Why won’t my pet stop scratching?
Understand the common causes of scratching in dogs and cats
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 to 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 dogs1 and cats2
Here are some common causes of scratching – but remember, no matter what cause you suspect, consult your veterinarian if your pet is scratching excessively.
A single fleabite can start an itch-scratch cycle. Fortunately, flea control medication recommended by a veterinarian, such as Bravecto, can effectively treat fleas. Bravecto® (fluralaner) Chews for Dogs starts killing fleas within 2 hours and for up to 12 weeks*3. Learn how to purchase Bravecto at us.bravecto.com.
At the same time you begin treatment, power clean your bedding, upholstery, carpeting, and baseboards where fleas may have taken up residence.
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 deodorizers 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.
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. Your veterinarian can also prescribe special food for pets with food allergies or sensitivities.
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. Yeast infections are also a common ear issue for pets.
A pet that’s bored and anxious, with few toys, no one to play with for hours on end, and no place to exercise, may start scratching simply because there’s nothing else to do between meals and sleeping.
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 recommendations on your pet’s diet and bathing routine, which might include supplements to treat dermatologic issues.
- More itchy pets? No problem. American Veterinary Medical Association. https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2020-02-15/more-itchy-pets-no-problem
- Why Your Cat Is Itchy and What You Can Do. PetMD. https://www.petmd.com/cat/symptoms/skin/why-your-cat-itchy-and-what-you-can-do
- Bravecto® (fluralaner) Chew for Dogs prescribing information. Merck Animal Health 2022.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
BRAVECTO kills fleas and prevents flea infestations. BRAVECTO (fluralaner) Chews for Dogs kills ticks (black-legged tick, American dog tick, brown dog tick, and Asian longhorned tick) for 12 weeks. BRAVECTO Chews also kills lone star ticks for 8 weeks. BRAVECTO (fluralaner topical solution) for Dogs kills ticks (black-legged tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick) for 12 weeks. BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Dogs also kills lone star ticks for 8 weeks.
BRAVECTO 1-MONTH (fluralaner) Chews: indicated for dogs 8 weeks of age and older. The most commonly reported adverse reactions include itching, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, elevated ALT, lethargy, and weight loss. BRAVECTO 1-MONTH is not effective against A. americanum in puppies less than 6 months of age. BRAVECTO (fluralaner) Chews for Dogs: The most commonly reported adverse reactions include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, anorexia and pruritus. In some cases, adverse events have been reported following use in breeding females. BRAVECTO (fluralaner topical solution) for Dogs: The most commonly reported adverse reactions include vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite, and moist dermatitis/rash. BRAVECTO (fluralaner topical solution) for Cats: The most commonly reported adverse reactions include vomiting, itching, diarrhea, hair loss, decreased appetite, lethargy, and scabs/ulcerated lesions. BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Cats is not effective against American dog ticks beyond 8 weeks of dosing. BRAVECTO PLUS (fluralaner and moxidectin topical solution) for Cats: The most commonly reported adverse reactions include vomiting, hair loss, itching, diarrhea, lethargy, dry skin, elevated ALT, and hypersalivation. BRAVECTO PLUS has not been shown to be effective for 2 months in kittens less than 6 months of age. Use with caution in cats that are heartworm positive. The effectiveness of BRAVECTO PLUS to prevent heartworm disease after bathing or water immersion has not been evaluated.
BRAVECTO Chews and Topical Solution for dogs have not been shown to be effective for 12-weeks’ duration in puppies or kittens less than 6 months of age. BRAVECTO Chews and Topical Solution for Dogs are not effective against the lone star tick beyond 8 weeks of dosing. BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Dogs and Cats and BRAVECTO PLUS for Cats are for topical use only. Avoid oral ingestion. The safety of BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Cats and BRAVECTO PLUS have not been established in breeding, pregnant and lactating cats.
All BRAVECTO products contain fluralaner, which is a member of the isoxazoline class. This class has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions including tremors, ataxia, and seizures. Seizures have been reported in dogs receiving isoxazoline class drugs, even in dogs without a history of seizures. Use with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders. Neurologic adverse reactions have been reported in cats receiving isoxazoline class drugs, even in cats without a history of neurologic disorders. Use with caution in cats with a history of neurologic disorders.
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