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Pet Insurance
12 Aug 2019

Dr Claire Jenkins explains itchy skin in pets

Itchy skin is another of the most common reasons Everyday Pet Insurance customers choose to use VetAssist

So why is my pet itchy? Itchy skin is really just a symptom and can be the result of many underlying causes. Once we find the cause of the itchy skin we can reach the best treatment plan for your pet. Sometimes with skin, finding the cause isn’t always easy and can take a bit of detective work.

Some of the more common underlying causes of itchy skin include:


We know that when humans have allergies to pollen, they react by sneezing or getting watery eyes. In dogs and cats, the common reaction to an allergen is that their skin gets itchy. Allergens that can cause itchy skin include foods, fleas and environmental pollens – either breathed in or physically touched e.g plants, chemicals, shampoos. Regardless of the cause, the allergen can cause the skin to react in the same way – starting with an itch. 


There are two major causes of mites called Demodex and Sarcoptes. Your local Vet needs to do some simple tests to diagnose these, a few skin scrapes are performed (no anaesthetic needed) and then the sample is examined under the microscope, searching for the mites.

Infection e.g. bacteria and yeast

Skin infections are itchy, they are also commonly secondary to an underlying skin allergy or irritation.

Direct irritant

This includes items such as a topical cream, shampoo, plant or insect bite.

What do you do if your pet is suddenly itchy?

A cool bath to remove any allergens and wash in soothing dog oatmeal shampoo (see below) would be helpful, as well as an appropriate pet leave on conditioner. But, if the itch is escalating they will need some medication to help.

Your longer term anti-itch approach

1. Flea control
It’s important to use an effective flea product regularly. Pets with any type of allergy are also highly likely to be allergic to a flea bite as well. A single flea bite can cause itchy skin.

2. Oatmeal shampoos for relief

Regular bathing with colloidal oatmeal shampoos and conditioners are very effective for itchy canines. Please make sure they’re the ones specifically for pets and not humans. We have a different skin pH, so human products just aren’t appropriate. 

3. Omega fatty acids in foods
These are a natural anti-inflammatory for the skin and will help relieve your itchy companion. Make sure it’s a part of a healthy, balanced diet. If a food allergy is a suspected cause, your Vet will want to perform a food trial for this. 

4. Physical removal weeds or barriers to access  
Weeds such as Trad (or Tradescantia albiflora) is a ground cover and also a major cause of contact allergy for pets – it’s very difficult to remove as it keeps growing back, so you’ll need to be vigilant. Avoidance of contact is needed. 

5. Care of environment
Wash floors in hot water (avoid chemicals) and bedding in an enzymatic cleaner ie Biozet.

6. Regular monitoring 
Daily skin checks and if there are scabs presents, hair loss or if the itch is getting worse a hands on check and appropriate treatment is needed from your local Vet. 

dr. claire jenkins

Written by Dr Claire Jenkins. Claire is a QLD graduate with over 15 years experience as a neighbourhood Veterinarian in Australia and the UK. Animal lover and the founder of VetAssist, born from a passion to help pet carers everywhere access trusted advice earlier, for healthier, happier pets. Grateful to be carer to her beautiful Red-dog.

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Please note: Not all conditions, vet visits and treatments are covered by Everyday Pet Insurance. Refer to the Product Disclosure Statement for details of coverage.

Offer available to new Everyday Pet Insurance policyholders, and is limited to 1 membership per eligible policy. The free membership offer (valued at $199p.a) is from the date of your policy commencement, provided your Everyday Pet Insurance policy remains active. You are not eligible to redeem the free membership subscription for cash or credit. VetAssist is a separate subscription based service to the Everyday Pet Insurance product, and is provided independently by Woolworth’s third party service provider, VetChat Services Pty Ltd (VetChat). Click here for full VetAssist Service terms and conditions. Woolworths reserves the right to withdraw or extend this offer at anytime, without notice.

Everyday Pet Insurance policies entered into for the first time prior to 17 July 2023 and subsequent renewals of those policies are issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473, AFSL 241436 (Hollard), arranged and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923, AFSL 420183 (PetSure) and promoted and distributed by Hollard’s Authorised Representative (AR) Woolworths Group Limited ABN 88 000 014 675, AR 245476 (Woolworths). Everyday Pet Insurance policies entered into for the first time on or after 17 July 2023 and subsequent renewals of those policies are issued by PetSure and promoted and distributed by PetSure’s AR, Woolworths. Any advice provided is general only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure this product meets your needs before purchasing, or choosing to continue with the product. PDS and Target Market Determination available at