Toronto Veterinary
Dermatology Services

Dogs scratch themselves. So do cats.

Just like us, sometimes they’re itchy. There are all sorts of reasons why any mammal has an itch they need to scratch. The occasional itch is nothing to worry about.

However, if your pet is itching, scratching, or biting at their skin on a regular basis, it’s likely a sign that there’s something deeper going on.

Bickford Park Animal Hospital’s veterinary knowledge includes dog and cat dermatology. If your furry friend just can’t get relief, contact Bickford Park Animal Hospital. Your veterinarian will help you find out what’s wrong and what the best treatment is to fix it.

Why Does My Pet Keep Itching?

When it comes to your cat or dog itching, it’s not always because they’re itchy – believe it or not.

However, it usually is. The most likely culprits are allergies or some type of parasite. More on those later. However, there are some other reasons why your pet may be itching.


It’s sometimes easy to forget how much our pets rely on us. If you’re not making the time to pay attention to your pet, they don’t have much of a choice other than to find their own way to amuse themselves. Playing with toys can relieve boredom, but if they don’t have access to toys (or they got them all stuck under the couch or fridge), that option is gone.

In cases like this, your pet can develop a habit of licking, chewing or scratching at itself. There are some similarities between this type of behaviour and obsessive-compulsive disorder in us humans.

The best solution for this is to spend more time with your pet, or arrange for them to have a more stimulating life.


Much like a person bites their nails or clenches their law out of anxiety, your pet may do the same thing. This is especially true in dogs, who tend to be more co-dependent than cats and can often show signs of separation anxiety. If your pet is anxious, there may be other signs than skin issues, including howling, urinating or defecating indoors or outside their litter box, obsessive pacing, and escape attempts.

If your pet is suffering from anxiety, your vet can develop a treatment plan for you designed to help deal with their self-destructive habits as well as calm their mental anguish.

Hormone Imbalance

Just like humans, cats and dogs have a thyroid gland. And just like humans, this is a delicate gland that can fall out of balance.

When the thyroid is out of balance, it can cause thyroid disorders. Dogs can suffer from hypothyroidism and it is generally the thyroid disorder most associated with skin disorders. A dog with hypothyroidism may have abnormal shedding or thinning of their coat, and thickening of their skin in some areas. Other symptoms include lethargy, obesity, and sensitivity to the cold.

Hyperthyroidism, conversely, is an overactive thyroid and this condition is fairly common in middle age to older cats. It doesn’t necessarily lead to a skin condition, but animals with hyperthyroidism are generally far more excitable, and if they’re already itching due to boredom or anxiety, a case of hyperthyroidism can make them pursue these habits more aggressively.


If your pet is dealing with pain, either due to some internal concern or a surface-level issue, they may lick or scratch at that area.

Feline Allergic Reactions And Treatment

If your cat is itching, scratching, or biting at itself, and your vet is able to rule out the above causes, there’s a good chance it’s a result of some sort of allergy.

The most common types of allergies for cats are parasitic, environmental, or food, in that order.

What Is My Cat Allergic To?

Cats are often allergic to the same things humans are, with the exception of cats, of course. These common allergens can include:

  • Fleas and other parasites
  • Grass
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Cleaning products
  • Mildew or mould
  • Dust
  • Weeds, trees, or other types of plants
  • Medications
  • Nylon
  • Wool
  • Perfumes
  • Essential oils

As far as food allergens go, the most common allergic reactions from food include:

  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Lamb

Other Cat Allergy Symptoms

Other than skin issues, there are a number of other symptoms your cat may have that could indicate they’re having an allergic reaction.

These include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing or snoring
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Itchiness at the base of the tail
  • Swollen paws

Treatments For Cat Allergies

Much like in humans, there is no cure for allergies.

Once your veterinarian is able to diagnose the specific allergen your cat is sensitive to, the best way to deal with it is to remove the allergens from your pet’s life as much as possible.

However, in cases where this is difficult or not possible, your veterinarian can prescribe cat antihistamines, steroids, or other treatments designed to reduce their reaction to the allergens.

Contact Bickford Park Animal Hospital today and book an appointment with your veterinarian to help deal with your cat’s allergic reactions and improve their quality of life.

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Canine Allergic Reactions And Treatment

If your dog is itching and scratching at itself, or they have other skin concerns, it’s possible they’re having an allergic reaction to something.

Much like humans, your dog can develop allergies to a wide range of different allergens. These aren’t generally life-threatening, but they can decrease your dog’s quality of life. They can also cause problems indirectly, as your dog may scratch itself raw, and these open sores can become infected or allow access to a variety of different infectious agents.

What Are Dogs Allergic To?

There are a number of different allergens that may bother your dog.

Skin allergies may be a result of food or environmental allergens, but they’re also often a result of fleas or other parasites.

To further complicate the matter, some dogs are not only allergic to flea bites, they’re also allergic to agents in the flea’s saliva, which makes the experience of having fleas especially unpleasant. If your dog is having an allergic reaction to flea bites, expect to see irritation near the base of their tail or near their neck.

True food allergies in dogs are relatively rare, but they’re common enough to watch for. If your dog’s skin condition is caused by food, it’s likely they’ll be itchy in their ears and paws. Watch for other food-related symptoms too, like gastrointestinal issues.

Environmental allergens, like in humans, are often seasonal. If you notice symptoms popping up like clockwork around the same time each year, it’s likely your dog has seasonal allergies. These irritations often pop up near the paws, ears, wrists, ankles, groin, eyes, and muzzle.

Risk Of Dog Allergies

Obviously, allergies are frustrating to deal with and can reduce your dog’s quality of life. However, there are other risk factors to consider.

As your dog attacks their itches, they may scratch, bite, or lick it. It’s not uncommon for them to do this so much that their skin becomes raw and breaks, which can leave them susceptible to other types of infection.

Symptoms Of Dog Allergies

Other than itchiness, there are several other symptoms to watch for that could be a sign your dog is having an allergic reaction.

These include:

  • Anaphylaxis (in acute or severe situations)
  • Hives
  • Swelling around the face
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Watery eyes
  • Chronic ear infections

Treatment For Dog Allergies

Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies, in dogs or in any other species, including humans.

Your veterinarian will work to diagnose the specific allergen that’s bothering your dog. From there, the treatment options are similar to those available to humans.

If it’s a food allergen, switching to a different type of food that doesn’t have that ingredient is ideal. If it’s a flea infestation, the obvious solution is to begin a course of flea treatment.

For environmental allergens, removing the source of the allergen is ideal, but when that isn’t possible, your vet can provide treatments to reduce the symptoms. These include antihistamines, steroids, or natural supplements.

Contact Bickford Park Animal Hospital

Is your cat or dog dealing with any of the symptoms above?

Are they itching, scratching, or dealing with other skin conditions?

If so, call Bickford Park Animal Hospital today.

Your veterinarian will work with you to determine the cause of your pet’s reactions and provide a treatment plan designed to relieve their suffering and keep them happy and healthy.

Contact Bickford Park Animal Hospital to book your appointment today.