If your pet is licking/scratching/chewing/gnawing at an area- there is a problem. If there is a change in their behaviour, such as them rubbing their face on the ground or becoming aggressive when they've never done that before, there is a reason for it.
Since we don't see your pet on a daily basis, it is more difficult for us to know if issues have changed with your pet, you are the best judge of their behaviour. Giving us information about new behaviours aids us in best pinpointing the problem. Once you've found a new behaviour, writing information on frequency, duration, and type of behaviour can aid in addressing the issue. If you feel it needs to be dealt with immediately, call your veterinarian right away.
So what could be the problem?
Licking/gnawing/chewing at a spot could mean such a variety of different issues, from allergies, to fleas, to hormonal issues, to parasites, to pain! What a range of different possibilities! How do we help determine what the possible underlying causes? Location can be a big indicator, itching above the tail is more likely to be due to fleas, under the tail would likely be anal glands/allergies, at the vulva may mean a UTI or urinary incontinence, etc. Also, if they are chewing/biting/licking at multiple locations, the patterns of distribution could be our key. Depending on other factors such as age, duration, bloodwork status, and history, we may recommended other testing to determine an underlying cause and the most appropriate treatment.
Hormonal issues such as an underactive thyroid gland can lead to weight gain and lethargy, but also skin issues such as dryness, crusting and itching. This is more common in older dogs, and requires bloodwork to diagnose.
In older animal, arthritic conditions are common, licking at a specific site on a paw may indicate a painful joint. As they continue to lick the area, it is more likely to become infected, which continues the licking process, and we get stuck in a loop. Sometimes pain medication may stop the cycle, some animals may need anti-anxiety medication since it becomes a neurological issue.
In a puppy with a poor skin coat, perhaps we are dealing with a skin infection called a puppy pyoderma, requiring antibiotics. Or perhaps, a common parasite called demodex which necessitates anti-parasitic medication. Both of these diagnoses would be made via microscope.
Pawing at the mouth may mean a piece of an object has become stuck, or possibly a dental issue. Though most animals with dental issues just continue through their daily lives without showing pain or discomfort. It really is amazing how many of these animals will chew hard food normally, while dealing with dental pain!
Aggression is another wide ranging topic, since an animal can react towards a person touching a painful spot, or even the possibility that the person may be near an area of pain. If an animal feels ill, they can overreact to situations and put people in danger. These are issues which need to be dealt with immediately and properly.
This information is here to help educate you on the vast numbers of different diseases which are possible with our patients, the more information which can be brought to your appointment, the better able we will be to determine the underlying cause. Sometimes an exam may be all that is necessary, often we will need other testing such as bloodtests, skin analysis tests (Skin scrapings, fungal cultures), or occasionally more in depth items such as dental procedures.
Give us a call when your pet has a change, the majority of time it is indicative of a larger underlying issue warranting further action!