Have you seen a dog doing frequent scratching, itching, rubbing, and head-shaking or licking different areas of the skin? Yes, it means there’s some health problem with that dog’s skin. In scientific language, itching of the skin is called pruritus. Dogs’ itching can have a variety of causes related to skin disorders or even nutrition, and sometimes may be a combination of two. Continuous itching can damage the pet’s skin and cause dry, inflamed, and oozing skin resulting in other infections. Hence, it is essential to find out why the dog is itching and resolve that cause for your dog’s h
ealth before your pet starts pulling out clumps of fur and damaging the skin.
Here’s a list of the ten reasons why dogs are itching, as well as some solutions on what you can do to get rid of that itch. Let’s start with the most common cause of external parasites, i.e., ticks, lice, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, and midges.
Ticks or Lice
Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that attach themselves to animals and, during sucking blood, release toxins that can harm their hosts and causes various diseases. Lice are flightless, tiny insects that live in the hair of animals. Two basic types of lice are biting or chewing lice and blood-sucking lice.
Biting or sucking lice move through the hair and embed the mouth part in the skin, which causes irritation and itching. Signs of lice or tick infestation are scratching, biting, itching, and rubbing of infested areas. A rough, dry, or matted hair coat is also an indication of heavy infestation.
Ticks and lice should be removed immediately to minimize disease and damage. Ticks removing tools like tweezers are used to remove ticks. Anti- ticks/lice spot-on solutions, shampoos, and sprays effectively control them. Insecticide spray and trimming tall grass, weeds, and vegetation in your backyard can protect your dog from ticks attack. Ensure that the dog’s bedding, collar, and grooming tools, including combs and brushes, are free of lice or ticks to eliminate the itching.
Fleas are wingless insects that feed on the blood of animals. While feeding on the host, fleas inject saliva, and most dogs are allergic to the saliva of fleas. Animals will itch and scratch the body due to flea bites and saliva irritation, resulting in restlessness and crusted and itchy skin over the legs and tail region.
Flea treatments include topically applied liquids, oral and injected medications, and sprays. Protect the dog’s environment from wildlife contact that can be a source of the flea’s addition to your dog’s habitat. Spraying flea control products over the shaded areas effectively control the fleas.
Biting Flies and Mosquitoes
Flies and mosquitoes are winged insects that feed on animal blood and body secretions. In the process of feeding, they inflict a painful bite and can cause itchiness and allergic reaction in your dog. Heavy infestation of flies can also develop maggot wounds resulting in rubbing and nibbling at the skin.
Use pet-friendly and safe insect repellents to keep flies away. Garbage containers should be covered. Remove standing water from kennels and yards. Feces and urination should be cleaned immediately. Limit the outdoor walks with your dog at dawn and dusk to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes.
Atopy or atopic dermatitis is a lifelong airborne allergy, and many dog breeds are sensitive to allergens in the air. The most susceptible age is six months to three years. Itching all over the body is the characteristic sign of atopic dermatitis. The most frequently affected areas are the front legs, feet, face, ears, and abdomen. Other symptoms of dermatitis are licking or chewing the paws and rubbing the face and eyes.
No availability of tests makes the diagnosis of airborne allergies difficult. Primarily, diagnosis is based on age, breed, history, and signs. Treatment involves minimizing the symptoms of itching by bathing and improving coat hygiene. Immunotherapy is a safe choice to increase the dogs’ tolerance to air allergens. Anti-itching medication can be used to relieve seasonal flares.
Food allergy is when a dog is sensitive to any of the ingredients in the food. All dog breeds and age groups can be prone to food allergies. Itching is a typical sign of food allergy. However, the intensity of itching is comparatively lower than airborne allergen and variable in every breed. Other symptoms also include vomiting, diarrhea, and salivation.
Food allergies are identified by feeding a limited foodstuff diet and seeing if the itching resolves. To avoid a food allergy, identifying the offending ingredients and removing them from the dog’s food is the key solution.
Poor nutrition is not a food allergy. Low-quality food or excessive intake of fat and protein can also be a contributing factor in causing skin problems and itching. Hypoallergenic food, which is low in protein and fat, higher in complex carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and free of additives, can be given to your itchy dog.
Urticaria (skin rashes) is red, swollen, and usually itchy skin patches. They develop due to insect bites or stings, shampoos, and contact with toxic plants or chemicals. Sometimes also develops in response to some medication or vaccination. Urticaria usually develops and disappears suddenly. However, treatment needs to identify the possible cause, and giving the rapid-acting corticosteroids can alleviate the animal’s itching and skin rashes.
Dermatophytosis or ringworm is a fungal infection of skin, hair, or claws. The common cause of ringworm infection is contact with infected animals, bedding, or contaminated objects such as grooming tools. Infected dogs develop bald, itchy, and scaly patches of skin with broken hairs. The face, ear tips, tail, and feet are common regions for ringworm infection. It is diagnosed by fungal culture of skin scrapings.
Dermatophytosis usually clears without medication, but treatment with oral medicines and medicated shampoos or dips can speed up the recovery and decrease the spread of the fungus in the environment.
Scabies or sarcoptic mange is an itchy skin condition in dogs caused by the mites’ infestation. A dog will develop sudden intense itching, probably caused by the sensitivity to mites’ droppings. At first, small, solid bumps will erupt on the infested skin. Dog scratches or nibbles to relieve the itch. Later, crust and scales develop thickening, and skin wrinkling occurs.
Treatment includes clipping the hair. Skin crusts and dirt should be removed by soaking with a medicated shampoo. After cleaning the skin, anti-mite dips or topical medicines should be applied. Multiple dips in lime-sulfur solution are highly effective in young animals.
Walking dandruff (Cheyletiellosis) is a contagious mite infection in dogs. These mites stay on dogs for the whole life cycle and cause skin scaling and frequent itching in some dogs; some may not itch at all. Topical body-wide treatment is necessary to get rid of these mites.
Trombiculosis is a mange infestation caused by the parasitic larvae of mites of the family Trombiculidae. These are tiny orange-red oval immovable dots found in clusters on the head, ears, belly, and feet. Signs include itching, redness, bumps, hair loss, and crusts. Intense itching persists even after the engorged larvae leave the pet’s body.
Treatment of Trombiculosis does not include general anti-mite products but specific medications targeting the larvae of these mites. If the itching is severe and persistent, antihistaminics and antibiotics must be used to control secondary infections in scratch and bite wounds. The most helpful approach is to keep pets away from mites harboring areas.
Glandular disorders can create imbalances in the secretion which can cause skin problems in dogs. Malfunctioning of skin glands cause skin itching, foul odor, and discharges. Some systemic conditions like hypothyroidism and Cushing’s diseases occur due to changes in the working of the thyroid and adrenal glands, respectively. Both conditions are associated with hair loss and sometimes itchy skin.
Pyoderma is the pus in the skin mainly caused by bacterial infections. Other possible causes are fleas, hypothyroidism, allergies, Cushing disease, and poor grooming. The most common sign of bacterial pyoderma is excessive scaling, scales pierced by the hair, and welts causing itchiness. Pyoderma can be superficial or deep, depending on a load of infection.
Pyoderma treatment requires long-term attention to stop recurrence. A dog should be groomed by professionals and bathed with a recommended medicated shampoo. A topical or oral antibiotic is necessary for the healing of wounds.
Skin problems with itching can be frustrating for a dog and the pet parents. Mostly there is no single well-defined cause against which treatment should be given. Every reason has a different treatment regime. Hence, it is essential to know why my dog is itching. Now, if your dog is constantly itching, figure out the cause from the above detailed 10 reasons why the dog is itching and treat your dog accordingly