Is your dog’s incessant scratching, licking and biting driving you crazy? Imagine what it’s doing to your dog. If your dog has a scratching problem, it could be due to one of many causes, from dry skin to parasites to allergies. It’s important to identify the root cause of your pup’s chronic itching so you can eliminate the problem rather than just reduce the symptoms.
We live in a dry climate here in Northern Colorado. And most likely you have forced air heating going during the winter. You’re probably familiar with the resulting dry, itchy skin you get during the winter season. Your dog’s skin is similar to yours, and he or she can experience the same dry, itchy skin. Your dog has no choice but to live with the itchy skin—unless you take steps on his or her behalf.
If your pup’s scratching is due to a simple case of dry skin, you’ll see flakes of dandruff when you part the hair, and his or her skin may be cracked and rough. Usually the scratching and biting is not limited to a specific location. To help relieve your dog’s dry skin:
- Run a humidifier during the winter.
- Brush your dog regularly to get rid of dead skin and fur, and distribute the hair’s natural oils.
- Use a pet shampoo formulated for dry skin, such as an oatmeal based product, or ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Don’t use a shampoo meant for humans.
- Don’t bathe your furry friend too often as it will remove the skin’s natural oils and dry out their skin.
- Give a vitamin E or fish oil supplement.
- Feed a high-quality dog food.
If these measures do not reduce your pup’s discomfort, the problem might not be dry skin and you’ll need to look at other possible causes.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from allergies. Allergies can be caused by seasonal allergens such as fungal spores, pollen, dust and grasses, or hypersensitivity to mold, dust, perfumes, smoke, medications and flea bites. Your pup may also be allergic to certain ingredients or additives in their dog food.
Affected dogs will lick, scratch and chew their feet, legs, tail, abdomen and flank. They may also exhibit irritated skin, swelling of facial tissues, runny eyes, nasal discharge, hair loss, redness, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
Treatment for allergies will depend on your fur baby’s specific allergy. For some allergies, your doctor may prescribe steroids, antihistamines or other anti-itch medications. But these only reduce the symptoms, so the best treatment is to identify and remove the specific allergens from your dog’s environment or limit exposure to them. Your veterinarian can use blood and skin testing to help determine what type of allergy or allergies your pup suffers from so you can take steps to mitigate exposure.
If your pup has a food allergy, your vet may recommend a food elimination trial. By removing and then returning certain foods in your dog’s diet, you may be able determine which foods your dog is allergic to and permanently remove them. You may also want to switch to one of the various brands of hypoallergenic dog foods on the market.
Another common cause of itchy skin is parasites. There are a variety of little critters that can wreak havoc on your friend’s skin and coat and cause intense itching.
Fleas, lice, ticks: These parasites live off your pup’s blood. Their bites cause intense itching and can even cause skin infections. You can usually see these parasites on your dog’s skin: Fleas are little black dots that hop; lice are yellow or tan and about the size of a sesame seed; and ticks are usually grayish and about the size of a pea when fully engorged. Your vet can recommend an appropriate parasite control product.
Mange: This disease is caused by a certain type of mite. Mites typically live in areas of the skin that don’t have hair, such as the ear flaps, elbows or stomach. The dog may have red, scaly skin, sores and scabs in these areas. Anti-parasitic shampoos, dips, and on-the-spot products can help remove the mites and prevent future infestations.
Ringworm: This condition is caused by a fungus. You can recognize it by the small, circular scabs or patches of hair loss, which usually starts on the face and paws. It is very contagious to people and other pets. Your vet can diagnose ringworm and start your dog on a fungicidal.
These are just a few of the most common causes of dry, itchy skin. It’s important to get your dog’s itching problem diagnosed as it could be a sign of other, more serious problems, such as a thyroid problem or bacterial skin infection. If your pup is constantly scratching, licking and biting its skin, give Powell Veterinary Service a call at 970-352-9164 so we can get to the root of the problem and relieve your furry friend’s discomfort.