Don’t Wait — If Your Pet Is Itchy, See the Vet Now


Constant itching can create anxiety in pets. By: torne

The worst thing you can do with an itchy pet is wait.

This is the season of skin allergies and flea bite dermatitis. The longer you wait to get your pet relief, the harder it will be to get Mr. Itch back to Mr. Happy.

So why is early treatment so important?

Why You Should Act Now

There are several reasons, including:

  1. First and foremost, the earlier the treatment, the earlier your pet gets relief. Itchy skin (pruritis) begins as an annoyance and develops into pain. Ask anyone who’s ever suffered from poison ivy or psoriasis.
  2. The sooner you treat, the less medication your pet will require. Steroids, often a necessary medication for skin allergies, are never a great medical solution, particularly in the long term, because of the side effects. And the safer drugs, like Apoquel and cyclosporine? They are expensive and, like any drug, not without possible side effects.
  3. Prolonged itching sets your pet up for secondary problems, like bacterial infections (pyoderma) and yeast infections. When your pet itches excessively, the skin becomes weak and vulnerable to infections. These infections create more itch and pain for a longer period of time and require more medications, like antibiotics and anti-yeast drugs and/or shampoos.
  4. Itching creates anxiety. Pets can actually experience behavioral changes when they are stressed out by itchy, painful skin. Cats can develop GI upset from ingesting their own fur.

Common Mistakes

Many people sit tight while their pet begins to itch. If you notice your pet licking or scratching excessively for even 1–2 days, you have already lost valuable time in treating the condition.

Imagine scratching yourself even 20–30 minutes a day for 2 days. You would not let it continue without seeking relief. And how often is that pup scratching when you’re not looking? The itchy cat is a sneaky little beast too. Cats often pull their fur out from allergies or skin conditions when alone.

Over-the-counter products often do not work for your pet. Many people visit a pet store or big box store and buy shampoos and topicals to try and avoid a vet visit. These products are often insufficient in treating a serious itch. You can spend quite a bit of money on stuff that may not work and you are losing more valuable time in getting your pet relief.

Over-the-counter products are often not effective in our pets’ itchiness. By: Lee Haywood

The Same Thing as Last Year

Many of you guys have been through this seasonal itch thing with your pet before. Why? Because most allergies (except food) are just that: seasonal. Some clients bring their pet in or call me to report their pet is itching within days of when the problem began the year before.

When I can document a seasonal allergy as the cause of a pet’s itching, I usually send people home with extra medications or, depending on the case, refill these medicines within a calendar year if I know the pet and the condition well.

Chronic conditions are another reason to secure a good relationship with a veterinarian. We can make sure you have the medication you need — as long as you are willing to have the pet checked out when necessary. In the case of a skin allergy, no pet should wait a week before beginning medication. It will only prolong the flare-up.

Help Your Pet

Reactions from poison ivy and other plants have now plagued me for the last few years. I was either never exposed to these demons before or have now developed a hypersensitivity.

The first year I suffered like a dog who wasn’t brought to the vet. I scratched and scratched until I did quite a bit of self-trauma, and it took me weeks to get back to normal. Now that I know how severe this itch can be and how badly I react, the medications come out at the first sign of the dreaded itch. I get relief quickly and do less damage to myself. And I don’t even have to wear an E collar.

My poison ivy experience has given me even a greater compassion for my itchy patients. They are looking for relief, so help them.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed Aug. 9, 2017.

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