Are you thinking about your dog’s frequent scratching, licking, and rolling around on the rug? You may be feeling itchy yourself, just from watching all this activity!
There are many reasons your dog may be itchy. Many veterinarians believe it’s best to find the cause of the itch sooner rather than later. While occasional scratching can be normal for dogs, frequent scratching could indicate a medical condition that may get worse over time.
According to a 2023 Nationwide Survey on pet insurance data, for the eleventh year in a row allergic dermatitis (skin allergies) was the top reason dogs were brought into the vet. This condition can make your dog itchy and cause them to show signs like frequent scratching, recurrent ear infections, and skin changes. Continue on to learn more about allergic dermatitis and why August is such a special month.
Possible Cause of Your Dog’s Itchy Skin
So, what’s behind your dog’s itchy skin? It may be caused by a medical condition called skin allergies. This means your dog’s body overreacts to an allergen in the environment or to food, which makes them feel itchy. There are several potential culprits:
- Flea allergy: Flea bites can create extremely itchy areas on your dog. They can be found anywhere on the body, but are most common at the hind legs, tail base, and rear end. Just because you don’t see any fleas on your dog does not mean they aren’t there – keep in mind that a bite from a single flea can make your dog very itchy.
- Food allergy: Your dog’s itching might be caused by a food allergy. Some dogs are allergic to common dog food ingredients such as beef, chicken, and dairy products.1 Food allergies in dogs can lead to changes to the skin around their paws, face, armpits, and belly.
- Environmental allergy: Your dog may be allergic to environmental triggers like pollen, mold spores, or dust mites. Environmental allergens can cause allergic itch during certain seasons, or even year-round. Dogs with environmental allergies will often have changes to the skin around their face, belly, and paws.
- Contact allergy: Your dog may be allergic to substances it encounters daily. These can include things like household cleaners, shampoos, insecticides, and plants. Dogs with contact allergies will often be itchy in the area that touched the contact allergen.
Skin allergies can make your dog uncomfortable. They can also lead to secondary health problems if there is a delay in treatment. When a dog licks or scratches an area excessively, it can damage the skin and lead to skin infections and wounds. These can cause changes like hair loss, body odor, and inflammation. Severe skin infections and wounds may even be painful for your dog.
How to Relieve Your Dog’s Itchy Skin
When your dog experiences these skin changes because of skin allergies, it can be tempting to try an over-the-counter treatment or home remedy. However, using an OTC or at-home solution may not relieve your dog’s itch. The following treatment options are commonly available and may offer some itch relief but may not be the best option for your dog.
- Over-the-counter shampoos and oils. Treatments like coconut oil and itch-relief shampoos only provide temporary relief. Your dog’s itch may come back because the root cause has not been addressed.
- Antihistamines. While studies have shown that antihistamines may relieve allergies in humans well, antihistamines are less helpful in relieving itch in dogs with environmental allergies. In fact, it has been shown that antihistamines likely offer little to no benefit in treating environmental allergies in many dogs.
- Prescription steroids. Steroids prescribed by a vet can be effective in reducing itchiness in your dog, but they may cause side effects5 in your furry friend. Dogs on prescription steroids often experience increased urination, thirst, and weight gain. They can also experience behavior shifts such as increased aggression.
August is Itchy Pet Awareness Month. If your dog is scratching frequently in August or any time of year, schedule an appointment with your vet to discuss the most effective ways to relieve your dog’s itch. If your dog has skin allergies, then a prescription treatment from your vet may be needed to get your favorite sidekick feeling better. So, call your vet today!
American poet Ogden Nash said, “Happiness is having a scratch for every itch.” For your dog, happiness is relieving the source of every itch.