If you have a dog, you know that they itch and scratch constantly. But how do you know if the itching is just the normal every day dog scratching or something more serious that needs treatment by your veterinarian?
Dog itching is quite common and can be due to a number of conditions, from parasites such as fleas to more serious conditions of fungal infection. Here are some common reasons that dogs might be itching and scratching more than usual:
Parasites. Parasites are among the most common cause for dry, itchy, flaky skin in dogs. Fleas are the most common and visible skin parasite, but there are other types of parasites that can cause problems for dogs. Some of these parasites live deep in the hair follicle and are not visible to the naked eye. Therefore, a quick and inexpensive skin scraping procedure may need to be performed at the veterinarian’s office to determine what, if any parasites are present. Other common parasites in dogs are scabies and mites.
Allergies. Allergies associated with itchy skin are contact dermatitis and food allergies. Contact dermatitis is skin irritation that can arise literally overnight, causing a dog to react to a substance or surface that he’s never had any problems tolerating in the past. Common triggers for contact dermatitis include household chemicals and cleaners, laundry detergent, shampoos and dog perfumes, and fabrics like wool. Food allergies are among the most difficult conditions to diagnose, and skin irritation can occur as part of a constellation of symptoms associated with the body’s intolerance of a food item or ingredient. Chronic skin problems can also result from intolerance to a daily medication. Diagnosis often involves a great deal of trial and error to systematically rule out causes for the allergy. And treatment for allergies can include limiting contact with irritant and anti-histamine medications.
Fungal Infections. Fungal infections, such as yeast infections, are another cause for dry, itchy, scaly skin in dogs. Ringworm is another example of a fungal infection that can affect the skin. Unfortunately, these micro-organisms can not only spread around the dog’s body, but they can also spread to other pets and even human family members. Fungal infections tend to be the source of constant irritation from the time the lesion forms. Redness, oozing, secondary infection, flaking and scaling are very common in cases of fungal infections.
Miscellaneous Causes. Other causes of dry, itchy and/or flaky skin in dogs can include thyroid disorders, auto-immune disorders, internal intestinal parasites, dietary deficiencies and bathing or swimming too frequently.
It is important to get take your dog to the veterinarian is you suspect your pet has a skin infection that is causing the itching. If this condition is left untreated, infections on the skin’s surface can penetrate the underlying tissues, resulting in scarring, permanent hair loss, serious infection that can require surgery to remove the damaged tissue, thereby allowing healing to occur. Untreated skin infections can also spread to other parts of the dog’s body and in some cases, the infection can even spread to other pets.
Your veterinarian will take into consideration a number of factors that might play a role in causing your dog to scratch such as allergic reactions, bacterial and parasitic infections, environmental sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies.
Help your dog live a happy, healthy, itch-free life. Regularly brush your dog to release protective oils that will encourage blood flow to the skin and help keep the coat shiny and vibrant. Do your best to avoid exposing your dog to external toxins, such as herbicides, pesticides and flea powder. If you notice that your dog has any allergic reactions to grasses, plants or other items, make a note of that and discuss it with your veterinarian. And last but not least, be sure to take your dog to the veterinarian regularly. Your pet will thank you!