Is your dog or cat itching or scratching excessively? Is he losing too much hair? Developing bald spots? Is his skin starting to become irritated? There are many different reasons a pet may become itchy. Here are five of the most common.
1. Fleas and Flea Allergies
Fleas are one of the most common causes of itching in pets. Many dogs and cats are actually allergic to the bite of the flea, which makes them even itchier and more uncomfortable.
One of the problems that often arises with flea allergies is the fact that often evidence of fleas is difficult if not impossible to find on your pet. Pets that are allergic to fleas require only one flea bite to become itchy. In addition, constant grooming (particularly common in cats) frequently removes the adult fleas and even flea dirt from the hair coat, leaving a suspicious pet owner believing that their pet is not troubled by fleas.
Another common myth surrounding fleas is that fleas cannot infest a pet that lives indoors. Unfortunately, fleas can find their way into our homes very easily. Even pets which live exclusively indoors are still at risk of being bitten by fleas.
2. Atopy or Environmental Allergies
Atopy is defined as an allergy to an element within your pet’s environment. It is sometimes referred to as an inhalant allergy.
In the case of atopy, the offending allergen (allergy-causing substance) can be almost anything. Common allergens are grasses, pollens and dust mites but your pet may suffer an allergy to almost anything. Some pets develop multiple allergies.
3. Food Allergies
Food allergies are also frequently encountered. Any ingredient in your pet’s food can be the offending allergen. Though commonly grains such as corn are blamed for pet allergies, other ingredients such as beef, pork, or poultry are actually more likely to be the problem.
4. Bacterial Skin Infections
Bacterial skin infections are common in dogs and cats that have been itching excessively. However, these infections are almost always secondary to another cause and are most often the result of trauma to the skin caused by scratching.
Though these skin infections are rarely the initial cause of the itching, they do contribute to your pet’s itchiness as the infection worsens. As a result, treatment of the skin infection with antibiotics is often a necessary part of managing your pet’s skin disease, in addition to locating and, if possible, treating the underlying problem.
5. Yeast Skin Infections
The yeast most commonly implicated in these infections is Malessezia. Like bacterial skin infections, these yeast skin infections are common and almost always a secondary infection. Treatment with antifungal medications may be necessary to control the yeast infection.