Thump, thump, thump. There it goes again in the middle of the night, waking you up. It would be nice if it was the wag of a tail against the floor but no, it is the sound of a back leg scratching that raw spot on your furry friend yet again. The irritation and frustration is shared by everyone in the family, furred or not. You are not alone. Scratching pets are the second most common medical reason for a visit to the vet.
The dainty nibble of the feet, the playful roll and rub along the grass or in the snow, the cute shake of the head, or that really enthusiastic response to a rub from you. Sure, they may be Samson’s funny little quirk, but often they are due to skin irritation or itchiness. Samson may be trying to get that spot that his claws and teeth just can’t reach. It may not be much to begin with, but some of those minor itches can turn our dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs or any other animal with skin into something looking more like an elephant if left untreated. We don’t see too many pet elephants, because with professional help skin problems can be solved or managed.
Where does it all come from? How about the mosquitoes that buzz and bite us? Yes, but unlike humans there is an easy solution for these pesky pests. Dogs can get a drop on the back of the neck that will keep biting insects away for a full month. Wouldn’t that be cool for us?! Fleas, mites, wasp stings... lots of bugs can bug!
What about that cooling swim in the pond? Yes, stagnant water can have bacteria that cause skin infections if not rinsed off well. How about the freshly cut lawn, the pretty dandelions, the dust under the couch? Yes, allergies in the environment are being diagnosed as the underlying cause in more and more pets thanks to allergy testing.
What about Samson’s food? Yes, it too could be a cause of skin problems, just like it can be with humans. The causes of skin problems are nearly limitless.
“Oh my goodness,” you say, “I should keep Samson in a controlled bubble and not feed him so that he doesn’t scratch!” Obviously that is not the answer, but skin can be tested and treated, managed or controlled with cool new drugs or even drops under the tongue for allergies.
What on earth can Samson eat now, though? Chicken, corn, and beef are some of the more commonly blamed ingredients for presumed food allergies. Unfortunately, again, the tale is not that simple with pretty much anything edible being a possibility. Specialty diets can help diagnose the allergy, or can help improve the surface of the skin so that it can resist some of the causes of skin irritation. There is something yummy and suitable for Samson to eat for sure!
So if you find yourself lying there at night thinking, “Could someone please make the thumping stop?” or finding the game of catch paused for a rub along the grass, it may be time to visit your vet for help with the second most common problem in pets. Join the movement and fight the itch!
Dr. Katharine North is a veterinarian at the North Peace Veterinary Clinic.