Itch – Scratch – Itch. Sign language at its best.
December 1, 2014 – Wouldn’t it be nice to talk WITH your pet? Not TO it; like the one-way conversation that elicits a conditioned response that we all attribute to an animal’s answer. A verbal interaction between pet and vet would turn signs into symptoms. “Symptoms” are what people describe to their doctors, hence a few relevant questions, and the diagnosis is made. Try that with a dog or cat. Not so easy. Veterinarians have to rely on what they see, hear, feel or smell; the “signs” of a disorder.
Will Rogers once said, “The best doctor in the world is a veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter. — He’s got to just know.” The truth is… we have to know what the signs are, and most importantly, what they’re telling us. Scratching is a perfect example of a sign with a multitude of causes that can elude even the likes of Sherlock Holmes.
Unlike pain, itch is persistent, and less tolerated, that is why animals can cause serious damage to their skin when chewing or scratching. Pain overrides itch, but like the bully that won’t be ignored; itch is a formidable foe.
Allergy is usually the first thing that comes to mind when we see our best friends using their skin as a scratching post. Problem is: “Allergy is only one of the many players that trigger licking, scratching, biting and chewing of body parts. So how are we going to separate them? It’s easy… Read the signs!
Location, frequency, intensity, summation of effect, age of onset, type of lesion, and response to treatment are all used to identify the cause of an itch. Talking with our pets would be great, but until that happens, the signs of their declines will dictate our designs; and ultimately, lead to an end to the itch-scratch-itch cycle.
Bottom line: Scratching is one of the ways pet’s talk to us. Are you listening?