What is normal itching?  Does my dog itch more than normal?

A recent study of 314 dogs from 4 countries shows that most normal dogs lick/chew the paws, rub the face, sneeze, shake the head, or scoot less than a few times per week.  In this study, it was very unlikely for a normal dog to have these behaviors more than once daily.  So if your pet exhibits these behaviors more than once daily, that warrants further investigation to see if there is an underlying condition triggering these behaviors.  Cats have normal grooming behaviors more than once daily, but generally minimal unless the cat just had a meal.  Licking or scratching to the point of hair thinning, red skin, or scabs on the skin are not normal in cats or dogs.

There are many reasons for dogs and cats to be itchy.

  • Parasites (fleas, mites, ticks, lice)
  • Bacterial infection (most commonly staphylococcus bacteria; “staph” infection)
  • Fungal infection (Malassezia yeast or dermatophytes; “ringworm” infection)
  • Allergies to food or environmental allergens like dust mites or pollens
  • Autoimmune diseases like pemphigus foliaceus
  • Skin cancer called epitheliotropic lymphoma