Dog Scratching Explained

Every dog has the occasional itch, but if your pup’s scratching becomes consistent and excessive, it’s time to take action. Relentless itching and scratching could be a sign of pruritus, the medical term for being itchy. Itching can be caused by a variety of conditions, so it’s important to identify the underlying issue before you can treat it.

Skin Infections That Cause Dog Itching

Even healthy, non-itching dogs have a certain amount of bacteria and fungi on their skin, but an overgrowth of either can turn into a medical condition. Skin infections are sometimes the primary cause of itching, and other times they are a secondary symptom of other problems, such as fleas or allergies.

Most Common Dog Allergies

One of the most frequent and recognizable signs of dog allergies is itchy skin—and one or more of the following allergens may be to blame.

  • As the name implies, environmental allergens live in your home and commonly include dust, storage mites, and mold. You can reduce the number of mites in your house by using mattress covers and washing your linens weekly. Controlling humidity in the home through proper ventilation will help cut down on mold.

  • Dogs, like their human parents, can experience pollen allergies, though their reactions are different. Because dogs pick up pollens from grass, they often suffer from itchy feet and bellies.

  • Dog food allergies are caused by animal or plant-based proteins that can trigger hypersensitivity. Dogs itching due to food allergies usually scratch around their faces, ears, feet, and rumps and under their tails.

  • The most common dog allergy is fleas. Fleas inherently cause a dog to itch, however some dogs can have very severe allergic reactions to flea saliva. Dogs with flea allergies become very itchy in a distinct pattern along their backs near their rumps, and between their hind legs.

Fleas, Ticks and Lice: Oh My!

Common parasites including fleas, ticks, and lice also cause pups to itch.

  • Fleas survive on your pet and in carpeting and bedding. Infestations affect both dogs and cats, so if one pet in your home has fleas, all of them need to be treated to remove fleas and prevent reinfestation.

  • Ticks, which survive on the blood of a host animal, can also cause your dog to itch.

  • If you’ve noticed what look like tiny insects crawling on your pup —usually under the tail, near the rump, along the back, or on the face—he or she might have lice.

Whatever cause you suspect, the first step to treating your dog’s itching and scratching is to reach out to a veterinarian to test for parasites and allergens.

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