Vet Blog

Stop the Licking, Scratching and Misery

May 31, 2019

If your pet seems to be doggedly scratching, biting, chewing, licking or rubbing his body he is likely feeling pretty miserable.

It is fairly normal for pets to need or want to scratch a fair amount - much more than a human would. However, when this itching and scratching gets out of control, your pet is almost certainly suffering from an underlying health issue that requires attention. The sooner this is diagnosed and treated, the more quickly you will be able to ease the misery experienced by your furry pal.

What is Causing My Pet to Scratch So Much?

There can be a range of different reasons why your pet is relentlessly scratching, licking and rubbing his fur and skin. Some of the most common causes include the following:


Even some experienced pet owners don't realize that animals can suffer from allergies too. Just like us, they can be hypersensitive to a variety of different things. Animal allergies tend to be categorized into the following groups:

  • Food allergies
  • Environmental allergies, such as to pollen or dust
  • Contact allergies
  • Bite allergies, particularly to flea bites

Environment and bite allergies are two of the most common problems and are often found to be the cause of persistent or aggressive itching. They are especially prevalent in the spring and summer months when pollen levels increase and fleas and become more active.


Speaking of fleas, there are also several parasites that can cause your pet to develop a relentless need to scratch. These include fleas, ticks, and mites. While they can all be irritating, a large number of animals are actually allergic to a protein found in flea saliva that can cause an extreme reaction. Pets who are allergic to fleas, a problem is known as flea allergy dermatitis, need to be bitten just once to suffer from weeks of unbearable itchiness.

Skin problems

Underneath all that fur, you may find that your pet's skin is fairly sensitive, particularly since it doesn't get a lot of natural light. Skin problems are fairly common amongst pets and while some are caused by allergies, others can occur all on their own. Dryness and irritation are regular issues, particularly amongst pets who are bathed too often. Other problems can include rough areas, unusual lumps or bumps, and unexplained rashes, all of which can cause irritation and prompt your pet to scratch.

Poor nutrition

We all know that good nutrition is important for our pets to grow into and remain healthy adults. Studies have shown that a poor diet that is lacking in vital nutrients can also cause animals to develop an unavoidable need to scratch and itch themselves. Although there are lots of different pet foods to choose from, not all of them contain the same quality of balance of ingredients. In fact, some substitute crucial nutrients in favor of cheap fillers that do nothing except increase the manufacturer's profits. If you aren't sure that your pet is eating the right foods, speak to one of our Birmingham veterinarians for a recommendation.

Stopping the Scratching

As a loving and compassionate owner, you will want to do everything that you can to help your pet feel better. He probably doesn't understand why he is in so much discomfort - something that can be extremely frustrating and upsetting for him. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to help. These include:

  • Getting your pet diagnosed. You need to discover the source of your pet's distress before you can address it.
  • Avoiding the allergen as much as possible. Although this isn't easy in many cases, limiting your pet's exposure to the allergen wherever you can will dramatically reduce the severity of the symptoms experienced.
  • Getting prescription medications. There are a number of different medications that can help pets to manage issues such as skin irritations and allergies. Your vet will be able to recommend which are suitable for your furbaby based on his individual needs.
  • Soothe your pet's skin. Cool baths and special, relieving creams and moisturizers can help ease the effect that the irritation has on your pet's skin and fur.

With the proper treatment and management, it is possible to reduce or even stop the itching, scratching and licking, and the misery associated with these symptoms.

If you would like more advice on how to stop the unpleasant and debilitating symptoms associated with allergies in your pet, please get in touch with our knowledgeable and passionate veterinary staff at Valleydale Animal Clinic in Birmingham, AL by calling us at (205) 236-1800.