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Is Your Dog Itching? Here Are the Best Ways To Help

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Itching, also known as pruritus, is a common skin disease in dogs. Dog itching symptoms include irritated skin, excessive rubbing and scratching, and even hair loss. For pet owners who deal with dog itching, it can be difficult to watch your pup suffer. Fortunately, there are many ways you can support healthy skin, and there are many treatments you can use to address itching. 

The best treatment plans start by identifying the underlying cause of your dog’s itchy skin. Here, we’ll go over the most common causes of itching in dogs and offer some easy treatment options to help your pup get back his pep.

Common Causes of Dog Itching

A puppy dog itching in the grass

Itching in dogs may be a sign of an allergic reaction to food or seasonal instigators. It can also be caused by skin conditions and infestations including mange and fleas. Keep scrolling to discover the main causes of itching in dogs and find out how to treat each one.

Food Allergies

The most common dog food allergens include proteins such as chicken and beef. Other common allergens include fish, pork, soy, and dairy. These allergies can cause allergic dermatitis, including itching, upset stomach, and other symptoms in dogs.

Seasonal Allergies

Like humans, dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies that may cause itching among other symptoms. Also known as atopic dermatitis, environmental allergies can cause a skin rash, dry skin, hives, and sneezing in dogs. These allergic reactions may flare up during certain times of the year or may appear year-round.

Fleas

Fleas are among the leading underlying causes of dog itching. These pesky critters feast on the blood of your beloved pupper and tend to be more common during the warmer months. Flea infestations that go untreated can cause hair loss, severe dog skin conditions, skin irritation, and an increased risk of the transmission of parasitic infections such as tapeworms and mange.

Staph Infections or Yeast Infections

There are many infections that may cause itching in dogs. Staph and yeast infections are the most common, but pyoderma — skin diseases that result in pus — are also common. Staph infections occur when a dog’s skin is irritated and bacteria enter the wound. These infections are more prevalent in dogs who have skin allergies, seasonal allergies, or fleas. Signs of a staph infection include fur loss, crusty skin, excessive chewing and licking, pus-filled lesions, and red, dry skin. 

Yeast infections can cause itchiness in dogs and are most easily identified by a foul-smelling discharge. Other symptoms of yeast infections include greasy or scaly skin, head shaking, scratching, and hair loss.

How to Alleviate Itching in Dogs

A corgi sticks his tongue out as he's bathed with shampoo for dog itching

The best treatment plans for alleviating dog itch are dependent on what is causing the itching in the first place. If you’re worried that your dog’s itching comes from a serious condition or simply want more guidance on formulating a treatment plan, talk to a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM).

Some underlying issues may cause hot spots in dogs. Hot spots are areas that are inflamed and characterized by moist skin and oozing sores. Fleas, mites, food allergies, and atopy — a predisposition to allergies — can all lead to hot spots as well as itching. There are a few things you can do at home to alleviate dog itching and make your furry friend more comfortable.

For Itching Stemming From Food Allergies

Currently popular grain-free diets may not help alleviate these symptoms and can actually cause additional problems. The FDA is investigating reports that grain-free foods may be connected to heart problems in dogs. Additionally, there is no such thing as hypoallergenic dog food. The term is medically regulated and any claims that food is completely hypoallergenic is a sign that the dog food brand is not reputable. 

So what do you do if your dog is suffering from itching related to food allergies? Like human food allergies, the only way to pinpoint the allergen causing the problem is to follow an elimination diet. This process involves removing suspected foods that may be causing the reaction and then adding them back in one-by-one to challenge your pup’s immune system. This method will take time and patience, but once you identify the offending allergen, it will be easier to tailor your dog’s diet to avoid a reaction.

For dog allergies, pet parents should look for "Limited Ingredient Diet" or "LID" dog food or food made with hydrolyzed protein. Pet food labeling can be misleading and some ingredients may be misidentified. You may want to use a veterinarian-recommended diet or craft a homemade food diet (with your veterinarian's guidance) until you figure out what’s causing the itching.

For Itching Caused by Seasonal Allergies

If your dog’s itching stems from seasonal allergies, take your dog in for allergy testing. Some of the most common allergens include grass, pollen, mold spores, and dust mites. Once you’ve identified what may be triggering your dog’s seasonal allergies, try to limit contact with the allergen and draw up a comprehensive allergy treatment plan. Avoid walking your dog during the early morning and late evening hours as pollen tends to be higher during these times.

After a walk, use pet wipes or a diluted solution of apple cider vinegar and water to help remove any potential allergens from your dog’s fur and paws. Alternatively, you can give your pup a bath using anti-itch shampoos and moisturizing conditioners that contain soothing ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, coconut oil, and oatmeal to provide itch relief. You can also use essential oils like calendula, just make sure to use oils that are non-toxic to dogs. Tea bags and Epsom salts may also be used to help soothe your dog’s skin.

It’s a good idea to invest in an air purifier or air filtration system that can help eliminate allergens that may trigger itching. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend giving your pooch steroids, antihistamines, dog allergy supplements, or allergy shots for severe seasonal allergies. 

For Itching Caused by Fleas

There are a variety of flea control options that target adult fleas as well as eggs or larvae to prevent future infestations. It’s important to use a year-round flea control treatment and a multi-pronged approach to stay ahead of any infestations. You can use a flea shampoo to repel fleas, but it shouldn’t be your only method of prevention as these dog shampoos aren’t always 100% effective. 

There are also spot treatments that are placed in an area your dog can’t lick — typically on the back of the neck. These treatments are absorbed into the oil glands and work to kill fleas all over your pup. Prescription topical medications from the vet will be more effective than most over-the-counter medications. Additionally, oral prescriptions can be used to target larvae, though they do little to kill adult fleas.

Sprays and foggers can be used as a preventative measure to eliminate fleas in the environment and some sprays can be applied directly to your dog’s fur. Simply aim the spray bottle at the affected area and reapply as directed. Flea collars can also be used to control fleas around your dog’s head and neck, though they won’t be effective in a larger infestation.

Some dogs may develop a flea allergy so monitor your pet for any additional signs of an immune system response.

For Itching Caused by an Infection

Staph infections are most commonly treated using oral antibiotics, topical creams, lotions, or antibacterial shampoos. These infections take weeks to control so be patient and try to keep your doggy as comfortable as possible during the process. Staph skin infections can also be passed from dogs to humans, so make sure to practice proper hygiene when caring for your dog and dressing wounds.

Yeast infections are typically treated with antifungal medications and cleaning protocols in conjunction with the guidance of a veterinarian. Yeast infections in a dog’s ear can be eased by using ear cleaners and medications while infections located on the skin may be treated with oral medications. Some of these medications may cause side effects, so make sure to consult a veterinarian before giving your pup any medications.

Soothe Your Itchy Pup With These Tips and Treatment Options

A smiling owner pets her smiling dog

As pet parents, we know nothing tears at your heartstrings like an itchy dog. Fortunately, whether your dog’s itching symptoms come from fleas or seasonal allergies, there are many things you can do to ease the discomfort. From soothing oatmeal baths to over-the-counter medications and vitamins for skin coat issues, your pet doesn’t have to suffer from itching.

PetHonesty offers a variety of high-quality multivitamins and chews that may help address skin issues and skin problems for dogs. These SkinHealth chews contain probiotics, flaxseed, fish oil, kelp, and Omega fatty acids to address the cause of your dog’s itching and improve the look of your dog’s coat. The Omega Salmon Chews may also help improve dry skin thanks to Omega fatty acids.

If your pet suffers from itching and is constantly scratching, try to identify the cause of your dog’s itchy skin. By highlighting the cause of itching, you can craft a treatment plan using natural remedies and veterinary recommended tools to help ease your dog’s symptoms.