We all get itchy skin sometimes, but if your dog is scratching too often, there may be an underlying problem. Keep reading to learn some common reasons for itchy skin and safe ways you can give your dog itch relief.
What Happens When Your Dog Scratches Too Much?
Scratching itchy skin only makes it more irritated. When your dog scratches the same spot repeatedly it causes histamines to be produced. Histamines are made by mast cells during allergic reactions, and they make your dog even itchier.
Too much scratching can also leave the skin dry and broken, increasing the danger of infection. So itchy skin is not just a nuisance. If you don’t deal with it, it can pose a danger to your dog’s health too.
Reasons for Itchy Skin in Dogs
If your dog is scratching herself more than normal, she has irritated skin. You’ll know if your dog is itchy if she does any of the following more than normal:
- Scratching herself repeatedly
- Constantly licking or chewing at a particular area on her body
- Rubbing her body against a surface, including scooting along the ground
- Shaking her body, including the head
You’re the best judge of unusual behavior in your dog. You’ll notice pretty quickly if your dog is uncomfortable. What is less obvious is the reason behind your dog’s itching. If you’re wondering why your dog is licking and scratching the same spot repeatedly, here are some possible reasons.
Just like in humans, itchy skin in dogs is often a symptom of allergies to food or something else in the dog’s environment. If you suspect that your dog has an allergy, there are other allergy symptoms to look out for besides itchy skin. If your dog has a dull coat and red belly area in addition to itchy skin, it may be a food allergy.
Some common food allergens include grains, dairy, GMO foods, legumes, and certain types of protein. If you feed your dog kibble and suspect a food allergy, you should consider switching your dog to a raw diet. You may also consider an elimination diet or have your dog’s saliva tested for antibodies to common allergens.
RELATED: Read more about allergies in dogs …
2. Skin Infections
Your dog may be suffering from a bacterial or fungal infection. Fungal infections include yeast infections, which are very common in dogs. These can occur for a variety of reasons, including poor grooming, bacteria getting into a wound, dermatitis, and problems with immunity. Ear infections are also very itchy for your dog.
3. Bug Bites
Bugs are a common cause of itchy skin in humans, and it’s no different for dogs! There are a variety of parasites that love to get a taste of your dog’s blood, including fleas, ticks, mites, and mosquitos. Medication used to keep these bugs away can also make your dog’s skin itchy. For example, some anti-flea medications contain ingredients that cause itching.
4. Exposure To Household Chemicals
There are certain household products you should always keep out of reach of your dog. Harsh chemicals like bleach, motor oil, herbicides, oven cleaners, laundry detergent, and other cleaning products can cause serious damage to your dog’s skin.
5. Dry Skin Or Hot Spots
Dry skin and hot spots are usually a result of one or more of the above reasons for itchy skin. However, your dog may have dry and flaky skin due to a diet that is not giving her the nutrients that she needs. Exposure to extreme weather or frequent bathing may also cause dry, flaky skin.
Why Dog Allergy Medication Isn’t the Answer
If your dog is suffering from an itch she just can’t get rid of, you might be tempted to get an oral medication from your veterinarian. But this is not the first thing you should try.
Your dog’s immune system is complex and involves a delicate balance. Many allergy medications disturb and suppress your dog’s immune system. Allergy drugs contain steroids that can cause side effects like fur loss and excess urination.
One drug used to treat itching in dogs is Apoquel. Although this option may resolve itching in the short term, there’s a huge problem with this drug. It works by suppressing essential parts of your dog’s immune system … so it can increase your dog’s risk of cancer and other diseases.
There are several natural ways to soothe your dog’s itchy skin before resorting to pharmaceuticals.
Natural Remedies for Itchy Skin
Several home remedies can relieve your dog’s itchy skin, so don’t think drugs have to be the answer! When trying a remedy for the first time, always try it on a small patch of your dog’s skin first to make sure she’s not allergic.
Aloe is not just great for sunburns, it’s also an excellent way to soothe your dog’s itch. The gel found in the leaf of this plant has antibiotic and antifungal properties that help reduce inflammation and increase the rate of healing.
It’s better to use a live plant if possible because it contains enzymes that you won’t get in bottled aloe vera gel. Aloe plants are easy to find at nurseries and even easier to care for at home. It’s a great idea to keep one in the home so that you can just cut a leaf off when you need it.
This plant is well known by herbalists for its wound-healing abilities. It reduces inflammation and promotes regeneration of the skin.
You can buy calendula cream or sprays at most health food stores. You simply spray the tincture onto the affected area of your dog’s skin or rub it into the itchy spots and wait for it to work its magic.
This flowering shrub is high in tannins, which are a natural astringent. You can buy a liquid distillation of the bark, leaves, and twigs from your local drug store. Find an organic one if you can. Rub it into the area you notice your dog scratching to reduce swelling and help heal any damaged skin.
We all have baking soda handy at home. Its ability to reduce pH by neutralizing acid makes it great for soothing areas of itchy skin affected by inflammation. The best way to apply it is to make a paste by mixing a bit of water with one tablespoon of the powder. Apply the paste to the itchy areas and leave it on for a while.
Bathe With A Natural Shampoo
Your dog loves to run through bushes and roll around in the grass. That means pollen, dirt, sand, pesticides, and other irritants can get trapped in her fur and feet. Bathing your dog regularly is a great way to keep itchy skin at bay, especially if your dog has sensitive skin.
Choose a gentle shampoo that doesn’t contain any preservatives, sulfates, or ethanolamines. Ingredients such as lavender, chamomile, coconut oil, and calendula are great soothing agents.
There you have it! A whole arsenal of natural treatments to have on hand for the next time your dog has irritated or itchy skin. Remember to pay attention to the underlying reasons for your dog’s itchiness. Ask a holistic veterinarian if you need help getting to the root of the itch.