Your seasonal allergies may cause sneezing, coughing, and itchy, runny eyes, but if your pet has allergies, their signs manifest as skin problems. Seasonal and year-round allergies can cause your pet’s skin to become itchy, red, and irritated, and they may experience hair loss. Our Veterinary Medical Center of Indian River County team understands that, while allergies are a principal reason pets itch, multiple other causes can also contribute to this condition and must be ruled out before treatment begins. To help you understand your pet’s condition, we answer your frequently asked questions about itchy pets.

Question: Could my itchy pet have fleas?

Answer: Yes, pet itching can be caused by fleas or a flea bite allergy. Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is a common reason for pets to itch, chew at their skin, and lose hair around their tail base. Because only one or two flea bites can cause your pet a significant allergic reaction, a flea infestation may not be the underlying problem. Other parasites, such as sarcoptic mange, can also cause intense itching. Keep in mind that if your pet has mange, they can transmit these parasites to you and your family members.

Q: Why does my itchy pet have brown stains on their fur?

A: Brown stains on your pet’s light-colored fur may result from constant licking and chewing at particular areas. The stains commonly occur on a pet’s feet, legs, and hind end, which are common itchy areas. Saliva and other body fluids, including tears, contain iron-like pigments that react with air and sunlight to create rust-colored stains. 

Q: Does my itchy pet have allergies?

A: Most itchy pets probably have allergies to something in their environment or food. Approximately 30% of dogs develop allergies, which begin in young adulthood and often worsen over time. Environmental allergies to pollen, mold, grass, dander, and dust mites are common, and an allergic pet can experience skin and ear inflammation, which causes itching. Food allergies are uncommon but may cause pets to itch year-round.

Q: What causes pet skin infections? 

A: Skin infections are another common cause for pets’ itchiness, which can be a primary condition or develop secondary to another underlying skin disease. Inflammation from allergies or wounds from scratching can cause the natural bacteria and yeast on a pet’s skin to overgrow, and the infection intensifies the itching. Skin infections may lead to rashes, pimple-like bumps, scabs, scaling, redness, moist lesions, and a foul odor.

Q: Could my itchy pet have cancer?

A: A few skin cancers can look similar to skin infections or allergies. These uncommon cancers are unlikely to be an itchy pet’s underlying problem. Skin cancer is more likely in an older pet who presents with a skin issue for the first time. To be safe, you should schedule a visit with our Veterinary Medical Center of Indian River County team if your pet exhibits any new skin problems.

Q: Are my pet’s ear problems related to their skin?

A: Ear infections usually have an underlying cause, such as floppy ear conformation that limits airflow, a condition that results in excess ear wax, or inflammation from—you guessed it—allergies. Sometimes chronic ear infections are a pet’s first or only allergy sign, and treating the underlying allergy is necessary to resolve the ear problem.

Q: What can I do to help my pet’s itch?

A: Unfortunately, pet owners cannot do much for their pet’s itch until their veterinarian diagnoses the underlying cause. If your pet starts to itch or scratch, schedule a visit with our veterinary team. Once we diagnose your pet’s problem, we may be able to recommend changes or strategies, such as allergen avoidance, you can use at home to reduce your furry pal’s itching.

Q: What can my veterinarian do to help my pet’s itch?

A: To treat your pet’s itchiness effectively, our Veterinary Medical Center of Indian River County team must first diagnose the condition’s underlying cause. Diagnosis usually requires a few simple tests, such as skin scraping to look for parasites, skin cytology to check for bacteria or yeast overgrowth, or culture to identify bacterial species. Once our team knows the cause of your pet’s itchiness, we can provide directed treatments, which may include:

  • Parasite preventives or injectable parasiticides
  • Anti-itch, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulator medications
  • Frequent bathing with medicated shampoo
  • Allergy immunotherapy (i.e., allergy shots)
  • Allergen avoidance strategies
  • Special diet

Q: Why did my veterinarian refer my pet to a dermatologist?

A: A veterinary dermatologist treats pets with complex or chronic skin diseases. Our team may refer your pet to a specialist if we cannot control your pet’s itch with typical treatments, or if we suspect a more serious or systemic disease is causing your pet’s signs.

Constant itching is uncomfortable for your pet and can keep them—and your entire family—awake at night. Prevent your pet from causing self-harm by treating the itch right away. Contact our Veterinary Medical Center of Indian River County to schedule a visit if your pet is itching more than usual, experiencing hair loss, or exhibiting other skin conditions.