How to Help Prevent Itching in Dogs and Cats: 8 Tips

How to Help Prevent Itching in Dogs and Cats: 8 Tips

If you’ve ever experienced poison ivy or had an intensely itchy mosquito bite, you can sympathize with the way an itchy pet feels when they’re compelled to scratch at themselves nonstop. Not only is excessive itchiness in pets super uncomfortable, but it can also lead to secondary issues like skin infections that may perpetuate the itch. 

Although there are certainly things you can do to treat itching in cats and dogs once you notice the excessive scratching, you can also take a proactive approach to warding off itch in pets who are predisposed.

Itchy Pet Prevention: Is It Possible?

You may not realize it, but you’re likely performing a few methods of itch prevention for your pet already, such as administering parasite preventives or keeping up on your pet’s grooming. But for a lot of pets, itch prevention tactics are put in place after an episode of intense itchiness. For example, while you can’t necessarily prevent your pet from developing allergies, you may be looking for tactics to prevent another flare-up after having watched your pet endure the itch of allergic dermatitis.

How to Help Prevent Itching in Dogs and Cats: 8 Methods to Try

To prevent itching in dogs and cats, consider the following tips.

Keep your pet on year-round parasite prevention

Flea infestations and flea allergy dermatitis are among the leading causes of itchiness for both dogs and cats. Several other parasites, such as ticks or sarcoptic mites (scabies), can also cause intense itching in pets.

Year-round parasite prevention is recommended for both dogs and cats. The geographic ranges and active months for parasites are expanding due to global warming, making fleas and ticks an increasingly widespread and year-round issue.

Options may include oral medications, topical medications, or collars. Your veterinarian will help you pick out the best options for your pet.

Revolution Plus Topical Solution for Cats
Seresto flea and tick collars for dogs and cats

Try skin and coat supplements

Skin and coat supplements may help promote a healthy skin barrier, reducing itching. One supplement that’s commonly recommended for dogs and cats with skin issues is omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of the structure of healthy cells. While they’re not particularly useful for acute flares of itchiness, they can become part of the management strategy for pets with environmental allergies and several other skin conditions.

Greenies skin and coat supplements
Welactin omega-3 supplement for dogs
EicosaDerm omega-3 liquid

You should always speak with your veterinarian before adding a supplement to your pet’s daily diet. Make sure the skin and coat supplement you choose is appropriate for your dog or cat. Dosages may vary between species.

Feed a prescription diet for pets with allergies

For pets with food allergies, prescription diets are often the first line of defense for preventing flare-ups. These diets come in the form of hydrolyzed protein diets, novel protein diets, or limited-ingredient diets. Allergy diets either have the proteins broken into smaller, more digestible forms, or they don’t contain the ingredients that the pet is allergic to. 

Most allergy diets require a veterinary prescription to purchase. Your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet has food allergies and discuss a trial of a cat or dog food to prevent itchy skin.

Hill's Food Sensitivities z/d dry food for cats
Royal Canin Skintopic dog food bag
Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein HP dry cat food

Keep up with grooming

Your long-haired cat or thick-coated dog might require daily brushing. Fur matting can lead to skin inflammation, itchiness, and pain. By brushing your pet’s fur and preventing the development of mats, you help to avoid the itchiness and discomfort associated with mats. Regular grooming can also help you identify issues which might cause itching, such as a flea infestation or the presence of ticks.

Consider medicated shampoos

Pets with specific skin conditions may benefit from medicated baths. For example, pets with seborrhea may benefit from an anti-seborrheic shampoo. Oatmeal shampoo may be soothing for pets with frequently irritated skin.

Dechra DermBenSs
Dechra DermAllay

Cats notoriously don’t like baths. Speak with your veterinarian if you’re considering bathing your cat to see if it would be beneficial. 

Try acupuncture for pets

Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). There is some evidence that acupuncture may help to prevent allergies and infections through its impacts on the immune system. Though acupuncture isn’t often used as a sole method for itch prevention and isn’t offered by most conventional veterinarians, this is a consideration for families who have an interest in TCVM. 

Consider how to manage the home environment to reduce allergens

Environmental allergies are common in both dogs and cats. Indoor allergens, such as dust mites, can contribute to your pet’s allergies. You can help to reduce allergens in the home through frequent vacuuming (daily), regular air filter replacement (every one to two months), and frequent washing of bedding and blankets (weekly).

Manage your pet’s exposure to plants outside

Outdoor plants (specifically pollens) can contribute to pet allergies and itchy skin. Obviously, you can’t completely control the outdoors, but there are steps you can take to reduce potential exposure. If you know what plants trigger your pet’s allergies, particularly if it’s a contact allergy, you can remove the plant from your yard. If your pet is allergic to specific pollens, consider keeping the windows of your home closed when that plant’s pollen activity is high. You might also keep your pet inside after mowing the lawn. Allergy shots can also be a good idea for pets with allergies to outdoor plants.

What to Do If Your Cat or Dog Is Itchy

Sometimes, even your best efforts may not completely cut out your dog or cat’s itch. If you notice that your pet is itching a lot, there are medical interventions your veterinarian can prescribe to help give your pet some relief. Contact your veterinarian for advice on how to help stop your dog’s itching or your cat’s itching. 

When preparing to see your veterinarian, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Are you noticing anything besides itchiness?
  • Are there specific parts of your pet’s body which seem especially itchy?
  • How long have you noticed these symptoms?
  • What parasite preventive does your pet take, and when did they last get their prevention?
  • What do you feed your pet? Have there been recent changes to their diet?
  • Have you changed anything in your home, like carpet cleaner or detergent?

With proactive plans in place, you can reduce your dog or cat’s itch! But even if itchiness still occurs, don’t despair—your veterinarian will be happy to help your pet with their itchiness.

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