Watch Tip: Scratching Persistently

Posted on May 15th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

Weekly Watch Tip for week of May 16:

Listen and watch for pets who scratch or lick themselves persistently; they might be suffering severely from food allergies, mange, fleas or other parasites. Look at the fur: do you see red, rough patches or skin ulcers? This animal is in perpetual torment. Please take action. Talk to the owner or call the authorities.

“Look at the fur” ==> “Look beneath the fur”

When you watch a dog or cat who persistently scratches, you might make the same common assumption as many others do: the poor thing suffers from fleas or even worse, has developed allergies to flea saliva. If you part the hair and find pin-head sized dark things that dart or jump, and accompanying flakes of dark red “dandruff” (blood), you are correct.  But flea treatments won’t help and can even worsen these other common skin problems:

  • Allergies or reactions to foods, medications, or things in the environment (eczema, hot spots)
  • Poor coat and skin health caused by bad quality dog food
  • Infected wound that stays moist because of wet living conditions (usually outdoors)
  • Parasites other than fleas such as sarcoptic and demodex mites, ticks, deer flies
  • Compulsive licking and scratching caused by separation anxiety or boredom (confinement)
  • Fungi or yeast infections (ringworm)

Food allergies or poor quality foods cause many skin problems

Veterinarians will tell you that poor food is a frequent cause of unhealthy skin and itching that results from it. One wrote, “In my thirty-five years of practice, I have seen hundreds of dogs and cats whose lives changed dramatically, and where the pet’s caretakers were shocked and surprised at the remarkable difference in their pets, by the simple act of providing the pet with a high quality, meat-based diet.”

Pay particular attention to the first three items on pet food ingredient lists. You should be suspicious if they include corn, wheat, or any meat by-product meal. Many dogs are allergic to corn; avoid foods that include even small amounts. Cats can’t digest grains or vegetables; they are true carnivores. Remember, food manufacturers are legally entitled to use generic words like “natural” and “complete, balanced nutrition” by maintaining MINIMUM standards.

Living outdoors can create or exacerbate skin problems

Some skin problems can be prevented by keeping animals indoors in dry conditions, away from insects and parasites. Watch “outside” animals in your neighborhood for persistent itching and speak to the owners. Some of them may already be treating itching with a flea collar, wondering why it does not help!

Do you see persistent itching of the ears in particular? Mites, bacteria and fungi are causes as listed above, but are joined by flies who will bite along ear margins, creating red crusty lesions. Both ears will be affected. Again, outside animals are more likely to be affected.

Read more about skin problems here: The Pet Center web site.

Be a Good Samaritan to animals in your neighborhood, remembering that most often ignorance is the cause of suffering. When you are helping an animal, you are also helping your neighbors.

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