Scratching, chewing, licking, rubbing. Pet owners watch their beloved dogs and cats do it a hundred times a day. But if you suddenly realize that pets are not just grooming themselves or trying to satisfy a passing itch, it may be time to contact a veterinarian to check for pruritus. Pruritus is a sensation that leads to an urgent need for pets to scratch. It can point to a condition that requires medical treatment or lifestyle changes. If your pet is scratching more and more, you should be aware of these five facts about pruritus.
1. Pruritus Is a Sign, Not a Diagnosis
Pruritus refers to the sensation that makes pets want to scratch, chew, or repeatedly lick at parts of their body in an effort to satisfy an itch. The behavior may be a symptom of one or more conditions. The most common causes of pruritus are parasitic insects, allergies, and infections. Your veterinarian will do a full examine and may need to review a behavioral history of your pet in order to determine the source of the itchiness.
2. Treatments Usually Help, But Don’t Cure Pets
There are several medical treatments that can ease itchiness including cortisone and oral antihistamines. In the case of allergies, however, these will not cure your pet. A cat or dog that is hypersensitive to pollen or dust will continue to be allergic, but you can minimize the symptoms by ensuring your pet avoids these allergens whenever possible and by treating flare ups with prescription medication.
3. Scratching Can Cause More Itchiness
Trying to get a dog or cat to stop scratching or rubbing at an itch may seem impossible, but it’s essential to stopping the cycle of itch/scratch/itch more/scratch more. In instances where there is a parasitic insect or irritation due to allergies, you may need to use an Elizabethan collar to prevent your pet from reaching the area while it heals or as you administer treatment.
4. Beware Boredom
A condition known as lick sores can affect dogs and cats that don’t have anything to engage their interest. Middle age and less active pets are most at risk for the problem, in which dogs and cats repeatedly lick at a spot (usually on the lower leg) until hair is worn away and a raised sore forms. The best treatment is to provide pets with company (human or another pet) and ensure they get enough exercise.
5. Diagnosing a Pet Can Take Time
Because there are such a wide variety of causes, veterinarians need to do extensive testing of dogs and cats with pruritus. This may include conducting a thorough physical exam; having you complete a detailed medical history as well as a diary that tracks your pet’s symptoms; doing a skin scraping to check for mites and other parasites; and examining fungal cultures to rule out ringworm.
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.