Why Is My Dog So Itchy?
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
If you are a dog owner, you have probably seen your furry friend try all sorts of things to scratch an itch. They might paw at an ear, scoot their butt across the carpet, or shake their head from side to side, sending dog slobber everywhere. But the itching can be a problem. If your dog licks, scratches, or chews at their skin until it is raw and inflamed or develops frequent infections, they may have pruritus. Pruritus is a fancy term for itching, a problem that affects many dogs and can have many causes.
Why do dogs itch?
There are many reasons your dog may be itchy. Below are the most common causes of itching in dogs.
Flea allergies - Fleas are usually easy to see and diagnose, and they are a common cause of itchiness. The itch is often concentrated above the tail but can be anywhere on the body. You may also see evidence of fleas or flea dirt on your dog’s fur or in their environment. A flea infestation can cause itchiness in any dog. However, some dogs have a flea allergy, which makes them even more vulnerable. A dog with a flea allergy can become itchy with just a few flea bites, even if it and its environment remain flea-free.
Environmental allergies - Your dog may be allergic to environmental substances such as:
Dogs with environmental allergies often show itchiness around their face, belly, and paws. Signs of an allergic itch include:
Parasites - Along with fleas, parasites like ticks and mange can cause your dog to be itchy. Dogs can pick up these pests from their environment or through contact with other dogs. Parasites can lead not only to itchiness but also to other, more serious health issues. Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease. Fleas can transmit some types of tapeworms and other diseases. They may also infest your home if they hitch a ride home on your furry friend.
Food allergies and food intolerance - Some dogs are allergic to specific food ingredients, such as:
Food allergies and food intolerance can cause symptoms like:
Skin infections - Itching and infections can become vicious in dogs with allergies. Dogs with allergy-related itch tend to have more bacteria on their skin, which causes further inflammation and itching. The continued damage to the skin also makes them more prone to skin infections.
When should you take your dog to the vet for itchiness?
You should take your dog for a vet visit if you notice excessive scratching, biting, and licking of their skin. Chronic itching is a symptom of an underlying problem. So, anytime you see signs of ongoing itching, get your dog to the vet to understand the cause.
Your veterinarian can perform an exam and a thorough skin history to determine the exact cause of your pup’s itchiness. They can then recommend a treatment to address the root cause of your dog’s itch and get it under control for good.
What medication can you give a dog for itchy skin?
Medication might be helpful depending on the cause of your dog’s itch. Some medications have to be prescribed by a veterinarian. But, some over-the-counter (OTC) human medications are safe for dogs and can help relieve symptoms. You should always contact your veterinarian before giving your dog any medication. Even if a medicine is safe for dogs, providing the correct dose and being aware of potential side effects is essential.
Antihistamines - You can safely give your dog some OTC antihistamines. However, some research indicates that these may not be as effective for treating dog allergies as human ones. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a common antihistamine that’s available OTC. It is safe for dogs with mild allergies or allergic reactions. Always ask your vet about the correct dose for your dog. Too much Benadryl can cause antihistamine poisoning, resulting in difficulty breathing, seizures, and coma.
Allergy medications - There are various treatments available for environmental allergies. Some medications can block the chemical signals that cause allergic itch in dogs. These include oclacitinib (Apoquel), a daily oral medication, and lokivetmab (Cytopoint) in long-acting dog injections. Depending on your dog’s allergies, your veterinarian may prescribe allergy shots. These shots contain a small amount of what your dog is allergic to to help them build tolerance over time.
What at-home remedies can you use on your dog to relieve itchiness?
Several at-home remedies might help alleviate your dog’s allergic itch. But check with your veterinarian before you try any of them. Below are some common home remedies tested by researchers.
This page provides articles on Life and Life-Health on Mondays and Wednesdays, about your best friends, Cats, and Dogs, and then on Fridays on Environmental issues.