Written By: Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA | Professional Services
Dog’s itch- just like you and I do- but how do you know whether they are simply scratching an itch or if there is an underlying issue? It’s essential to identify the reasons behind your dog’s itching in order to both alleviate and prevent their discomfort. In this article, I’ll explore the top five reasons why your dog may be scratching non-stop and how to address each issue.
- Fleas and Ticks
“Oh no, fleas!” – This is the first thing many people think when they see a dog scratching. In fact, one of the most common reasons for a dog’s relentless itching is the presence of fleas and ticks. These tiny parasites feast on your dog’s blood, causing irritation and discomfort.
Not only do they cause a local sense of itch, but flea bites can trigger an allergic reaction in some dogs, leading to excessive itching and scratching. For these dogs, it is the saliva of the flea that elicits the allergic reaction, so just one bite can cause flea allergic dermatitis.
The Solution: Regularly check your dog for fleas and ticks, especially during warmer months when they are most active. Ticks like to bury themselves in warm areas such as between the toes so check your dog thoroughly. As for fleas, apart from itching, you may also notice tiny black or brown specks (flea dirt) on your dog’s coat, which is a sure sign of an infestation.
More importantly, use veterinarian-approved flea and tick prevention products to protect your dog from infestations. These should be used year-round and not just during the warmer months. If your dog has a flea allergy it is important to speak with your vet about choosing a product that prevents fleas from biting (since it only takes one bite!). If your dog already has fleas, consult your vet for appropriate treatments to eliminate the parasites effectively.
- Environmental or Contact Allergies
Just like humans, dogs can be affected by a variety of allergens in the environment, such as pollen, mold spores, and dust mites. These allergens can cause a range of symptoms, including itchiness, red, inflamed skin, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing and even ear infections. Typically the itching is most severe around the face, feet, underarms, ears and belly.
If your dog has seasonal allergies, you will likely see these symptoms flare during a certain time of the year – such as spring. However, if your dog is allergic to dust mites, for example, then you may see itching year-round.
The Solution: Use a moist towel to wipe down your dog’s paws and coat when they come in from outside to remove any allergens that may have accumulated on their coat and between their toes. Making changes to your dog’s environment can also help reduce their exposure to allergens. You can use air filters to reduce the amount of pollen and other allergens in your home.
Ultimately, if you suspect that your dog has seasonal allergies, it is important to consult with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your vet may recommend a number of different treatments, depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms.
- Food Allergies
Food allergies in dogs are immune-mediated adverse reactions to specific ingredients found in their diet, typically protein. When a dog’s immune system identifies certain proteins or other components in their food as harmful, it triggers an allergic response. This allergic reaction leads to various symptoms that can affect the skin, gastrointestinal system, or even other parts of the body.
It may surprise you to learn that the most common food allergens for dogs are beef, dairy, chicken, wheat and lamb. Symptoms of food allergies include scratching, skin redness, skin infections, recurrent ear infections, and less often gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhea. Itching and scratching typically occurs year-round.
The Solution: If you suspect that your dog has food allergies, speak with your veterinarian. The only reliable way to confirm whether your dog has food allergies is to perform a diet trial. This means feeding your pet a hydrolyzed or novel protein diet (such as Wild Earth) for 8 weeks. During this time, your dog is not allowed to eat any other treats or table scraps.
Wild Earth dog food is free from the top five most common food allergens for dogs: beef, dairy, chicken, wheat and lamb. Our high protein formula is also free from less common allergens such as pork, egg, corn, and soy, making our food a great option for food allergic dogs.
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- Dry Skin
Dry skin is a frequent problem among dogs, especially in colder months or dry climates. When a dog’s skin becomes dry, it loses its natural protective barrier, making it more susceptible to irritation and allergens. As a result, the skin becomes itchy and uncomfortable, leading the dog to scratch or lick excessively in an attempt to relieve the irritation.
Insufficient humidity, excessive bathing, and poor nutrition can contribute to dry and itchy skin in dogs.
The Solution: To address dry skin and itching in dogs, it is crucial to provide them with a well-balanced diet that includes essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Did you know that Wild Earth has guaranteed levels of both of these essential fatty acids? So if your dog is suffering from dry skin, give us a try!
Additionally, limit bathing to once every few weeks using gentle, veterinary- recommended dog-specific shampoos that won’t strip the skin of its natural oils. Regular brushing can also help distribute natural oils and keep the skin moisturized. If dry skin persists, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions and receive appropriate treatment to alleviate the itching and discomfort.
- Underlying Medical Conditions
In some cases, constant itching may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as hormonal imbalances or immune system disorders. Hormonal issues, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, can affect a dog’s skin and coat health, leading to itching and hair loss. Some autoimmune disorders like pemphigus and lupus can affect a dog’s skin, causing lesions, rashes, and itching. Even further, impacted or infected anal glands can also cause discomfort and itching in the rear end area.
The Solution: Consult your veterinarian if your dog’s itching persists despite trying various remedies. They can conduct a thorough examination and run diagnostic tests to identify any underlying health issues and recommend appropriate treatments.
Keep Your Pup Happy and Itch-free
There you have it! Now you know some of the many reasons why your dog could be itchy. Remember that constant itching and scratching can significantly impact a dog’s quality of life, leading to discomfort and various health issues.
Early diagnosis and proper management are crucial for relieving symptoms and preventing future itch. It’s essential to consult with a veterinarian if your dog is experiencing persistent itching. Proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial to address the underlying cause and provide relief for your furry friend.
Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA
Dr. Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva is the Professional Services Veterinarian here at Wild Earth. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Brown University, and attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in general practice, on telehealth platforms, and in animal rehabilitation. She has worked tirelessly to gain expertise in the field of canine nutrition through numerous certifications and coursework, and plans to pursue her Masters in Animal Nutrition.