Every dog has itchy skin from time to time; behind their ears, on their sides, and they’ll even roll around on their backs or brush up against furniture to relieve themselves.
But when the occasional scratch becomes frequent and excessive, it can be harmful and uncomfortable to any dog, no matter their breed or size.
There are many causes of itchy skin in dogs. Some may be environmental while others may be due to infection, immunity, and health conditions.
If your dog has itchy skin, here are some possible causes ﹣ and what you can do about it.
Reasons Why Your Dog Has Itchy Skin
Like humans, a dog’s immune system can react to dust, pollen, and other allergens in the environment. Your dog may have seasonal allergies if they develop skin changes and excessive scratching during certain times of the year.
Dogs can also develop food sensitivities and allergies to ingredients in their diet. A dog with food allergies is more likely to scratch their ears and their paws. Food allergies in dogs are often accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal issues.
Scratching accompanied by licking and biting are the telltale signs of a dog with fleas. Fleas are external parasites that can take up residency on your dog’s skin. It’s common for dogs to be allergic to flea saliva, making a dog’s skin uncomfortably itchy.
If your dog has fleas, their gums may become pale or they can develop fur loss as the result of severe itching. Fleabites can cause redness, inflammation, and scabs. Dogs with fleas will also bite or scratch the base of their tail, and you may even be able to spot fleas or flea dirt, as well.
Fleas aren’t the only parasites that can cause itchy skin in dogs. Mites and ticks can also cause adverse skin reactions in dogs, resulting in scratching, hives, bumps, and redness. Severe skin reactions to mites and ticks can also cause excessive licking and biting, fur loss, and lesions.
Untreated parasitic infestation can cause worsening symptoms, leading to infected lesions and even tapeworms, while untreated tick bites can cause Lyme disease.
Dry skin in dogs may not always be attributed to fleas or allergies. Cold weather, dry air, pesticides, and harsh soaps can cause dry skin and other symptoms, including:
- Oily fur
Some breeds, including hairless dogs and large breeds, are prone to certain skin conditions that can result in dry, flaky skin.
Dry skin can also be indicative of cancer, hypothyroidism, hormonal imbalances, and other conditions. If your dog develops dry skin or any of the other symptoms discussed, your veterinarian can help you narrow down the causes.
Your dog may excessively scratch themselves out of habit or because of boredom or anxiety. If you can rule out other causes, your dog may be scratching themselves because they’re cooped up and need stimulating activity.
Tips to Prevent Itchy Skin
Flea & Parasite Prevention
Flea and tick prevention products can protect your dog. These products are available as topical treatments or as oral medications. Talk to your veterinarian about which preventative medication is best for your dog. You should also talk to your veterinarian about heartworm prevention!
If your dog has fleas, ticks, or mites, it’s important to seek veterinary treatment for them right away. Your veterinarian will need to examine your dog and run blood, urine, or skin tests to diagnose and determine the right course of treatment.
Your veterinarian may prescribe oral medications, antibiotics, or topical treatments to eliminate the infestation. Steroid medications may also be administered to help relieve your dog’s symptoms.
Common allergens can include wheat, beef, egg, lamb, or soy. Talk to your veterinarian about testing your dog for food allergens. Your veterinarian can also make recommendations for dog food, dietary supplements, and how to wean your dog off their current food. The goal is to eliminate allergens and maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
Lots of Attention, Love, & Be Proactive
Playtime and love are the best preventative measures against scratching and itchy skin, especially if your dog is prone to boredom and anxiety.
Regular grooming and bathing can help you keep an eye on your dog’s skin and fur. Give your dog a bath once or twice a month (and no more, unless your dog enjoys rolling in the mud). Be sure to use gentle shampoos without perfumes. An oatmeal-based shampoo is best, especially if your dog is prone to scratching.
You should also check your dog’s skin and fur after playing outside or walking through wooded areas. This will help you detect ticks and mites before they become a real problem.
Put an End to Itchy Skin Once & for All
Excessive scratching and itchy skin can affect your dog’s physical and emotional health. If you’re located in Bainbridge, GA, and suspect your dog has an underlying cause to their itchy skin, Bryan-Hight Veterinary Hospital is here to help.