What Causes Itchy Skin in Dogs?

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 fur baby 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 Imbalances

If 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 Infections

Fungal 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 Infections

All 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 Infections

Bacterial 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 Allergens

Sometimes 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 fur kiddo.

Food Allergens

Again, 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 Allergy

Another 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.


Mange 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

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 fur kiddo 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.


1 http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dogs-and-compulsive-scratching-licking-and-chewing

2 http://thebark.com/content/vet-advice-relief-your-dogs-itchy-skin

3 http://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_dg_common-dog-skin-problems

4 http://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/care/reasons-for-dog-scratching-himself

What to Do If Your Dog Has Itchy Skin

So, your dog has an itching problem. Unfortunately, the cause of itching can be shrouded in mystery, and take some serious detective work to uncover.

The treatment of itching can be just as complicated, and will depend entirely on the accuracy of your detective skills in figuring out the underlying problem.

If you are not treating your dog for the right problem, then you will not be able to correct the problem. In some cases, you could even make the problem worse by administering the wrong treatment for your fur baby.

With that said, here are some things to do if your dog has itchy skin:

Determine the Source

See your vet if necessary. The right diagnosis will determine the right treatment. Once you determine a course of treatment, follow it through to completion. In many cases, if your dog is prescribed medications such as antibiotics or steroids and you do not treat them for the prescribed length of time, the condition could reappear, and you’d have to start all over.

For some itch relief you can try at home, consider these options:

Give Your Dog Supplements

Skin and coat supplements for dogs like vitamin E and fatty acid supplements like fish oil can be very beneficial to the health of your dog’s skin and coat. You can also rub vitamin E oil directly on your dog’s skin, especially in the areas that are dry and prone to itchiness.

Feed Your Dog Yogurt

Make sure it’s plain though. A regular intake of yogurt can help keep gut bacteria in balance, and stave off potential yeast infections. A daily dose of plain yogurt in your dog’s diet can also help build hiss immune system, and by extension, keep his skin healthy.

Use Epsom Salts

Soak your dog in a warm bath with Epson Salts. Just like with people, Epsom Salts can be soothing and help speed up healing, especially when your dog’s skin is cracked or is riddled with sores. Epson Salts are also great for reducing inflammation and swelling.

Spray Him Down

Try an apple cider vinegar spray. You can mix it with equal parts water, and use it to spray your dog’s itchy areas and provide soothing relief. There are also anti-itch sprays that you can purchase and try as well.

Bathe and Groom

Bathe your dog often and groom them every day. Keeping your dog clean can go a long way in keeping your dog’s skin healthy and itch-free. Just don’t overdo it, as too much bathing can sometimes dry out his skin and making itching worse. Brushing regularly can help your dog too, by stimulating natural oils and helping to control itching and irritation.

Try Coconut Oil

Give your fur kiddo a daily dose of coconut oil by simply mixing it with his food. Coconut oil can be a great addition to a healthy diet. Not only does it give your dog energy, but it’s wonderful for your dog’s coat and skin as well.

Consider Soothing Oatmeal

Try an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal has been used to treat itchy and irritated skin for ages, and in some cases, it can offer almost immediate relief from agitated itching. You can either make your own shampoo, or buy one already mixed in the store. Either way, your furry friend will thank you.

Dietary Tweaks

Sometimes itching can be relieved with simple diet changes. Experiment and see what works for your dog.

Be Proactive

Prevent parasites. In many cases, your dog’s itching may be preventable, especially if they are related to parasites. There are medications that can help prevent parasites, and keeping your dog up to date with these methods is important.

Know Your Dog

Some breeds are predisposed to certain skin conditions, including conditions that can cause itching. It’s important to know this information, and if you have a dog breed such as this, you need to take the steps necessary to treat and/or prevent future health concerns.

Schedule Check Ups

See your vet regularly. It’s important to let your vet monitor your dog’s health and well-being, and make sure that he is functioning at optimal performance. A healthy dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog?

…Is one that doesn’t itch.


*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.


1 http://thebark.com/content/vet-advice-relief-your-dogs-itchy-skin

2 http://www.petmd.com/dog/wellness/evr_dg_home_remedies

3 https://www.rover.com/blog/stop-dog-allergies/