You collapse into bed, ready for a restful night’s sleep, and all you hear is slurp … slurp … jingle as your itchy pet licks their inflamed paws and shakes their head. It’s enough to drive you mad. While the incessant noises make you crazy, imagine how your itchy pet feels. Battling an itch and failing to find relief is exceptionally frustrating, and can leave your furry pal miserable.

To help your pet feel more comfortable when they can’t stop the itch, you must first discover the source of their problem. Here are six possible reasons your four-legged friend is itchy, and how you can provide relief.

Problem: Your pet has fleas

Solution: Flea infestations are a leading cause of itchiness in pets, and only a handful of these tiny parasites can cause a severe reaction in allergic pets. Dogs and cats with a hypersensitivity to a protein in flea saliva can break out in an itchy, scabby rash that usually is focused on their hind end. Affected pets can be so itchy that they chew their skin raw, but quality flea prevention and a short-acting corticosteroid can squelch the problem. Regularly vacuuming your home and washing your pet’s bedding can also dissuade fleas from setting up shop in your house.

Problem: Your pet has atopy

Solution: Atopy is another term for environmental allergies, which are common in pets. Pollens, mold spores, grasses, trees, shrubs, and dust and storage mites are the main triggers of allergic reactions. Pets can experience year-round allergies to creatures always in their environment, like dust mites, or display seasonal surges during skyrocketing pollen counts in the spring, for example.

Atopy can be a management challenge, because your pet may experience longer seasonal allergies or more severe year-round allergies, and they often worsen with age. Fortunately, many therapies are available that combat itchiness. Oral and injectable therapies can eliminate itching and inflammation, topical ointments and shampoos can soothe damaged skin, and oral and topical supplements can strengthen the skin barrier.

Problem: Your pet has food allergies

Solution: Food allergies are uncommon in pets, but protein sources, like chicken, lamb, beef, dairy, and soy can lead to hypersensitivity. Grains rarely cause allergies in pets. If your pet has a food allergy, a food trial is the only way to determine the cause. During a food trial, your pet is fed a novel protein or hydrolyzed diet—and nothing else—for up to 12 weeks. If your pet’s signs such as itchy paws and chronic ear infections resolve, and then reappear when the suspected allergen is reintroduced, a food allergy is confirmed. Depending on your pet’s allergen, they may need a lifelong prescription hydrolyzed diet to keep their itching at bay.

Problem: Your pet has parasites

Solution: Other external parasites, in addition to fleas, can lead to an itchy pet. Mange mites, ear mites, and lice can create an intense itch that requires parasiticide treatment. While lice are rare in healthy pets, demodectic mites naturally reside on your pet’s skin, and can overwhelm a pet’s weakened immune system. Sarcoptic mites, on the other hand, are contagious and can cause severe itching. Ear mites also cause serious itchiness. Fortunately, these parasites can be treated, although treatment is often lengthy, because all life stages must be eradicated.

Problem: Your pet has a skin infection

Solution: Skin infections can develop as primary or secondary problems, and can lead to itching, irritation, inflammation, and oozing sores. Fungal or bacterial problems can be treated with oral or topical antimicrobials, but deep skin infections can require weeks to months of treatment. If your pet has developed a secondary skin infection, treating the underlying cause—if possible—is also essential. However, a pet who develops skin infections because of chronic issues, like skin folds or hypothyroidism, may suffer from future flare-ups.

Problem: Your pet has a poor diet

Solution: Each pet is an individual, and one diet does not fit all. While one of your pets may do well on a standard adult food, another pet may need extra essential fatty acids to maintain a lustrous coat and flake-free skin. If your pet has itchy, flaky skin, they may need more essential nutrients or omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.

An itchy pet who is licking, chewing, or scratching can have raw and bleeding skin in a matter of hours. Don’t let your furry pal turn into a hot mess—schedule an appointment with our Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek team and get them relief.