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Why Does My Dog Get Itchy Skin?

dog with fleas

Be Your Own Itchy Dog Detective

There is a wide variety of reasons why your dog has itchy skin- bug bites to food sensitivities and everything in between. Here are some of the most common culprits and what you can do to help alleviate the itch. You can become your own Itchy dog detective from home!

Learn how to check your dog for itchy skin

Check Your Dog for Fleas and Flea Dirt

The first thought that probably came to your mind when you saw your dog scratching was fleas. Fleas like to congregate at your dog’s scruff, so take a good look through the fur on that area for anything crawling around. However, fleas often live in your carpet or grass and are only physically present on your dog when they are feeding, so even if you don’t see the little stinkers, they can still be the cause.

In this case, their droppings – the small black specks they leave behind – can give them away. This is called “flea dirt” due it its appearance.

If you suspect your dog has fleas, talk to your vet about getting them on flea and tick prevention. In the meantime, bathing them in flea shampoo or blue Dawn brand dish soap can provide relief. Make sure the shampoo has its prescribed contact time before washing it off. (In the case of dish soap, you should leave on 10 minutes of contact time before washing it off.)

itchy dog

Check for Bug Bites on Your Dog

Biting or scratching one area in particular means a mosquito, ant, or stinging insect could be to blame. Inspect the area to see if there’s a stinger or tick that needs to be removed with tweezers.

Using a cold compress will usually do the trick if there’s swelling. However, if it remains an irritant or looks to be infected, be sure to connect with a veterinarian on next steps.

Does Your Dog Have Fur Loss?

Another critter that could be causing your dog’s discomfort are mites. Mites are microscopic parasites that cause mange. If your itchy dog is losing fur, they are likely the culprit.

There are three different kinds of mange. One is not transmittable, one is contagious to other dogs, and one is contagious to people.

If your dog is scratching and showing signs of fur loss or mange, separate them from people and pets and speak with a vet right away. A vet will be able to identify which type of mange you are dealing with, treat your dog, and explain how to clean your home if necessary.

Senior dog itching their ear

Dogs with Food Sensitivities

Another lesser-known cause of itchy skin is food sensitivities or mild allergies. Dogs could happily eat the same food for years, and then suddenly develop an allergy.

If your dog is scratching and you’ve ruled out fleas and mange, you can try changing their food. For example, if the protein source in your dog’s current food is chicken, try changing to beef or lamb. If a quick google search leads you to believe your dog needs a gluten-free diet, talk to a veterinarian before going grain-free. Grain allergies are possible, but rare, and recent studies have linked grain-free diets to heart conditions.

Senior dog itching their ear

Dogs with Allergies

Your dog may have seasonal allergies if you notice them chewing their feet after being outside or scratching their skin. You can mitigate these symptoms by wiping your dog’s paws with a wet rag when they come inside. Even putting socks on them to protect their paws from the grass can help!

If you think your dog is suffering from allergies, make an appointment to speak with a vet. They can direct you to over-the-counter options or write a prescription to help make it through allergy season.

Additional Resources

For more information about skin conditions and helpful tips, check out these articles:

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