biting, or chewing in sight!

References

1 https://www.acttallergy.com/allergy-facts/feline-allergies/

2 http://www.catsexclusive.com/educational-resources/atopy

3 http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/Health_Information/foodallergies.cfm

Why Is My Cat Itching So Much?

Cats by instinct and nature are groomers. They love to clean themselves and lick their fur. However, if you aren’t careful, sometimes these behaviors could become compulsive.

Most often though, compulsive licking, scratching, and chewing occurs with certain breeds, such as the Siamese.

If your cat has never engaged in these behaviors before but is suddenly now licking, scratching, and chewing himself, it may not be so much a compulsion, but a reaction to an unknown underlying feline skin condition.

When cats over-groom themselves, they can end up losing their fur and create issues such as irritation and hotspots, open wounds, scabs, inflammation, and infections.

Unfortunately, until your cat starts showing visible signs like some of the above, it can be difficult to figure out whether your cat is engaging in normal grooming behaviors or excessive ones! Oddly enough, cats like to do their grooming business when no one is looking (we’ll call it top secret grooming), so it’s easy to miss when a behavior is becoming out of control.

Another problem in figuring out why your cat may be itching is because feline skin diseases can mimic each other in many ways and present with similar symptoms. So sometimes just looking and visually inspecting your cat doesn’t give you many answers or help you figure out the underlying cause of their itching. Here’s a quick overview of some of the more noticeable symptoms of itchy kitties.

Common Signs of Itching in Cats

  • Excessive scratching, itching, biting, and chewing, to the degree that causes damage to the skin.
  • Hair loss, often in a symmetrical pattern.
  • Dandruff coupled with a greasy looking skin and coat. These symptoms could indicate miliary dermatitis.
  • Skin lesions and ulcers that can affect various parts of the cat’s body as well as develop inside their mouth.

Unfortunately, once your cat begins to develop visually obvious signs like skin lesions, healing can take quite a long time.

That’s why it’s important to try to catch these signs and symptoms as early on as possible, so you can begin treatment right away and prevent further skin damage in your fur baby.

Skin Conditions that Cause Itching in Cats

Environmental Allergies

A cat that suffers from environmental allergies will often show signs and symptoms early on in his life. For instance, he may experience symptoms at the change of seasons, and then you may notice as time goes on that his symptoms seem to get worse and last longer.

Sometimes your cat can suffer from indoor allergens like dust mites. If this is the case, he can have allergy problems all year long, not just seasonally. Occasionally cats may even be allergic to cleaning products that you use in your home, or litter that contains perfume.

It can be difficult to pin down exactly what’s plaguing your cat, but once you do and remove the allergen, he should recover relatively quickly. 

Food Allergies

When a cat has food allergies, you may notice him start to lose hair around his face and neck, and sometimes other areas as well. Your cat could also suffer from vomiting or diarrhea, and even weight loss.

Foods like dairy, fish, chicken, and beef can all cause allergies in cats – even if they’ve never shown signs of an allergy before. Food allergies can come on suddenly with no rhyme or reason. The only way to nail down a specific food allergy and eliminate the trigger is to put your cat on a special hypoallergenic diet for 8 to 10 weeks.

However, this can be difficult, so your vet may try to rule out any other possible culprits for the itching condition before recommending such a diet. 

Parasites

Flea Bites

Fleas are one of the most common culprits of an itchy kitty, and thankfully are one of the easiest to diagnose.

You can sometimes see the fleas on your cat just with a visual inspection. If you can’t find the tiny insects, sometimes you can see little black granules, called “flea dirt.”

Flea dirt occurs when the flea digests blood and deposits it into your cat’s fur. This dirt can usually be found around your cat’s neck or at the base of his tail and his lower back. It is easiest to look for fleas and flea dirt on your kitty’s stomach, as there is less hair there and they are easier to find. It is a good idea to wait until your cat is sleepy before poking around his belly!

If you don’t see any fleas at all, the most likely scenario is that your cat has eaten the flea. When this is the case, you won’t find any evidence of fleas at all, not even flea dirt.

Even if you can’t find anything in these areas, it doesn’t mean your cat isn’t suffering from fleas. If your cat keeps scratching those areas, you might still want to try a doctor recommended flea medication just to be safe.

It’s also a good idea to treat your home because fleas can be brought into contact with your cat in a variety of ways, even through you.

Skin Parasites

Other common culprits to your cat’s itching problem are skin parasites. Parasites can cause very severe itching. Cats that may have contact with other animals outside or go outside on a regular basis are more susceptible.

Unfortunately, skin parasites such as mites can be difficult to diagnose. If you do find that mites are the problem, your cat will most likely need a topical parasiticide. Sometimes they may also need to be dipped in a lime sulfur solution. If you want to try to prevent your cat from picking up skin parasites, it’s best to keep your cat indoors and away from strange animals.

Insect Bites

Sometimes your cat may itch because he has been bitten or stung by an insect. Wasps and bees can cause pain and swelling, whereas flies and mosquitoes can cause massive irritation and itching.

More often than not, you’ll notice bites along the ears or the bridge of nose because insects tend to gravitate towards hairless areas.

Ear Mites

Ear mites can cause inflammation, especially in younger cats. However, they aren’t just relegated to the ears. Ear mites can move around and even spread to your cat’s neck and head or tail and backside. Ear mites are highly contagious to other animals.1

Ringworm

Ringworm is a relatively common condition, and it can cause some pretty intense itching. Ringworm is a fungal infection, causing problems, not with just your cat’s skin, but his hair and nails too. With ringworm, you may notice lesions on your cat’s skin. They may look like little bald areas that are red in the center, with flaky skin. Typically, you’ll find these lesions around your cat’s head and ears, or near his tail.

Ringworm is quite contagious, so if you suspect it, make sure you lock your cat up in a kennel away from other pets and wash your hands thoroughly.

Skin Disorders

Dry Skin

Dry skin has numerous causes ranging from environmental irritants, a cheap diet, to changes in the season. However, if your cat’s itchiness also presents with flaking, there could be a more serious underlying problem, and you should have your vet look into it.

Sun Damage

Sun damage is just as easy to develop in cats as it is in humans – especially when it comes to the white or light colored breeds, and cats that have white or light colored ears and noses.

Ears are particularly sensitive, but noses and eyelids are affected as well. Outdoor cats have a bigger risk of sunburn and skin damage than indoor cats, but all can be affected.

Feline Acne

Feline acne, although not as common as some of the other skin conditions can still make your cat itchy. This is a condition where your cat can develop blackheads, usually on their chin, that then progresses and turns itchy and red. When this happens, they can develop into pimples, then to abscesses that can rupture and become itchy and crusty. You also must be careful because your cat could develop a bacterial infection as a secondary condition.

Bacterial Skin Infection

This is fairly uncommon, but sometimes it happens. It can also coincide with a yeast overgrowth that can contribute to the misery of your itchy feline. Every time your cat experiences severe trauma to the skin from excessive scratching, he can be prone to infection. These infections are typically secondary to some other underlying cause.

Systemic Disorders

Feline Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex

This is a disorder where your cat produces an excessive number of a particular type of white blood cells called eosinophils.2 Three different types of conditions can result from this overproduction of eosinophils.

  • Eosinophilic Plaque
  • Eosinophilic Granuloma
  • Indolent ulcer

With each of these conditions, you may notice either round or oval-shaped ulcerated sores, raised sores, masses, or lumpy sores. These wounds are typically found on the abdomen or thighs, or their face or inside their mouth. Indolent ulcers can cause abscessed lesions along the upper lip as well.

Pemphigus Foliaceus

This condition causes your cat to itch his feet. It’s an autoimmune skin disorder and can present as crusty, scaly looking skin, mild ulcerations, pustules, and you may notice overgrowth and cracking on their footpads.3 Itchy and painful indeed!

Cowpox Virus

This is another rare phenomenon. It typically manifests in cats that like to hunt small rats. Cowpox Virus develops when the rat bites the cat.4 The virus enters the skin through the bite, and after a few days, you may notice little-ulcerated nodules pop up. These can be itchy and painful!

Miscellaneous Disorders and Diseases

Boredom and Anxiety

Sometimes cats will engage in compulsive licking, scratching, and chewing behaviors when he is bored, anxious, or suffering from a mental disorder. This seems to be more prevalent with indoor kitties, possibly because they get less exercise and interaction with the outside world.

Environmental changes, such as moving into a new home, or welcoming a new family member (whether four-legged or two) into the home can also be a cause for compulsive behaviors in your feline. It’s important for cats to feel loved and safe and comfy, and to receive plenty of exercise and stimulation each day to keep them from being bored and anxious.

Pain

Sometimes cats will lick, chew, and bite because they are feeling pain in a particular area. If you notice your cat seems to be doing this in the same spot over and over, it could be pain related.

Cancer

Unfortunately, with long-term and excessive skin damage, you increase your cat’s risk of developing skin cancer. Also, sometimes your cat may itch excessively due to a tumor that is developing that may be related to another type of cancer. It’s important to examine every bump or lump that you find, and confirm it’s nothing serious.

Treatments for an Itchy Cat

Depending on the condition and what is causing the itching, your vet may offer several treatment options. If your cat is suffering from fleas, your vet may prescribe an oral flea medication.

If it is a food allergen that is suspect, your vet may recommend a special diet to try to rule out the offending food.

Sometimes topicals can be used (such as creams), but if your cat is licking all the time, they can lick the medicine right off and render it useless.

Things like fatty acid supplements, antihistamines, sprays, and baths can sometimes be helpful as well but aren’t a guarantee. More often than not you may still need to resort to antibiotics and steroids, or other recommended treatments.

If you choose to use steroids like corticosteroids, the only drawback is that they can have side effects. Thankfully, cats tend to respond much better to steroids than humans do, but even still, they can be dangerous and lose their effectiveness over time if not administered and monitored properly.

References

1 https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/ear-mites-otodectes-in-cats-and-dogs

2 https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/feline-eosinophilic-granuloma-complex-in-cats

3 http://www.skinvetclinic.com/pemphigusfoliaceus.html

4 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1098612X13489212?journalCode=jfma