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PET INSIGHT DISCOVER

Skin & Coat

SCRATCHING & Licking, PRE- aND POST- VET VISIT

INSIGHT: The average dog diagnosed with a dermatological issue shows 3x as much daily scratching as dogs with vet-verified healthy skin.

WHY IT MATTERS: Scratching is a strong indicator of a dermatological ailment.

While dogs may show some regular scratching behavior as part of normal self-grooming - like wiping off dirt or adjusting their collar - excessive scratching can be a clear sign that the dog is uncomfortable, and can do even more damage to the dog’s skin.

INSIGHT: The average dog diagnosed with a dermatological issue shows 2-3x as much daily self-licking as dogs with vet-verified healthy skin.

WHY IT MATTERS: Though not as significant as scratching, self-licking is another indicator of a dermatological ailment.

The average dogs spends over 15 minutes each day licking themselves, humans, and other dogs for many “routine” reasons - removing debris, displaying social order, and tasting spilled gravy. Licking is also a sign that can tell us something about their physical and mental wellness, like in the case of cleaning cuts and scrapes, soothing inflamed skin or paws, relieving join pain, or coping with stress and boredom.

SCRATCHING BEHAVIOR differences by breed

Differences by breed have a lot to do with characteristics defined by the breed’s unique genetic makeup. For example, certain breeds are more likely to have environment allergies and are also more likely to have flea allergies. These two can combine into the perfect storm of itchiness for a dog. Other dogs might not be susceptible to environmental allergies, but have unique skin issues due to the characteristics of their skin & coat (hair length, skin color, etc.). The charts below help highlight breeds that are more susceptible to scratch and lick instigators than others.

INSIGHT: Some breeds are scratchier than others.

WHY IT MATTERS: Scratching is a reliable signal of a possible dermatological issue, and some breeds experience far more scratching than others. Certain qualities of different breeds can increase risk of developing an issue.

Awareness is the first step in early detection, and early detection can prevent a simple scratch to turning in to a big deal. It's all fun and games until someone ends up wearing a cone.

SELF-LICKING BEHAVIOR differences by breed

INSIGHT: Some breeds lick more than others.

WHY IT MATTERS: Like scratching, the chances that a dog has a dermatological issue increase as licking increases, and some breeds are predisposed to scratch or lick at higher levels.

Licking and scratching are common grooming behaviors, but they can also be a type of "self-medication" for dermatological issues.

When licking gets out of control, a dog can get into a situation where their self-medication efforts are having the opposite of the desired affect: the licking helps keep the area moist and primed for a very messy skin infection.

SEASONALITY OF SCRATCHING

INSIGHT: Owners should expect their dog's scratching habit to increase through out the year as temperatures rise, but should remain vigilant for prolongued or worsening conditions

WHY IT MATTERS: Many contributors to your dog's scratching habits are seasonal: heat, humidity, environmental allergens; all of these factors are on the rise as temperatures climb, which makes identification of an ailment even tougher during the warmer months.

While it's normal for scratching to increase during the Spring and Summer, this doesn't mean that all scratching is normal. The warmer months preset a challenge for the owner, as there is an expectation for the dog to scratch more as the dog is dealing with seasonal changes. Owners should keep a close eye on scratching and track the intensity and duration overtime, consulting with their vet if there is a prolonged or intense issue.

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INSIGHT: All dogs scratch with varying intesity and duration. Time spent scratching is consistently elevated for dogs with dermatological ailments.

WHY IT MATTERS: Elevated scratching is reliable signal of a dermatological ailment.

All dogs will experience an incredmental increase in scratching as weather warms, but a significant increase in the normal scratching habit should be taken as a signal that something else besides a seasonal change is going on.

 

Seasonality of skin & Coat AILMENTS

INSIGHT: While not all skin & coat issues are seasonal, these diagnoses tend to increase as the weather warms, peaking in the Fall when temperature and humidity start to reverse.

WHY IT MATTERS: Like we've referenced above, it's prefectly normal for scratching to increase as weather warms, but it's also common for dermatological issues to develop during this time period.

Parsing our a normal scratching habit from a dermatological issue can be challenging. With the knowledge that these diagnoses do rise through Spring and Summer, peaking at the end of the season, owners can keep a watchful eye on their dog's scratching and likcing habits, helping to reduce the amount of time an issue goes unnoticed.

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References

Figures 1 & 2: Trend observed measuring the scratching and self-licking activity of Pet Insight dogs 90 days before and 90 days after a veterinarian visit. N = 572 not diagnosed with dermatological issue, N = 315 dogs diagnoseed with a dermatological issue.

Figures 2 & 3: Reflects 365 days of scratching predictions aggregated by month. N = 57803 days of scratching data without Derm. Ailment vs. N = 64133 days of scratching data with Derm. Ailment.

Figure 4:

  • 2016: Reflects veterinarian encounter history of 23,521 Pet Insight Dogs
  • 2017: Reflects veterinarian encounter history of 33,594 Pet Insight Dogs
  • 2018: Reflects veterinarian encounter history of 46,279 Pet Insight Dogs

Figures 5 & 6: Reflects scratching and self-licking predictions for 1,582 Pet Insight participant dogs from 3/1/2019 through 6/27/2019. Charts limited to displaying breeds with data from 20 or more individual dogs.