Itchy skin or incessant scratching problems can be annoying both for dogs and their owners. If these problems are not treated or prevented from reoccurring, dogs may scratch so much that the skin gets broken causing open sores and serious infections.
The first step is to identify the cause of the problem. While many dog owners assume that is it caused by fleas, lice, parasites or various allergies, there are many other causes including diet and general boredom.
Obviously, knowing the cause, is the key to providing treatment, and implementing prevention strategies.
This article shows you how to identify the cause and provides tips and home remedies for finding relief for your dog. If the scratching is very severe, or there are signs of infection it is time to take your dog to the vet.
Parasites - One of the commonest, and easily treated, causes of dogs scratching with itchy skin is infection by parasites. Fleas, lice, ticks and rarely, other parasites bite the dog's skin and cause irritation. Often the dog may develop an allergy or similar reaction to the parasites, or sometimes to the treatment. Ear mites can also cause itching and scratching around the ears and head. Examine the dog carefully and look for any signs of parasites.
Remedy - There are a variety treatments for fleas, lice and other parasites that your vet can recommend. Getting rid of fleas requires treatment of the dog’s bedding. You may also have to treat the upholstered furniture and carpet in your house regularly, because fleas breed in these areas. Regular treatment is necessary, due to the high risk that your dog will pick up fleas and parasites from other dogs, causing re-infestation. Regular washes with a flea control shampoo or a natural remedy such as apple cider vinegar, or tea tree oil sprayed onto the skin may keep fleas under control.
Eczema, Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis - Some dogs and some particular breeds of dogs, are susceptible to eczema. Some breeds are also prone to allergies and the related Atopic Dermatitis. Breeds susceptible to Atopic dermatitis include Bulldogs, Boxers, Irish Setters, English Setters, Poodles, Dalmatians, West Highland White Terriers, Wire Fox Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. However any dog may be affected, including hybrids and mixed breeds. Allergies generally have an environmental trigger such as pollen, mold or even some foods and bedding. Dermatitis can also be triggered by pesticides washes or soaps.
Remedy - The most effective long-term remedy is to identify the environmental cause of the allergy. You will need to get your vet to help with this and to provide necessary treatment.
Boredom, Anxiety and Stress -Dogs that have behavioral problems can show symptoms of excess scratching, licking, or chewing. The skin may become itchy and infected, worsening the problems.
Remedy - Apart from more exercise, and the usual toys are other items, the itching and scratching need to be addressed. This includes remedies such as bitter sprays to discourage licking of the skin. Changes of diet may help. Your dog may need to wear special collars to prevent access to itchy spots.
Dry skin - Often scratching can start when the dog's skin is very dry. This can be overcome with the variety of moisturizing shampoos and home remedies such as Emu oil, apple cider vinegar or witch hazel. A variety of factors can also cause dry skin such as cold weather, hot dry winds and diet.
Diet - Food allergies can cause itching and excessive scratching. Try eliminating potential trigger foods such as wheat and even some meats. Make sure your dog gets a well balance diet including vegetables and vitamins. A healthy coat is a good sign of good diet.
Remedy - If simply diet changes do not work, or there is any sign of stomach upsets or diarrhea, get your vet to recommend a special diet.
Hormonal Imbalances - Some dogs are prone to hormonal imbalances that cause itchy skin.
Remedy - See you vet for treatment.
Rolling in Dirt and Grass Seeds - Dogs love to roll in dirt or on the grass. Unfortunately they can pick up dirt, grass, seeds, burrs, twigs and other things that will make them itch.
Remedy - Control where your dog rolls, and provide access to green own grass areas that are less of a hazard.
Shampooing and Grooming - Sometimes the shampoo and skin treatments you use can cause irritation and make things worse. Try changing your shampoo, and some of the herbal remedies discussed below. For some dogs, frequent shampooing might not be a good idea, especially if the dog already has dry skin.
Remedy - Change your shampoo and your washing frequency. Between washes, brush your dog with a medium stiffness bristle brush to remove debris and gently massage the skin.