When does dog itching become a medical issue?

By Edwina Gildea on 29 June 2017

A dog scratches from time to time – which can be a completely natural behaviour. However, it can also be the symptom of a more serious issue. The question is when is the source of the itch a true problem, and as an owner what should you do?

It is perfectly normal for a dog to scratch from time to time but as an owner when you see your dog scratching daily or persistently it is a sign that there may be a medical reason that would benefit from medical attention.

Dog Itching can be caused by many different things e.g. parasites, bacterial infection or allergies. The most common cause of itching is the presence of parasites with fleas being the main culprit.

Itching in these situations can lead to further damage to the skin and the introduction of bacteria which will exacerbate the problem. Skin infections can drive this vicious cycle of itching leading to scratching which further perpetuates the skin damage and the sensation of itch. In other cases, it could be due to an allergy the dog may have to a certain type of food, or allergens within the environment.

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Some of the causes of itch can be quickly remedied with the appropriate veterinary medication e.g. an appropriate flea product while others may take a little time to diagnose and in some cases, will require lifelong treatment.

As there can be several causes which require different forms of medical management it is important to bring your dog to the vet to ensure you get the correct diagnosis as early as possible and therefore the best treatment to allow your dog get back to living an itch free life.

In our upcoming blogs, I’ll be discussing in more detail about what the possible causes can be, how you as an owner can help with the condition and what we as vets can do to help improve conditions for your dog. To keep updated, click here to sign-up to our newsletter.

To find out more about understanding your dog’s scratching, visit https://www.petdialog.co.uk/switch-off-itch/ for our guide.

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MVB MRCVS, National Veterinary Manager


Edwina joined Pfizer Animal Health in 2006 as an Area Veterinary Surgeon moving into the role of the National Veterinary Manager role in 2014 and more recently becoming the Companion Animal Veterinary Lead. Over this period, she has been involved with Zoetis R&D, marketing and technical teams at national and international level in bringing many innovative companion animal products to market. Prior to this, she worked as a general practitioner in the livestock and companion animal sectors in both Ireland and Scotland. Whilst at Zoetis, Edwina has maintained contact with general practice with weekend locuming to retain her clinical skills and continued insight into veterinary practice.