Ask the Vet Archive

Your chance to ask Dr. Mindy Cohan, VMD, our resident pet health expert, what's on your mind!

Topic: Puppy's Itchiness and Fur Loss

Question from Megan in Wilmington:
My 13 week old Jack Russel Terrier has been scratching and biting himself a lot recently. I have also noticed some thinning/missing fur. What could this mean and should I take him to a vet?

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Your puppy's hair loss and itchiness should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Puppies do not have a well developed immune system. As a result, they are susceptible to a mite infection known as Demodectic mange. A small scraping of skin can be evaluated with a microscope to identify these mites which are invisible to the naked eye. Skin infections often occur secondary to Demodectic mange and can worsen your pup's itchiness. An antibiotic can help to resolve the skin infection and there are a variety of treatments to kill the mites.

Ringworm is another type of infection for which your pup should be evaluated. Ringworm is not caused by a worm, but a fungus in the environment. Depending on the severity of the infection, ringworm can appear as either single patches or extensive areas of hair loss.

Fleas are yet another possible cause for itchiness and loss of fur. These pests are quite small, but visible to the naked eye. A flea comb can be used to help find these parasites. Because fleas spend more time in the environment than on a pet, you may not find live fleas. However, you can detect "flea dirt". These little black flecks are literally flea feces and will leave a rust stain on a white tissue or paper towel if moistened with water. Seeing your veterinarian is your best bet for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Posted September 19, 2006

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