Does your dog scratch and itch frequently? Does he obsessively lick, bite, or chew his skin? A dog that is itchy is not a happy or comfy dog. In fact, it’s much more likely that your dog is miserable.
It’s hard to watch your dog suffer, but sometimes trying to figure out the root cause of why your dog is itching, and then treating it properly, can be tricky. Sometimes it can be a downright mystery.
And I don’t know about you, but listening to a dog itch, lick, bite and chew constantly, can also be highly annoying. There’s nothing quite like lying in bed at 2 AM and listening to your dog’s tongue slurping repetitively. Especially when you have a 6 AM wake-up call to get ready for work.
So, not only is your dog miserable, but you are tired and miserable right along with them! Not a fun situation for all parties involved.
Signs of an Itchy Dog
Obviously scratching will be a huge indicator. Another indicator is constant licking, face rubbing, and chewing, licking, or biting their paws. Butt scooting can also be a sign, and if you notice rashes, red and inflamed areas, hotspots, or even ear sensitivity… all of these can be symptoms of an itchy canine.
Sometimes a dog can suffer from dandruff and itch because of that. With dandruff, you may notice unsightly white flakes, and your dog’s skin appear to be cracked and leathery-looking.
If your dog is itching due to some kind of bacterial or yeast infection, it could be coupled with a foul odor. Hotspots in particular cause a fair amount of itching, as well as be extremely painful for your dog. So, if you notice any signs of hotspots, you should see your vet as soon as possible to prevent further pain and irritation.
Other Signs and Symptoms of an Itchy Dog
- Hair loss
- Oozing, pus-filled bumps
- Discoloration of the skin
- Matting and moist fur
- Restless behavior
What are the Causes of an Itchy Dog?
There are a wide range of causes, but noticing the time of year that your dog seems to itch the most can be very revealing. Changes in the seasons and the weather can be a major source of irritation for dogs.
But what exactly does itching have to do with weather?
Often, dogs that itch mainly during the winter months could be suffering from a nasty case of dry skin. Dogs that seem to itch more often during the spring, could be suffering from seasonal allergies. Additionally, dogs that seem to itch more during the summer, could be plagued with an overgrowth of yeast. During the summer months, it is often hot and humid, making conditions ripe for yeast to proliferate.
However, if your fur kiddo appears to itch year-round, then most likely, some type of allergy is the culprit. However, it could be an allergy to anything, it doesn’t necessarily mean seasonal allergies.
Though seasonal allergies are quite common, your dog can also suffer from an allergy to certain foods, or there could be something in your dog’s environment that is triggering an inflammatory response.
Another cause of itching that can last all year long is sarcoptic mange, otherwise known as scabies. Scabies are little mites that live on the surface of the skin, and when they begin to grow out of control, a nasty case of mange is the result.
You’ll want to treat this condition swiftly and aggressively, as scabies can spread from pet to pet, and pet to human, and the condition can be painful for your dog. Like a lice infestation, you’ll want to treat your home as well, and any bedding so that there are no infestations later down the road.
Obviously if your fur baby is suffering from some type of food or environmental allergy, it doesn’t matter if it’s summertime or winter. However, if your dog appears to be scratching more during summer months than at other times of the year, that could be a clear warning signal. If that’s the case, you should ask your vet to check your dog for a yeast overgrowth.
Yeast overgrowth can often be mistaken for allergies. However, yeast absolutely loves the hot and humid summer months. You will find yeast hiding out in the moist nooks and crannies of your dog, having a hay-day. These moist places are mainly in dogs’ ears and groin area, in folds of skin, and in the creases of their paws.
If you notice your dog appears to be chewing and biting his paws, or chewing his nails, or licking obsessively, then it’s highly probable that yeast is the culprit.
Sometimes your dog may also do the “butt scoot” across the floor or on the grass. This is because yeast can also cause anal itching.
Unfortunately, your dog’s response to summertime itching can create painful hotspots where your dog bites, chews, and scratches until the area becomes inflamed and even develops sores and crusting.
If your dog seems to be suffering more during the springtime, seasonal allergies could be the problem. You will notice your dog mostly itching his face, his paws, and his ears and belly. Be careful though, because seasonal allergies can sometimes be confused with a yeast overgrowth, and vice versa.
Inhalants, such as pollen, grasses, smoke, and dust can irritate your dog as well. Some dogs can even suffer an allergy to flea bites, stemming from a reaction to the saliva of fleas. Though fleas can be a year-round problem, they sometimes seem to be more prevalent during spring months. Perhaps it’s the change in the air, even fleas like to frolic!
Another springtime woe that can cause itching is flying insects. This can be a summer problem as well. Bees, wasps, mosquitoes, and flies are all stinging or biting insects that can plague your dog and trigger itching. This is especially true if your furry friend is outdoors often.
Outdoor canines should be careful of spider bites. Although they aren’t too common, there are certain spider bites that can cause serious damage to your dog’s skin and coat.
Outdoor dogs also must beware of sunburn, especially if the dog is light or white-colored. Sunburn can cause itching and flaking, and just like with people can even turn into skin cancer later down the road.
If your dog is itching mostly during the wintertime, the likely cause is dry skin. Dry skin can plague your dog during this time of year because winter months are drier. Most of us tend to run our heater indoors during winter as well, which compounds the problem. Sometimes running a humidifier inside your home during cold months can help with this problem.
Other Causes of Itching in Dogs
Doggy dandruff manifests as unsightly white flakes that are visible in your dog’s coat. Your dog can have dandruff whether he has oily skin or dry skin, but regardless of the type, it will typically need to be treated with medicated anti-dandruff shampoo.
Another cause of itching can be related to ringworm which is a fungal infection which presents as a raised red ring on the skin. Ringworm can affect your dog’s skin and cause crusty, oozing pustules, scaly skin, as well as balding and hair loss. Unfortunately, ringworm requires a visit to the vet for proper treatment, and is also highly contagious.
These can be hard to nail down. It could be one of the ingredients in your dog food, it could be a response to table scraps they may have gotten at that last dinner party you hosted, or they could have an allergy to some additive or filler in their treats.
Finding out if your dog has a food allergy is more a process of elimination, and can take some time. In fact, you vet may even recommend a special “food elimination” diet if they suspect your dog has food allergies.
These can be allergies to things like a certain cleaner or detergent in your home, dust mites, or even carpet fibers. Smoke, pollen, ragweed and more can affect your four-legged companion. Dogs, like people, can really be allergic to just about anything. So, it’s important that you observe your dog closely, and take notes as you try to narrow down the suspects.
Bacterial infections can most definitely cause itching. A bacterial infection will need to be diagnosed by your vet and most likely treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, bacterial infections can mimic other skin conditions found in dogs, so make sure you see a professional for a proper diagnosis.
These little bugs can infect the internal and external ear canal, causing both ear and skin infections. Left untreated, ear infections can lead to impaired hearing. Ear mites like to eat the oils and ear wax in your dog’s ear, and make a nice comfy home there. If your dog appears to be sensitive to you touching their ears, ear mites could be the problem.
Lice and Ticks
Lice and ticks can sometimes be a source of canine itching. However, they are not nearly as common as some of the other pests, so look to those first.
Endocrine malfunctions can sometimes be a cause of itching and other skin ailments. If your dog’s endocrine system is not functioning properly, it messes with your dog’s levels of hormones, pushing them out of balance. When this happens, your dog’s skin can suffer for it. This is especially true if there is a cortisone or thyroid imbalance, both of which can affect the skin.
Ideas for Relieving Your Itchy Dog
Change Their Food
If you suspect your dog has a food allergy, start by eliminating the most common trigger foods. Wheat, beef, and corn are the usual suspects. You can also give your dog nutritional supplements to keep his skin moisturized and healthy. Coconut oil and vitamin E is also good for this. If you decide to try a different brand of dog food, inspect the ingredients carefully.
If your dog is itching due to some type of parasite, such as fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites or mange (scabies), you will need to treat him for that particular parasite. Treatment options will be different for each one. With fleas and lice, as well as sarcoptic mange, you may also need to treat your home and furnishings to prevent infestation.
Medications May Help
If your vet has narrowed down the source of your dog’s itching, there are a variety of medications that can be prescribed. Topical and oral antibiotics, as well as steroids and anti-itch creams may be recommended. Sometimes special shampoos and dips could be necessary.
Cone collars could be necessary to keep your dog from licking and chewing spots you are trying to heal. You can also try bitter sprays to discourage licking, and make sure you give your dog preventative flea, tick, and worming medications on a regular basis.
Give Your Dog a Bath
Bathing your dog regularly can help with itching, depending on the cause. However, do not go overboard, as excessive bathing can make some types of itching worse, especially if your dog is itching due to dry skin.
Keep Your Dog Active and Busy
A dog that is bored or anxious will bite and scratch himself to keep busy. You might consider offering your fur kiddo toys and special chews to redirect his destructive scratching and licking. And it goes without saying that you will want to make sure your dog receives plenty exercise, and plenty of love each day. A tired, well-loved dog will be much too content to do more than lie down for a nice afternoon nap, cuddled next to their favorite human.
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*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.