Many dogs love a good scratch or rub from time to time but when it becomes excessive and is damaging their skin it can be very upsetting and frustrating for both you and your dog.
Parasites, such as fleas, and allergies are two of the most common causes for that annoying itch.
Scratching is the most common and obvious sign your dog is itchy, but other signs of feeling itchy are:
Licking their paws
Chewing or nibbling at their skin
Rubbing their face or body on objects such as furniture
Patches of sore /red skin
What are the most common reasons for that annoying itch?
Fleas are one of the biggest culprits and even the cleanest of dogs can pick these up. Some dogs who have a condition called ‘Flea Allergic Dermatitis’ are allergic to components of flea saliva and have a much more severe reaction to flea bites.
Mites - there are different types of these tiny creatures some live on the skin surface such as the ‘walking dandruff mites’ (Cheyletiella) and ‘harvest mites’ (Neotrombicula autumnalis)
Others burrow into the skin such as the demodex mite, or the sarcoptes mite which causes very itchy sarcoptic mange – more commonly known as ‘scabies’.
Some parasites, like fleas, can be diagnosed by actually seeing them with the naked eye. Other parasites such a mites, need to be diagnosed by examining small samples of skin under the microscope.
There are effective products that can control or prevent the majority of these parasites and protect your dog. You may need to use a product to treat your house also especially if your dog has fleas.
Allergic skin disease develops when your pet’s immune system overreacts to certain substances ( allergens) causing signs that affect the skin.
Skin allergies can come in different forms and some dogs will have a combination.
Environmental allergies – known as ‘Atopy’ in dogs. The most common allergens are microscopic house dust and storage mites. Invisible to the naked eye, they live in all homes in places such as carpets and furniture. Atopy can also be due to outside allergens such as grass, weed or tree pollens meaning that the signs of itching may be seasonal and often worse in the spring and summer months.
Food Allergies – These are not as common as you might think, the incidence is around 5% of all skin conditions. The most common offending foods in dogs are beef, dairy, chicken, wheat and lamb.
Irritant contact dermatitis – Occurs when the skin comes into contact with a substance that damages the skin directly on contact. For example some plants will release a substance that can irritate your dog’s skin if your dog brushes up against it. A classic example would be stinging nettles! These are more common on the less hairy underside of your dog.
Allergies to bites/stings - Some pets that are allergic to insect bites can develop skin disease. Flea allergic dermatitis as discussed above is the most common one.
These are some of the most common causes of a dog constantly feeling itchy, but there are many others including hormonal imbalances, skin infections and cancer involving the skin. The good news is most skin conditions, once diagnosed, can be effectively controlled to relieve your dog’s discomfort so your dog can relax in peace.