Scratching That Itch: What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Skin

Does your pet have an itch that they can’t seem to scratch? We see a lot of itchy dogs and cats that won’t stop licking and scratching this time of year. Pet parents often feel guilty if their pet seems tirelessly uncomfortable and when a pet excessively scratches and self-grooms, this can cause skin damage and infection.

If your kitty has extra dandruff, if your dog seems to scratch, scratch, and scratch some more, we have put together this article to help you better understand the underlying causes.

When should you bring your pet in for an exam? What is causing your pet’s skin discomfort? We have some answers for you.

Is Your Pet Just Itchy or Is There Something More Serious Going On?

It’s normal for a cat or dog to scratch a little from time to time. Some signs that it’s time to bring your pet by for us to see if there’s something deeper going on include:

  • Non-stop scratching
  • Butt scooting
  • Rubbing the face or ears
  • Chewing and biting skin and back
  • Licking or scratching until loss of fur, irritation, or scrapes
  • Flaking dry skin
  • Bald spots
  • Excessive licking of feet

What Can Cause a Pet’s Itchy Skin?

Creepy Crawlies and Parasites

Parasites are the most common cause of pet scratching, licking, and chewing. From fleas to ticks, and mites, don’t let bugs take a bite out of your beloved pet. 

The shock of being bitten by fleas often stresses a pet and causes mental distress. If your pet looks startled or cries out then scratches, she may have fleas.

If your pet seems to be targeting an area, you should check for a tick. Ticks can be tiny but are often visible to the naked eye. Grab your tweezers (or better yet, a tick lifter) and a magnifying glass and slowly get a good hold on the body of the tick close to its head and pull. Try to remove the entire tick - leaving behind part of the tick can cause future issues. If your dog or cat is on tick prevention, ticks will naturally die within about 24 hours after latching on, greatly reducing the risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

As for mites, they are practically invisible. What do we mean by that? They’re microscopic. If your dog or cat has itchy ears, it could be mites.

We will happily work with you to find the right regimen for your pet’s pest protection.

Diet or Allergies

Some pets will feel itchy and chew their backs, legs, feet, and more to the point of bald patches due to a dietary allergy. Some pets also experience seasonal allergies and allergies from external factors. Did you know some dogs are even allergic to grass?

Pets can also be allergic to mold, dust, soaps, pollen, and other factors.

If your kitty has bald patches, she could be allergic to something in her diet as well.

Nervousness, Anxiety, or Boredom

These are more common than many pet parents realize. When a dog or cat is uncomfortable, bored, or stressed, they may compulsively lick and chew their feet and back. They can even develop a condition similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

If you think this maybe a problem, introduce some extra mental and physical stimulation to your pet’s routine. Puzzles, interactive toys, more walks, and some good old-fashioned play can help!

Dry Skin

Dry skin can be environmental or internal. Pets need fatty acids and a balanced diet for a healthy coat and skin. 

Pain or Discomfort

From splinters to a collar that’s too tight, your pet may be trying to seek some comfort from a thorn in their side, literally. If your pet is paying a lot of attention or chewing one area, give it a thorough exam to see if there’s something causing pain. Be sure to check for thorns, burrs, and splinters.

Pesticides and fertilizers can also cause a burning sensation. If you think this can be the case, immediately rinse your pet’s feet.

Some pets will also lick a paw or joint that’s sore from arthritis or from exercise.

What Can You Do to Help an Itchy Pet?

Rashes, scratching, and chewing for more than a day or so means it’s time to bring your pet by for an exam. Dermatological issues are notoriously difficult for pet parents to diagnose and treat on their own without the help of a vet.

Bringing your pet in for regular grooming can also help catch dermatological problems early on. Our groomers work alongside our veterinary team to help catch ear, skin, or coat problems.

We offer a wide range of services that can prevent the guessing game. From allergy tests to flea and tick prevention, we can calm that itchy skin and help bring your pet feel comfortable again, so make an appointment today.

Photo Credit: KruPichai

Print Email

Heart Disease and Your Pet

People are not the only ones at risk for heart disease. Dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and even iguanas can develop heart disease. Undiagnosed and untreated heart disease can lead to heart failure and, ultimately, death. With all the news articles related to grain-free dog foods and the link to heart disease, we’re sure you’ll want to learn more.

One of the hardest aspects of our job is informing pet parents that their beloved pets are ill. This is particularly difficult when their pet’s illness is something as serious as heart disease. Once a pet has entered congestive heart failure, there’s no cure. We know this is crushing to hear.

So, what do you need to know and do to your pet’s precious heart?

Heart Disease in Dogs

Heart disease affects about 10% of dogs. That’s 7.8 million dogs in the United States. Heart disease is in dogs isn’t caused by a nibble of McDonald’s double cheeseburger or a bit of bacon every now and then. In fact, dog risk factors are quite different than those that affect people.

The Most Common Canine Heart Disease

Them most common form of heart disease found in dogs is one that most people have never even heard of: canine valvular disease. Valvular disease makes up about 75% of heart disease in dogs. Valvular disease mostly dogs affects small breed adult dogs, although it is also found in some medium and large dogs as well.

What is Valvular Disease?

Your dog’s heart is actually a lot like yours: four chambers made of muscle that pump blood through your dog’s body. Their hearts also have valves, like ours, that keep blood flowing in the right direction. When a dog develops valvular heart disease, their valves begin to break down and distort in shape, becoming less effective at keeping the blood flowing correctly. Over time, the heart has to pump more and more blood to keep up, causing it to enlarge and lose its effectiveness. After a point the heart cannot keep up, resulting in heart failure.

Other Canine Heart Diseases

One stat that continues to break our hearts is that 13% of canine heart disease could be prevented with medication. Did you guess which one we’re talking about? Heartworm disease. Other canine heart diseases include myocardial disease and dilated cardiomyopathy (which mostly affects large breed dogs at any age).

Heart Disease in Cats

Don’t believe the memes--cats, in fact, do have hearts and their feline hearts are vital to keeping them knocking your pens off coffee tables for years to come. 10% of cats suffer from heart diseases. What heart diseases can keep your kitty from living her life to the fullest?

Cats can be born with heart irregularities or develop heart disease over the course of their lives. Problems related to cat heart health include murmurs, tears, and weakening of heart valves and heart walls. All of these are dangerous and, if left undiagnosed or untreated, can cause heart failure.

Heart Disease in Other Pets

Because all pets have hearts, they’re all susceptible to heart disease and failure. The causes and risk factors may be different, but the result of undiagnosed heart disease is the same.

Heart disease is a significant health problem for ferrets and rabbits, just like cats and dogs. And heart failure also threatens the lives of reptiles, although they are less often studied.

What You Need to Know About Grain-Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

The FDA is currently investigating the connection between grain-free dog food and heart disease and has not yet reached a conclusion. While this doesn’t mean there is a proven connection between the two, the FDA did see an increase of heart disease in dogs that wouldn’t normally be prone to heart issues which may have a link between their diets so they are currently looking into it.

If you have questions about your dog’s diet, we have answers.

Signs and Symptoms of Pet Heart Disease

One of the toughest aspects of pet heart disease is that the early stages often shows no symptoms. It’s not until heart disease has progressed that many pets show signs like lethargy, trouble breathing, weight loss, a bloated belly, and coughing.

Why don’t pets show early symptoms? Their bodies are able to keep up as their heart compensate by enlarging. But this only works for so long.

This is why it is absolutely essential that you don’t skip your pet’s annual veterinary appointments. We can listen to your pet’s heart and determine if it is in good health. We can also prescribe heartworm prevention to keep your pet’s heart healthy and protected.

Often diagnosing a heart problem starts with a simple annual exam. If your pet is due for a checkup, we’ll gladly listen to her heart and check for any other signs of illness.

Photo Credit: epatrician

Print Email


What are Zoonoses?

Did you know that July 6th is World Zoonoses Day? This day is dedicated to keeping you, your family, and your fur family safe from preventable illness.

What are zoonoses? Contrary to how this word sounds (zoo-noses), zoonoses are not the adorable snouts, snoots, and sniffers you’ll find at the zoo. Zoonoses are infectious diseases that can be spread between animals and humans. 75% of diseases discovered in human originate from animals. Frightening, right?

In honor of Zoonoses Day, we want to shine a light on some of the most common diseases spread from pets to humans and how to prevent them to help you stay healthy and your pets thriving!

The Most Common Zoonotic Diseases in Pets

1. Rabies

Any mammal can contract rabies. From skunks to cats to dogs and bats, rabies is fatal for pets. Not only is rabies fatal to pets but humans can contract this terrifying viral disease. The CDC estimates that 60 to 70 dogs and 250 cats annually contract rabies.

Prevention: Make sure your pet’s rabies vaccine is current.

2. Leptospirosis

This bacterial disease causes severe kidney and liver disease. It spreads through urine and contaminated water. Leptospirosis is especially scary because your dog can contract it simply by sniffing an infected area outdoors.

Prevention: Learn more here and call us to get your dog vaccinated against Leptospirosis.

3. Lyme’s Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Ticks carry these painful diseases and unfortunately, your dog or cat can easily carry an infected tick into your home. Both you, your dog, and your cat can catch these.

Prevention: Don’t become victim to Lyme’s disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Make sure your pets are protected with medicine that kills ticks quickly to prevent one of these dangerous infections.

4. Roundworms and Tapeworms

These parasites are dangerous and disgusting. Unfortunately, they are also becoming more and more prevalent in our Grantsburg area. Roundworms and tapeworms can cause liver and kidney damage.

Prevention: If you have children or the potential of intestinal parasites makes your skin crawl, be sure to make an appointment. We can better inform you of the signs or symptoms of tapeworm or roundworms and prescribe medicine to deworm your dog.

Other Precautions You Can Take to Reduce Your Risk of Contracting or Spreading Zoonoses

When it comes to healthy hygiene habits, you probably already practice most of these. They can be a good reminder and a great lesson for kids:

  • Bring your dog in or make an appointment to visit us if your dog or cat shows any signs of illness.
  • Don't skip your pet’s annual exams and make sure their vaccinations are up to date.
  • Bathe and groom your dog regularly.
  • Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention are a must.
  • Wash your hands after petting your dog or cat, or anyone else's pet.
  • Wear gardening gloves when working in the yard.
  • Pickup and dispose of your pet's waste in your yard and on walks
  • Wash pet bedding regularly.

Our pets would never intend to get us sick, so do your part to keep your whole family healthy by vaccinating your pets against some of the most common zoonotic diseases. Schedule your pet's appointment today!

Photo Credit: Pexels.

Print Email

How Adopting a Cat Can Change Your Life

Did you realize June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month? Our team at Grantsburg Animal Hospital is excited to give you some background information on this awareness event and give you some reasons to consider changing your life with the adoption of a feline companion!

The Spirit and Motivation of the Month

Adopt a Shelter Month is promoted by the ASPCA to help our vulnerable and beloved cat friends. Why do shelter cats need awareness targeted on them? Over 3 million surrendered or abandoned cats make their way into shelters each year, with June being one of the busiest times of the year.

Why Should You Consider Adopting a Cat?

1. If you already have a cat, it's an opportunity for a new companion!

Solitary cats can become lonely.  Cats with buddies have a build in companion to play with. Not only does this help both of them stay more physically fit, but it also helps with their mental enrichment, as well!

2. Purrs, snuggles and a companion for YOU!

Cats can be amazing emotional support to humans. Studies even show that they can reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack!

3. You will save a life.

There’s no mystery behind this one. Especially choosing to adopt an older or black cat, cat adoption provides a cat a home when he or she may otherwise be euthanized. Shelter resources are limited, and often the cats that are not adopted early fall into those two categories.

4. Cats are a great companion in small spaces.

Are you a townhome, apartment or condo dweller? Or do you have limited backyard space that may not be conducive to dog ownership? When provided opportunities for enrichment, a smaller space isn't a limiting factor for a cat's happiness. As long as they have opportunity to hunt and play, you'll find them quite content.

If We’ve Piqued Your Interest, Here Are Some Some Final Thoughts on a Cat Adoption!

There are many shelters full of cats searching for a family. Take your time, and ask the shelter workers about the cat's temperament to help assess if this is a good fit for you. Once you have your new companion home, give them plenty of space to take in the new setting.  Adjustment takes time, so also give your new cat time to acclimate.

Ensure you’re financially able to bring a cat into your life. There will be expenses such as food, vaccinations, and veterinary care. However, you can rest assured that our Grantsburg Animal Hospital staff will be here to help provide veterinary advice and the very best in veterinary care for your new companion!

Photo Credit: Pexels

Print Email