Why Is My Dog So Itchy? Skin Problems that Affect Dogs
Is your dog constantly itching? Licking themselves? Rolling around.
It’s enough to make us start feeling itchy all over just watching our poor pups try to get some relief.
Whether it happens gradually or you notice it immediately, when your dog’s normal ‘occasional’ itch becomes incessant scratching- it’s the first indication there may be a problem.
As a pet owner, the first thing that probably comes to mind is that your dog has a flea infestation. While those pesky fleas certainly could be the source of your pup’s itching, you should also be aware there are a number of other reasons why your furbaby might be scratching so much.
While your dog’s itchy skin might just be a case of forgetting to keep up with their flea medication, if your pup’s excessive scratching is not taken care of— it can cause great discomfort, soreness and pain. Skin issues that are not diagnosed and treated also have the potential to become worse over time. Your pup’s constant ‘itchiness’ could also indicate a potential health condition that can range from mild to severe.
Did you know that skin problems are one of the most common reasons for a veterinarian visit?
In fact, the American Kennel Club states that “Allergic dermatitis, the condition that causes itchy skin, was the top reason pet owners took their dogs to the vet from 2012 to 2019.” BMC Veterinary Research defines allergic dermatitis (also known as atopic (atopy) dermatitis) as “a common, genetically predisposed, inflammatory and pruritic skin disease.”
Although skin problems can be a common occurrence, it’s also important to note that dogs are often more susceptible to having irritated skin during warmer months of the year—especially if your pup suffers from seasonal allergies.
Because many skin conditions will need professional treatment to resolve the issue and keep it from becoming worse, it’s imperative you get to the bottom of why your dog is itching. It is always recommended to consult with your veterinarian— unless, of course, you simply forgot to apply your pet’s monthly flea medication.
Top common skin problems in dogs, including signs and types of treatments
What’s causing my dog to itch?
Common causes of dog skin conditions
- Flea, tick and mite bites can cause inflamed, itchy areas on a dog that can result in frenzied scratching. Often, parasitic infections can result in hair loss, redness, scabbing and lesions.
- Parasites can ‘hitch a ride’ just about anywhere on a dog’s body; and, with all that fur they are the perfect host for these unwelcome intruders. Fleas and ticks are easier to diagnose because they are visible to the naked eye, mites on the other hand are typically diagnosed by using a microscope.
- Mites, if not treated can cause either Sarcoptic mange (canine scabies) or Demodectic mange which is passed by a mother to her pups.
- Parasites, especially fleas, are one of the most common causes of skin problems in dogs. Ticks can also be problematic if your dog roams outside. The good news is, a flea/tick problem can be taken care of with monthly treatments prescribed by your vet.
- Dogs can have an adverse reaction or sensitivity to their food—so, if your dog is itching, it might be time to readjust their diet.
- Dog foods with certain ingredients such as beef, chicken, soy, gluten, eggs or dairy can cause itchy skin. The most common affected areas are the paws and ears but can also include their muzzle/face, underarms, belly or anus.
- Dogs, much like humans, can have allergic reactions to things in their environment that can trigger skin inflammation and irritation. Common environmental allergens are tree, grass & plant pollen, dust mites, mold spores— even cat dander!
- Dogs can also have allergic reactions/sensitivities to shampoos and common household products such as cleaning supplies and laundry detergent (bedding, doggy clothing, etc.).
Bacterial or fungal skin Infections
- Bacterial infections are common due to the fact that a plethora of bacteria normally lives on a dog’s skin. The most common bacterial infection seen in young pups and adolescent dogs is Impetigo (also referred to as puppy pyoderma). Bacterial infections can occur anywhere on a dog’s skin and often are the result of irritated or damaged skin (rashes, pustules, crusting), as well as infected hair follicles (caused by excessive scratching).
- Fungal infections can occur when a fungus propagates and invades a dog’s skin tissue. The most common types of fungal infections are yeast infections and ringworm. Malassezia dermatitis is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the body's normal yeast which results in crusting, itching and a foul odor. Ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection that is identified by red, inflamed circular patches that generally appear crusty.
- Some pups may be born with or may inherit any number of skin abnormalities. Although many skin abnormalities are uncommon, there seems to be a greater frequency of occurrence in certain breeds such as: Golden Retrievers, Spaniels, Standard Poodles, Chinese Shar-Peis, American Bulldogs, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, and more.
Illness and underlying conditions
- Some illnesses can be overlooked as the cause of skin problems.
- Metabolic illnesses such as thyroid or adrenal gland dysfunctions can sometimes cause a dog’s skin and coat quality to change. Auto-immune conditions such as Pemphigus can cause dandruff, pustules, skin erosions, redness and hair loss.
- Immune disorders such as Lupus can also affect a dog’s skin causing hair loss, scabs, and open sores.
Signs of Skin Issues in Dogs
- Intense itching
- Excessive licking, rolling, scratching
- Chronic ear infections
- Dry/flaky skin/dandruff
- Hair loss/bald patches
- Scaly skin
- Visible hot spots
Treatments for Your Dog’s Itchy Skin
Understandably, when you see your poor pup suffering, you’ll want to immediately provide some relief—but before you start concocting a home remedy or head to the pet store, you’ll want to consider a few things before you treat your dog’s itchy skin.
While it might be tempting to give your dog a bath with the oatmeal you have in your pantry or try an over-the-counter treatment such as shampoos, ointments and oils, most topical treatments will only provide your pooch with temporary relief. Diagnosing the root cause of the problem is vital— because depending what the diagnosis is, your dog might require a long-term treatment rather than just a quick fix. Pet owners should also be aware that over-the-counter or home remedies might actually make the problem worse.
Depending on your dog’s diagnosis, the following are common treatments a vet will recommend for a dog’s itchy skin:
- Topical or oral antibiotics
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Antihistamine medications
- Antifungal medication
- Medicated shampoos
- Diet change
Treatments for skin conditions can be as simple as applying a monthly flea medication, changing a diet or keeping up with regular bathing and grooming; while other dermatological treatments can be costly— ranging from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Since many pet insurance policies will cover skin care treatments, it’s a good idea to have a policy to help you offset the cost of paying for expensive procedures. It will also give you the peace of mind you need to get the best care possible for your pup.
When it comes to dog skin care, being proactive is your best defense!
Taking your dog to the vet for routine preventative care and annual examinations will help significantly in preventing any skin issues. Regular visits to the vet are key to catching and treating any potential problems before they become bigger problems.
The truth is that most symptoms of skin conditions will be similar in their appearance – that is why your vet is the best person to properly diagnose the problem and provide options for treatment.
A vet, especially one who specializes in dermatology, can diagnose the problem by looking at your pet’s combination of symptoms, along with using diagnostics such as skin scrapings, allergy testing, blood testing, and microscopic evaluation to determine what type of skin condition they are most likely dealing with.
Keeping your dog up-to-date on their flea and tick treatments is necessary in preventing parasite infections. Practicing good hygiene (grooming and bathing) is also important— especially if your dog is a long-haired or thick-coated breed.
It will also be helpful to do frequent cleaning around the house to prevent any build-up of allergens and dust mites. Regularly washing your dog’s bedding, toys and any clothing can also help reduce any allergens that may affect your pup.
Feeding your dog a proper diet with nutritional, high quality food is also essential in promoting healthy skin and coat. Spring Naturals Dinners for Pets are formulated to be the most nutritionally balanced kibble available today. Check out our recipes made from all-natural proteins and market-fresh vegetables and fruits at https://springnaturals.com/collections/dog.
Identifying and managing your dog’s symptoms as soon as possible is crucial to your dog’s overall health and well-being. It will not only make your dog feel better, it will make you feel better too!