We have a 10-week-old puppy we named Rusty. We already love her to death but she's been scratching all the time ever since we got her. I can't see that she has fleas. What could be bothering her and what can we do to help?
A puppy as young as Rusty should not be scratching as much as you describe. Fleas are the most common reason for such a young pup to itch, so check her over again very thoroughly to see if you might have missed these tiny pests. The next step is to take her to your veterinarian. A little scratching is normal for a puppy or kitten especially if she has just had a bath which tends to dry out the skin. Low humidity during cold weather also can leave the skin somewhat dry. Rusty's problem, however, is probably more serious since she scratches all the time. The culprit could be one of several types of mites that can affect a puppy and cause the symptoms you describe. Sarcoptic and demodectic mites burrow into the skin and cause redness and intense itching. Cheyletiella mites live on the surface layers of skin and cause a lot of itching and so much flaking the condition sometimes is called walking dandruff. You might observe Rusty closely and see if she is concentrating her scratching around her ears. If so, you can suspect ear mites. These little pests produce a dry black discharge in the ears. Finally, fungal infections can lead to scratching as well as hair loss. Your veterinarian will perform several tests to determine what is causing Rusty's itching. He or she will examine the skin very closely and use an otoscope to inspect the ears. It may be necessary to take a culture of the hair if fungus is suspected. Scrapings from various parts of the body will be needed to check for mites. Scotch tape is often used to remove flakes to look for cheyletiella mites. Each of these problems requires a different treatment. Rusty may need special shampoos or dips or internal medicine. It is important to remember that both the sarcoptic and cheyletiella mites can temporarily attack humans and make us itch. This possibility makes it even more important to have Rusty checked to pinpoint the source of her problem.