Common issues for itching in dogs

By on March 3, 2020

We all get itchy sometimes, but when you’re itchy all the time there’s likely an underlying problem. The same is true for dogs. Sometimes it can be nothing and sometimes there could be something that needs to be checked out.

Itch relief for dogs depends on the cause of the itching, so it’s important to determine that first. Frequent or continuous scratching, licking and chewing behaviors, (also known as itching behaviors), can be caused by several factors:

  • Allergies
  • Dry Skin
  • Parasites
  • Pain
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom

As with humans, dogs can have food and environmental allergies. About 10 percent of allergies in dogs are food allergies and most dogs are usually allergic to more than one food. Common food allergies include beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit, and fish. When a food allergy is suspected, a vet will recommend trying food that contains an alternate protein source, such as deer meat. They may also suggest adding fatty acid supplements to your dog’s diet in order to help address dry skin issues and to keep your pet’s fur healthy-looking.

Environmental allergies tend to result from mold or pollen. The best way to treat this is to avoid contact with these substances as much as possible.

Dry skin is another reason why your dog may scratch or lick themselves excessively. Dry skin can be caused by a variety of factors. The two most common factors are winter weather and fatty acid deficiencies. Dry skin may also be a symptom of excessive bathing, the use of harsh soaps or poor nutrition. To relieve the itch, consider purchasing a humidifier for when the weather is cold and dry, use a veterinarian-approved shampoo, add a fatty acid supplement to the dog’s diet, and reduce the number of baths the dog receives.

One of the most common causes of itching in dogs is parasites. A parasite is a general term for fleas, ticks, and mites. Mites and fleas are hard to see until the infestation is large enough. Which is why you should never assume that your dog doesn’t have parasites. Ticks, by contrast, are more apparent. They can be found by parting the dog’s fur. The best remedy for parasites is a product prescribed by a veterinarian. There are a number of them on the market and the vet will be able to give the best advice on which to use. It’s also important to vacuum any carpets or upholstered furniture to prevent a reinfestation. Other animals in the house should also be treated.

Dogs will often chew, lick, scratch or bite themselves when something is making them physically uncomfortable. Check your dog for thorns or sharp stones that may have gotten stuck in their footpads or in their legs or tail. If there are no obvious sores or debris then it’s possible they could be suffering from an orthopedic problem such as arthritis or hip dysplasia. If the source of the pain isn’t apparent, it’s best to bring the dog to the vet for a thorough examination.

Bald spots or superficial skin infections may occur if a dog has a hormonal imbalance. If the dog is producing too much of the cortisol hormone or not enough thyroid hormone then their skin will become irritated and they will scratch. If the vet diagnoses a hormone imbalance then there are several treatment options. These options include neutering, growth hormone supplement or thyroid hormone supplementation.

Compulsive scratching, biting, chewing, or licking can also be a response to fear or stress. It’s important to identify what situations may be causing anxiety. First, observe when the behaviors occur. List everything that seems to stress your dog, even if the stress doesn’t seem directly linked to their itching behavior.  These stressors can include everything from thunder to small children to riding in the car. Next, consult a dog trainer. As many stressors are a fact of life and can’t be eliminated its important to replace the dog’s stress behavior with a behavior that is less harmful. A trainer can help you to train your dog to chew on a toy or bone rather than engage in an itching behavior.

Dogs may also appear to be itchy when they are in actuality just bored. Dogs need lots of stimulation and exercise, as well as love and attention. Make sure to spend time walking your dog or playing with them every day. While you’re away, leave the dog with food puzzles and stimulating toys.

While there are many causes for itching behaviors, (such as chewing, scratching, biting or licking), the first thing to do is to bring them to a vet for a check-up. The vet is the best resource for providing itch relief for your dog.

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