Itchiness in pets happens frustratingly often for all kinds of reasons. In fact, it’s probably the number one problem pets come to see me for. Living in Miami as I do, the itchies are all around us––and they never take a winter break as they might in your area. 

 But what’s the cause? 

Sometimes it seems as if I need a crystal ball to answer that one. But luckily, I can usually whittle down the reasons to a few basic troubles. Read on for the rundown (in no particular order)...

1. Ectoparasites

That’s a fancy word for “critters.” From the lowly flea to all varieties of mites, any creature that stings and bites can cause itchiness with their creepy crawlings, simple bite/sting reactions, secondary infections of these bite sites and their occasional ability to trigger...

2. Allergies

Insects can do it (fleas first and foremost). Foods can do it. Organic matter floating around in the air can do it. And, less commonly, things pets’ skin comes in contact with can do it too. Too bad it’s almost always impossible to know what’s causing the allergy without serious trial and error...and laboratory testing, of course.

Ear itchiness, anal itchiness, foot itchiness, spot-only itchiness (“hot spots”) and generalized itchiness may all be the result. 

3. Endocrine diseases

Hormones are a blessing to the body’s ability to commincate within itself. But a disease of the endocrine (hormone producing) system can mean serious trouble the skin. Sex, stress and metabolic hormones can all have untoward effects on the skin when they’re not kept in control. And the latter two are especially implicated in itchiness.

4. Infections

The interesting thing about ectoparasites, allergies and endocrine diseases is that they can all lead to skin infections. Other skin diseases can do it, too, which is why I like to put this cause of itching under a separate category of its own. Bacteria and yeast normally live on the skin. When things are awry at the level of the skin, its normal inhabitants grow with few inhibitions. These infections are invariably itchy. 

5. Non-specific

Sometimes pets just scratch. Puppies do it for lots of behavioral reasons we don’t always understand. We know humans do it for psychiatric reasons. It’s therefore not hard to believe that itching sometimes...just happens. Too bad we can’t always get to the why of things. 

Diagnosing and treating these skin troubles? Separate issues. But I promise I’ll get to them. One later this week, the other at the beginning of the next. Stay tuned.


Dr. Patty Khuly