My Dog Is Scratching – What Should I Do?

Although all dogs scratch from time to time, some dogs seem to become obsessive about it, which can indicate a problem. If your canine companion seems to be scratching or licking more than usual, there may be a medical cause for their behavior. Read on to discover some of the most common causes of itchy skin in dogs and find out what you can do to help your furry friend stop scratching.

Allergic Reactions

Photo: Flickr/Kelsey MacDonald
Allergies are one of the main culprits for why pooches increase their scratching. Food allergies are a common trigger, especially for itchy ears and feet, but environmental factors can also cause a problem. These may include pollen, fungus, mold, or soap. Visit your veterinarian to determine what’s causing your dog’s allergies and begin treatment.

Parasites

Photo: Flickr/Aqua Mechanical
Fleas, mites, and ticks are another common cause of itchiness among dogs. Sometimes these parasites can cause visible skin problems, such as mange, though these pests are not visible in the early stages. However, your dog can feel them. If your pup has problems with fleas or ticks, talk to your vet about a good preventative program. If your dog already has fleas or mites, you may need to use medicated shampoos and other treatments to get rid of them.

Dry Skin

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Photo: Flickr/Katy Warner
Some dogs simply have dry skin, especially during the winter months. If your vet determines that your dog is scratching because of dry skin, adding fatty supplements to your pup’s diet is often the easiest way to stop the problem.

Fungal Infections

Photo: Pixabay
Fungal infections can occur in dogs of any age, though puppies and dogs with compromised immune systems are the most likely to get them. Ringworm is the most common and typically comes with hair loss, but your dog may start scratching before the hair loss appears. If you think your dog might have ringworm, be careful as it can spread to humans as well. Fortunately, most cases are easy to treat with anti-fungal medications.

Boredom or Anxiety

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Photo: Flickr/Eje Gustafsson
Dogs that are bored or lonely often turn to destructive behaviors. Usually that involves chewing up your couch or shoes, but some dogs deal with their excess energy by biting and scratching themselves. Stress and anxiety can also cause dogs to self-soothe by licking or scratching. Try to avoid leaving your dog home alone for extended periods of time, and mix up your pup’s everyday routine to keep him stimulated.

Hormonal Imbalances

Photo: Pixabay
One of the more insidious causes of itching can be a hormone imbalance. Thyroid problems or other hormonal issues can make dogs susceptible to skin infections that otherwise wouldn’t affect them, which leads to itchy skin. If your dog seems to have consistent problems that clear up with treatment but then come back, talk to your vet about checking hormone levels.

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Pain

Photo: Flickr/Pingz Man
Some dogs scratch or bite to deal with pain. Scratching is particularly common if there is an outside irritant, like a burr caught in your dog’s coat. Internal pain, such as joint pain from arthritis, can cause dogs to lick the area frequently to try to soothe it.

Hot Spots

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Photo: Flickr/Doc Searls

“Hot spot” is the colloquial term for skin irritations among dogs. After the skin becomes irritated, the affected area becomes further inflamed due to excessive licking or scratching. Hot spots may develop from a superficial scratch or injury that gets infected, and they can spread quite rapidly. Take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice any such skin irritations.

Although scratching may not seem like a medical emergency, it’s a good idea to contact your vet if your dog seems to be doing it excessively. Most causes can be cleared up with the right medications or other treatments, but it’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with to get the best results. Having itchy skin isn’t any fun, but fortunately most conditions that cause it are fairly easy to treat.

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