8 signs your pet's itching is more serious than you think

Aug 10 2020, 3:00 pm

If you have an itchy pet, it may be time to see your vet.

Everyone has an itch they can’t scratch now and again. But if you notice your furry friend is scratching up a storm this summer, there are a few likely reasons it might be happening and loads of solutions you and your vet can undertake.

In Canada, 2.4 million dogs suffer from skin issues that require veterinary treatment. These skin issues are especially common during the warmer summer months and can lead to greater health concerns or cause discomfort to your fluffy pal. Common dermatological issues can be caused by allergies, local environment, your pet’s diet, or infections. Not all dogs exhibit symptoms, so it’s important to take your pet’s temperament, breed, and lifestyle into consideration.

That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of Dr. Juanita Glencross-Winslow, a veterinarian with Royal Canin, to create a checklist of unusual signs and behaviours that will help you discern whether your pet’s itching is normal or a skin problem that may require treatment.

Food and playtime


Does your pet drop everything, like playing or eating, at the drop of a hat to relieve an itch?

Playing and eating are the ultimate motivators for many dogs, so if they’re abandoning your game of fetch or turning away their food bowl to scratch themselves, it could be a sign that an allergy or an infection is bothering their skin.

Scaling skin

Does your pet have dandruff or scaling skin?

Your pet’s skin should always be pink and smooth without any cracks or flakes. Another sign that something may be amiss is if their skin is greasy or oily, as this is another potential indicator of a skin condition that may need treatment.

Lacklustre coat

Has your pet’s coat lost its lustrous quality?

Ideally, your pet’s coat should be thick, shiny, and free of broken hair or bald spots. Be sure to contact your vet especially if your pet is experiencing the latter since it’s considered unusual for dogs to have bald patches.

So long as there are no underlying infection or allergies, a complete and balanced diet is likely the ticket to restoring your pet’s shiny, pet-able locks.

Toe stains


Have you noticed any stains between your pet’s toes?

This is a common symptom of excessive paw licking and chewing, something pets do to ease irritation. Their saliva stains their fur, which is often a tell-tale sign of skin discomfort and may be related to a skin infection.


Does your pet “scoot” across the floor?

At first glance, this might seem cute and harmless, but more often than not it’s a sign your pet is trying to alleviate a bothersome itch by rubbing up against a scratchy surface.

Strange smells

Do you get a whiff of your pet before they even enter the room? Or, do you feel like you always have to wash your hands after petting them?

That musty smell could be evidence of a skin infection. Your vet can help determine what kind and prescribe the right treatment that will get your pet odour-free and ready for up-close cuddles.

Groomer guidance


Has your groomer ever mentioned anything to you about your pet’s skin or coat?

If there’s anyone that might be aware of something weird going on with your pet’s skin, it’s your groomer. Next time you take your pup for a haircut, take a few minutes to consult your groomer afterwards and ask about anything abnormal they may have noticed.

Lifestyle check

What’s your pet’s lifestyle? Are they the outdoorsy type, or do they spend most of their time in the cool indoors?

Taking an inventory of your pet’s way of life and understanding the environmental factors associated with this may be helpful in determining why they’re itching.

If you found yourself relating to any of the questions on this checklist, it’s probably best to make an appointment with your vet.

Sure, it could just be innocent scratching, but only your vet will be able to spot the difference between a friendly itch and a problem that requires treatment. Dr. Glencross-Winslow advises, “Once identified, most issues can be managed through a combination of the right diet and medication, giving your pet back the quality of life they deserve.”

You can also help spread the word and help other fur babies get the care they need by using the #ItchyPetSeeYourVet hashtag.

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