Fleas & Ticks

Why Won't My Pet Stop Scratching?

Why Won't My Pet Stop Scratching?

All pets scratch sometimes. Yet those who do it persistently, dwell on one specific area or show obvious discomfort as they go through contortions to relieve an itch deserve greater attention.

When scratching becomes incessant, it's wise to determine the reason as early as possible. In addition causing your pet distress, the sensitive spot can become infected and lead to other problems. To be on the safe side, bring skin irritation issues to your veterinarian's attention. Almost all are treatable. Left to fester, though, the problem area can become worse and the scratching will continue. If you can eliminate the offending allergen, like fleas or food, the itching will cease. Depending on the cause, your veterinarian may prescribe medication to address the underlying cause.

Major Causes of Scratching in Dogs and Cats


A single fleabite can start an itch-scratch cycle. Fortunately, flea control medication recommended by a veterinarian, such as Bravecto, can effectively treat the fleas. Bravecto® Chew for Dogs starts killing them within 2 hours and for up to 12 weeks*1,2. At the same time you begin treatment, power clean your bedding, upholstery, carpeting and baseboards where fleas may have taken up residence.

Environmental Allergies

Like humans, pets can be allergic to grasses, pollen, mold, dust and detergents. They may also be sensitive to plastic, pesticides and even airborne particles. There's no limit to the number of things that can instigate compulsive scratching — metals such as nickel, the chemicals in dyes and carpet deodorizer also have the potential to trigger an allergic reaction. In addition, cats and dogs can be allergic to more than one substance, and to varying degrees.

Food Allergies

Perhaps what's causing your pet to scratch is the food she eats. Cats and dogs can become suddenly sensitive to a protein or other substance, even if they have been consuming it for years. The way a veterinarian identifies a food allergy is by restricting a pet to a bland diet and then slowly introducing ingredients back into the bowl.


Highly contagious mange mites will burrow into a dog's skin, cause hair loss and lead to an itchy bacterial infection. Most pets that contract mange do so through exposure to an infected animal. A variety of treatments are used to treat mange, including dips and oral medication.

Ear Mites and Infections

Tiny parasites, ear mites make a home in the wax and oils inside a pet's ear and lead to both scratching and a stench. As they feed, the ear becomes inflamed and itchy. Certain breeds, such as cocker spaniels, are prone to bacterial ear infections because their long, hairy ears block ventilation, so they must be cleaned regularly.


A pet that's bored and anxious, with few toys, no one to play with hours on end and no place to exercise, may start scratching simply because there's nothing else to do between meals and sleeping.

Dry Skin

Seasonal changes, as well as low humidity, or environmental irritants can all cause scratching and dandruff, the telltale sign of dry skin. Over-grooming or too much time spent under a blow dryer also can dry skin. Instead, brush your pet daily to stimulate circulation and distribute natural oils on her coat. Also ask your veterinarian for recommendation on your pet's diet and bathing routine.

*Bravecto kills fleas and prevents flea infestations. Bravecto Chew kills ticks (black-legged tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick) for 12 weeks and also kills lone star ticks for 8 weeks. Bravecto Topical for Cats kills ticks (black-legged tick) for 12 weeks and American dog ticks for 8 weeks.

Bravecto has not been shown to be effective for 12-weeks' duration in puppies or kittens less than 6 months of age. Bravecto Chew: The most common adverse reactions recorded in clinical trials were vomiting, decreased appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, polydipsia, and flatulence. Bravecto is not effective against lone star ticks beyond 8 weeks of dosing. Bravecto Topical for Cats: The most common adverse reactions recorded in clinical trials were vomiting, itching, diarrhea, hair loss, decreased appetite, lethargy, and scabs/ulcerated lesions. Bravecto is not effective against American dog ticks beyond 8 weeks of dosing. For topical use only. Avoid oral ingestion. The safety of Bravecto has not been established in breeding, pregnant and lactating cats. Use with caution in cats with a history of neurologic abnormalities. Neurologic abnormalities have been reported in cats receiving Bravecto, even in cats without a history of neurologic abnormalities.

1. Bravecto Chew for Dogs [prescribing information]. Madison, NJ: Merck Animal Health; 2014. 2. Bravecto Topical Solution for Cats [prescribing information]. Madison, NJ: Merck Animal Health; 2016.