Listening to your dog constantly itching and biting on its skin all the time is concerning as much as it is annoying. Dog itching to some level is quite normal, it is a way of ridding themselves of things caught up in their coat, insects or just like us enjoying a good scratch with no reason at all. However, constant itching should be a point of concern as it can be painful and causing injury to the dog’s skin.
Excessive itching and scratching can have a number of causes. While some are harmless others can be problematic. One of the first signs of excessive itching in dogs is having irritated skin with red, wet and raised areas of skin. This can occur anywhere in the dog’s body but are most common in the chest, head and the hip area. Once a dog’s skin becomes irritated, the dog will often scratch on it all the time. Such areas quickly become sore and can be sources of infection.
A dog itching and scratching will automatically make you think of fleas. However, food and parasite bites are frequent causes of allergic reactions. There are also several other factors that can cause skin itchiness, ranging from allergies to hormonal problems or stress.
Allergies are the second most common cause of itchiness in dogs. Inhalant allergens such as chemicals, dust or pollen can all cause itchiness when the allergen is inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
The allergen can be just about anything, from pollen, mould, dust, dust mites, household cleaners, pesticides, fabrics, etc. Dealing with atopy is very frustrating because it is so difficult to figure out the cause.
Seasonal allergies in dogs is probably the easiest to diagnose, because your dog’s symptoms will come and go. Many times, just limiting the exposure to the allergen in the home and beefing up their immune system with dog supplements and/or a healthier dog food, is enough to control this condition.Allergies can be relieved with shampoos, topical ointments, antihistamines, steroids or allergy shots. Make sure your dog has less contact with the suspected allergens, to help prevent allergic reactions.
However, depending upon the severity of the allergy, you may need to see your veterinarian for prescription medicines.
Food is a common culprit, especially if you are feeding a supermarket brand commercial dog food. These cheap meals are over-processed with inferior ingredients, leaving your pet’s immune system frazzled. Thus poor nutrition can lead to dry skin and dull coat, where itchiness is also common.
This causes a two-fold problem. First, the immune system is hyper-sensitive, attacking normal substances as allergens and producing allergy-like symptoms – such as itchy skin and excessive licking, especially of the paws. Second, your dog becomes sensitised to some ingredients and actually develops an intolerance to the actual ingredient.
Switch your dog’s food to an optimal hypoallergenic grain-free formula and introduce a few supplements such as fatty acids, omega 3, 6 and 9, B vitamins (Biotin or niacin) or vitamin E.
Fleas are not the only parasites that cause itchiness. Ear mites can also cause excessive itchiness. The dog will scratch mostly in the head and ear area.
Worms and intestinal parasites can cause itching in the rectal area. You may notice worms in the feaces, and the dog may also have a decreased appetite, diarrhoea and vomiting. Parasites can be treated with shampoos, insecticides or dewormers. For temporary relief of itchiness, use a cream containing cortisone.
Infections with fungi can cause itchiness. The most frequent fungi in dogs are ringworm and Candida albicans, which causes yeast infection.
Ringworm causes round-shaped bald patches and extreme itchiness.
The yeast infection can be located in the ears, mouth, paws, rectum or vagina of the dog.
Ringworms can be treated with medication, while yeast infections necessitate a lengthy treatment, including frequent baths with solutions to bring back the pH balance on the dog’s skin.
Psychological factors such as anxiety and stress can cause the dog to believe he has itchy skin. He may need some anxiety drugs, pheromone diffusers or homeopathic remedies to relieve stress.
Excessive itching, licking and scratching can lead to hair loss, bald patches and even infections, as dog saliva contains a lot of bacteria. By scratching, dogs can provoke deep wounds and even bleeding. It is essential to detect the cause of itchiness and apply proper treatment to ensure your dog is healthy.
Remove any stresses in your dog’s life. If you just got a new puppy or a cat, your dog might be scratching in response to stress. A new family member or roommate can also stress out your dog. You might need to keep your dog separated from the new arrival for a while until he calms down. You could also ask your vet about anti-anxiety medications for dogs.
A thyroid tumour or disease can cause hormonal problems, as can thyroid hormones in deficit or excess. Hormonal problems can lead to itchiness and dry or oily skin. Consult your vet if your dog loses weight, lacks appetite or is extremely irritable. These are typical symptoms of hormonal problems.
Sun or Wind
Excessive exposure to sunlight can cause itchiness, especially on dogs with light-coloured coats.
Wind can cause dry skin and this can be itchy. Use some moisturising shampoos or creams to prevent dry skin.
Treatments for Dog Allergies:
Coconut Oil – When given orally, coconut oil also helps boost your dogs immune system.
Whether used orally or topically, coconut oil can be of great help in treating itchy skin in dogs. The lauric acid found in coconut oil contains antibacterial, antiviral, and even anti-fungal properties. The high-fat content of coconut oil helps keep the skin moisturised and also promotes the growth of healthy skin and hair.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has very strong antibacterial properties that help cure itchy skin and rash. It is especially good for itching due to allergies. Dilute ACV with water before using it on dog’s skin. Apply it directly onto his coat or use a sprayer to spray affected areas being careful not to spray it into his eyes. The amount of vinegar to use depends on the size of your dog. You should be very careful not to use ACV on raw sore and inflamed skin.
Bath your dog in a warm bath with Epsom salts to relieve dry itchy skin. Try to let your dog soak in the bathtub for at least 15 minutes and closely watching him not to drink the water. This can also help reduce pain and swelling on the inflamed sore skin.
If you do not have Epsom salt. You can use plain oatmeal instead. Add oatmeal into cool bath water or apply it directly to the skin to relieve dry skin and soothe itchiness. Allow the oatmeal to stay on the skin for 10 minutes before rinsing it off with clean water.
Vitamin E works on dog’s skin just like it works on your skin to clear out wrinkles. Break a capsule and rub it onto dry areas of the skin. Massage him gently to help the vitamin E penetrate into the skin. Vitamin E has strong moisturising properties that help nourish the dog’s skin.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has natural and curative skin properties that soothe and protect dog’s skin. It is also a very effective anti-inflammatory that relieves itching and irritation. Due to the effective anti-itch properties for dog skin. Note that this oil must only be used externally in diluted form.
Many dogs will have some have some degree of itching at some point in their lives. But when scratching becomes too much and beyond what you’d consider normal, consult a vet to help identify a diagnosis and a treatment plan.