The most common causes of itchy skin in dogs

By Gemma Hopkins on 10 January 2017

There can be a number of possible causes of itchy skin in dogs, but if your pooch is in a predicament, then it needs fixing pronto. Incessant itching could turn that sore spot into a wound, which could easily become infected. Let’s see what could be causing your barking buddy to go crazy with the itching. And how best to get them to stop.

To learn more about how to treat your dog’s itchy skin click here

1. Dry skin

Turns out that itchy, flaky skin isn’t only a human terror (as exploited by shampoo adverts). Our canine companions suffer from it too. It can be caused by low humidity or some poor quality pet foods that may damage the precious oils in the food during processing. Either way it leads to cracked and flaky skin that causes a hyper prickly sensation, sending your mutt wild with scratch fever. Try adding a high quality, natural supplement to your dog’s diet to put those natural, soothing oils back in their skin. Your vet will be able to point you in the right direction.

2. Allergies

Just as some humans have allergic reactions to factors in their environment, so can their pets. Certain substances could cause your doggy to scratch, sniff and sneeze like they’re competing in Crufts for the title of Planet’s Most Peppered Pup. Frustratingly, identifying a doggy allergy is notoriously difficult (the power of speech is a skill that canines have yet to master). There are a number of natural remedies you could try, including adding freshly milled flax seed or fish oils to their doggy diets. Some oatmeal based shampoos can also help soothe the skin. If these don’t work, you should speak to your vet to find out what is going on.

3. Infections
Dogs can suffer from skin infections like humans can. More often than not, the infection will either be a bacterial one or a yeast one. Both, however, are easily treatable. Bacterial infections can be more evident in dogs that spend a lot of time wet and treatments may come in one of two common forms; an antibacterial shampoo, or some antibiotics. Fungal infections can be recognised by a rather nasty smell coming from your dog and can be treated effectively with an anti-fungal prescription. All remedies for skin infections in dogs can be picked up from your vet.

4. Shampooing

What are you putting on your dog’s skin? If your poochy products promise flowing fur but are delivering a mutt with an itch, then there’s a chance your favourite brand is doing more harm than good. The ingredients in some shampoos may dry and irritate your dog’s skin. Pick a skin-sensitive, all-natural brand that will moisturise rather than showering them in itchylicious chemicals. Your vet should have a reputable range available. Also, are you washing them too often? Expert opinions vary, but unless your chow is getting down and dirty in a field of cowpats every day you can leave weeks between washes, rather than days.

5. Fleas

Ah, the dreaded F word. The perennial pooch pest that keeps on leaping is the source of many a scratch in the canine world. Flea treatment and prevention is a big issue, but first you need to find them! To discover whether your four-legged pal has fleas or not, check their fur with a little back combing or use a flea comb – and search for the brown oval jumping critters or their faeces (black dots). Identification should lead to a trip to your vet or pet shop. Ask for the most effective product for you (usually either a spot-on pipette or tablet). Did you know these pesky pests also live in your home? So while you are out shopping for your dog, you’d better buy a spray for your house as well or the blighters will just keep coming back.

6. Lice

Lice on a dog can often be mistaken for fleas – however, the one big difference is that lice are almost motionless. Lice on dogs are also species specific, therefore can’t be transferred to humans or cats. Out of all the parasites dogs can suffer from, lice are said to be the easiest to treat and prevent with regular spot-on style medications which your vet will be able to advise you on.

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GEMMA HOPKINS BVETMED, CERTVC, MRCVS, RCVS ADVANCED PRACTITIONER IN VETERINARY CARDIOLOGY


Gemma holds an RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Cardiology and continues to work part time in practice to remain up to date and continue her interest in cardiology.

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