In vet speak, itching is also known as pruritus. Your dog could be excessively licking, chewing, or itching on one area of his body, or he could be itching all over. Where and how much your dog itches depend on the underlying cause of the itching, and nailing down the source can sometimes be challenging. Unfortunately, if itching is not addressed quickly, it can lead to inflammation and infection, as well as major discomfort for your four-legged friend. Excessive itching can be highly stressful and cause significant distress, and should never be ignored.
Some Causes of Itching in Dogs
Hormonal ImbalancesIf your dog's endocrine system is not working properly, hormone levels such as cortisone and thyroid can also become out of whack. When this imbalance happens, it can affect your dog’s skin and trigger itching.
Fungal InfectionsFungal infections can easily be confused with yeast or bacterial infections, so it's important to see your vet to get an accurate diagnosis. Fungal infections can affect any part of the body, and fungi such as ringworm are extremely contagious. Medications that are used to treat bacterial infections will not work with fungal infections, which is why it's important to know the difference and treat appropriately.
Yeast InfectionsAll dogs carry yeast, both inside and outside their bodies, as well as in their ears. However, the yeast numbers are low, and don't cause any health issues. It's only when a yeast overgrowth occurs that infection becomes a problem. Yeast overgrowth tends to be most prevalent in all the moist places on your dog, such as folds of skin, ears, and anus.
Bacterial InfectionsBacterial infections are very common, and can easily mimic other canine skin conditions. The best way to determine if your dog has a bacterial infection is to see your vet. Then your dog can receive the proper antibiotics recommended for treating the problem.
Environmental AllergensSometimes dogs itch because of common irritants such as pollen, dust, grasses, molds and mildews, and even tobacco or wood smoke. It's a pretty good rule of thumb that if you can be allergic to it, so can your dog.
Food AllergensAgain, just like with people, dogs can be allergic to certain foods. It's best to start by eliminating foods that are known to be allergens, such as beef, corn, and wheat. If you don't see improvement in doing that, then look to other ingredients in your dog's food. Your vet may even recommend an "elimination diet" to narrow down the source of your dog's allergy and treat them effectively.
Flea AllergyAnother very common allergen source with dogs is flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD for short. This allergy is a reaction to flea saliva that is injected into your dog’s skin with a flea bite. You may notice your dog biting and scratching around his tail, and you may notice hair loss in that area. Flea allergies can also trigger excessive grooming, so much so that it can sometimes be hard to find an actual flea. Your dog has licked them all up and ate them already. However, even the bite of one single flea on a dog with a flea allergy can cause an intense reaction and make your dog miserable.
MangeMange is the result of sarcoptic mites proliferating and plaguing your dog. Mange is also known as scabies, and can cause extreme itching as well as redness and irritation, hair loss, pustules, and even broken skin, bleeding, and infection when it's bad. Unfortunately, scabies can be contagious, so it's important to catch this condition early and treat it aggressively.
Ear mites are a common affliction for dogs. Ear mites like to chow down on your dog's ear wax and ear oils, both in the internal and external ear canal. This can cause itching and irritation, and can lead to more serious skin issues and ear infections down the road. If left untreated, even hearing can be impaired! So, ear mites are certainly an ailment you don't want to ignore. As you can see, there are a wide variety of health concerns that can cause itchy skin in dogs. A dog's skin and coat can be every bit as sensitive as a human's skin, so it's important to make sure you are feeding your pooch a healthy diet. Make sure it's one that promotes healthy skin and fur, and make sure your dog is getting plenty of water, as well as activity and exercise. Water will help keep your dog’s skin hydrated, and exercise will help to combat boredom and emotional issues that can lead to scratching, biting, and chewing behaviors. If you suspect there is infection going on, or some other underlying medical cause that is contributing to your dog’s itching, then seeing a vet as soon as possible is important for early and effective treatment. The less your dog must go on suffering, the better. No one likes itchy skin, especially not your dog.
*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.