Throughout the course of your dog's life, you'll see them scratch themselves in response to itchiness. It's natural, just like it is for us. The only difference is that your dog will use their paws or mouths to relieve an itch while we use our hands.
While the occasional itch is perfectly normal, excessive itchiness and associated scratching is a cause for concern. Known medically as pruritus, prolonged or excessive itchiness can be a symptom of several health issues. And because itching left untreated can result in hair loss, bald patches, and even skin infections, it's important to address the problem head-on.
Are you still asking yourself, "So, why is my dog so itchy?" Let's take a closer look at the most common underlying causes of itching in dogs and what can be done to help your dog feel relief. Then, your pooch can get back to doing what they do best: Being a happy, healthy, loving member of your family.
Common Causes of Itching
There are a few reasons why your dog might be itchy. It's important to get to the bottom of the problem so you and your veterinarian can address it quickly. That way, your dog can feel comfortable again as soon as possible.
Here are some of the most common reasons for itchiness in dogs.
Reacting to an allergen of some kind is one of the most common causes of itchy skin in dogs. There are environmental allergies, meaning your dog is reacting to something like mold or pollen in their environment, as well as food allergies, meaning your dog reacts to an ingredient in their food like chicken or soy.
When your dog comes in physical contact with something that causes an allergic reaction, it's known as contact dermatitis. This might happen if your dog brushes up against a poison ivy plant, for example.
One of the simplest but most common reasons for itchiness in dogs is dry skin. Your dog can experience dry skin for a variety of reasons, including cold, dry weather in winter or a deficiency of fatty acids in their diet. You'll probably see dandruff (dry, flaky skin) and plenty of scratching if your dog is suffering from dry skin.
Want to make sure your dog is getting the proper amount of fatty acids in their diet to prevent dry skin? Native Pet's Omega Oil is a great choice. Our formula is packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to help promote healthy skin and fur.
A number of parasites can infest your dog and cause intense itching. If infestations are left untreated, serious health issues can result, including infection, hair loss, lesions on the skin, and even anemia. The most common parasites that cause itching include:
A flea infestation can wreak havoc on your dog's skin. These tiny blood-suckers produce an irritating substance when they bite your dog, and this substance is what makes your dog itchy. You'll notice your dog scratching a lot, and you'll probably be able to spot flea droppings (often called flea dirt), which looks like black or brown dirt on your pet's skin.
Additionally, some dogs are allergic to flea bites and will develop flea allergy dermatitis. This is characterized by intense scratching and visible hair loss. You'll need your vet's help to clear up a flea infestation, so don't delay in contacting your local animal hospital.
Ticks are another parasite that can cause itching when they bite your dog. When you pull an embedded tick off of your dog, a red, itchy mark will usually be left behind. Note that ticks can transmit dangerous diseases like Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis. That's why you'll need to monitor your dog closely after a tick bite and let your vet know as soon as you spot symptoms like lethargy, loss of appetite, or vomiting.
Mites are tiny pests that cause the disease known as mange. There are two main types of mange. Sarcoptic mange, otherwise known as scabies, results in itchiness, skin inflammation, and scabbing. Demodectic mange, caused by a different type of mite, is characterized by hair loss, crusting on the skin, lesions, and ― you guessed it ― intense itching.
Bacteria, fungi, yeast ... There's no shortage of harmful agents that can cause skin infections and make your dog itchy. Bacterial infections like staph infection can cause itchiness and even hot spots (inflamed areas of skin around the body).
A fungal infection like ringworm results in hairless patches with scaly sores, which your dog will almost certainly scratch.
And yeast infections, while less common than bacterial and fungal skin conditions, can cause discomfort and itchiness as well.
Still asking yourself, "Why is my dog so itchy?" Whether it's allergies, skin infections, parasites, dry skin, or something else entirely, pet owners will want to seek their veterinarian's help to find the source of — and solution to — the problem.
Addressing Your Dog's Itching
As soon as you notice consistent scratching, call the vet. The occasional scratch here and there is nothing to worry about, but prolonged or intense scratching isn't normal.
Because there are a variety of possible reasons for your dog's itchiness and associated scratching, there are several possible solutions. Your dog's itchy skin will need to be addressed according to the underlying cause.
If your pup's issue is caused by an environmental allergen, you'll need to take steps to help Fido avoid it. Your vet can prescribe allergy medications. And adding a supplement like Native Pet's Allergy Chews is also a good way to help boost your dog's natural defense against allergens.
In the case of a food allergy, you might have to work with your vet to conduct a food trial. This involves switching different dog foods in and out to determine the exact ingredient that your pet's immune system is reacting to. Then, that ingredient can be avoided in the future.
Bacterial skin infections can be dealt with using antibiotics, and anti-fungal medications will clear up fungal infections. Antihistamines, which are anti-itch medications, can also be prescribed for many skin infections.
For a case of dry skin, your vet might recommend a medicated shampoo or dietary changes. A combination of both might be the best treatment.
Last but not least, eliminating a parasitic infestation will be necessary to stop your dog's itch if it's caused by fleas, ticks, or mites. Prescription medications can kill off the pests, and then a preventative medicine will keep the infestation from recurring as time goes on.
So, Why Is My Dog So Itchy, and What Can I Do?
There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. From allergies and pest infestations to skin diseases and simple dry skin, there are a lot of reasons why our canine companions itch themselves. The trick is keeping a close eye on Fido's itching habits so that you can let your vet know at the first sign of trouble.
If you see your pooch itching constantly, or if you notice other symptoms like flaky skin, hair loss, bald patches, lesions on the skin, or red and inflamed areas, it's time to call the vet. Getting the proper medical care is the best way to help your dog feel comfortable again, fast.
To read more about your dog's health and wellness needs, visit the Native Pet blog.