Is your dog scratching more than usual? Through trial-and-error and a little help from your veterinarian, you can find the underlying cause then put a treatment plan together to end the itching once and for all. Here are nine common reasons your dog is scratching more than usual:
Is your home too dry, especially in cooler months? If changing the humidity level doesn’t help, you might try adding coconut or olive oil on top of their food. Just a teaspoon a day for a 30-40 pound dog has been shown to improve their coat and winter comfort level.
Is your dog being bathed too often or does their shampoo not agree with them? Firstly, your dog may not need a regular bath, so consider switching to dry shampoos, cleansing sprays, or just plain water and a wipe down as needed. Secondly, consider a mild or sensitive skin shampoo. Better yet, if they’ll tolerate a relaxing soak, add one cup of ground oatmeal to their bath. Don’t make the water too warm as that can irritate skin, but continue to pour the oatmeal water over their back and neck for as long as they can stand it, up to 15 minutes. Don’t rinse the oatmeal off, as it provides a protective coating. Pat them dry gently or allow them to air dry, but avoid hot air dryers.
Food Allergies or Diet
In some cases, itchy skin in dogs is caused by food allergies, but in others it’s just a nutritional deficiency causing the flaky skin. Processed foods can be deficient in the omega 3 fatty acids a dog needs for general health. Consider switching to a higher-quality food or include wet food with their dry food if they’re exclusively on dry food. Supplements may help too. Quality fish oil containing DHA and EPA is a great way to add omega-3s, but you can also provide actual fish, like salmon, mackerel, or tuna, in their diet. Probiotics can also be useful in boosting the immune system to combat allergies or other internal imbalances that could be causing skin flare-ups.
There are almost as many dog supplements as there are foods, but you may want to look into a supplement like Ultra Oil. My groomer recommended it to us, and we’re in the early testing stage, but I like the multi-ingredient approach to targeting a complex issue like this.
Yup - It’s not just food you have to worry about when it comes to allergies. Environmental allergies may be wreaking havoc with your dog as well. Just like with potential food allergies, you’ll want to double check with the veterinarian. If your veterinarian does seem to think the culprit could be environmental allergies, he may recommend wiping your dog down with grooming wipes after walks to remove allergens, using a hypoallergenic shampoo for bath time, using supplements like omega-3s and biotin, and a medicated spray. You can also try using an air purifier or washing their bedding more often to see if reducing the dust or mold in their space helps too.
The number one culprit of a skin infection in a dog is called pyoderma, which means bacterial infection. It’s easy to look at your dog’s skin and think it’s another condition, so it’s important to have your veterinarian determine the diagnosis. This infection isn’t contagious to humans but should be treated promptly.
A fungal infection can appear anywhere in the body, as well as the skin. This type of infection can appear similar to a yeast or bacterial infection. If a fungal infection is present, early detection is key. Regular antibiotics aren’t effective when treating fungi. If this is what your dog has, you will want to wash your hands after each time you touch him as certain forms of fungi, like ringworm, are contagious.
If your dog is constantly scratching at his ear, you may want to schedule a veterinarian appointment. Ear mites need to be treated with a medicated prescription that you will apply in your dog’s ear. While at the vet, a gentle, thorough cleaning of the ear may be necessary if there is a buildup of debris.
Hypothyroidism is more commonly found in dogs than cats. If a dog has hypothyroidism, he may experience foul smelling, itchy, and greasy fur that can become brittle and thin, usually starting at the tail. Hypothyroidism can occur after giving your dog medication for hyperthyroidism. The only way to tell if this is the case is a simple blood test.
With several causes for itchiness, it’s easy to misinterpret it as something else, leaving your dog to suffer even more. If you notice your dog itching more than usual, you should bring him to the vet to properly diagnose the issue - proper treatment will have your dog feeling better in no time.
Fleas and Ticks
It sounds so simple, but did you maybe forget to give your dog his parasite prevention this month? Could he have fleas? Check closely, because it doesn’t take a major infestation to cause major itching. Your dog could also have an allergic reaction to flea saliva called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).
If you’ve tried all of these tactics and your dog is still feeling prickly, it’s time to enlist the help of your vet. It’s possible there is an underlying health issue, though the vet will probably start by helping you rule out any possible allergens in the dog’s food or environment.
Don’t give up hope. Plenty of dogs find themselves itching, only to discover a simple change can bring a world of relief.