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Common causes of your dog's itching and scratching

Updated on March 15, 2008

Diagnosis can prove challenging for this frustrating problem


Your dog started scratching recently. You think it may be flea season again so you have her scheduled to see the vet to put her back on a monthly topical flea treatment.

Don't be surprised though if itching and scratching symptoms may leave your vet scratching his head as well.

When a pet presents itself with a scratching history, diagnostics may be challenging for even the most experienced vet. There may be various reasons why a dog starts the whole scratching ordeal and finding the right culprit may require extensive testing and extensive expenses for the owner.

Fleas may be the most obvious cause and many dogs suffer from a form of flea dermatitis allergy. This allergy is a reaction to the flea's saliva and this itching is more than a reaction to feeling the little critters crawl and bite their skin. You may notice that your dog has a lot of crusty bumps and hair loss due to the intensive itching. These bumps may upgrade into an annoying skin infection. A good flea product should get rid of the fleas and a good flea spray with a growth inhibitor should be used to treat the environment.

Food allergies are a major culprit for itching. Your dog may be allergic to just about anything found in the food you are feeding. Grains seem to be playing a major role. Additives, meats, dyes, preservatives are other triggering factors.

It may be challenging figuring out the real ingredient causing problems. The vet may have the dog put on a trial diet or prescribe an allergen free special food. Many have obtained great results by converting their dogs into a raw meat diet. If the dog has dry, flaky and itchy skin oatmeal baths have been hepful in soothing the irritated skin.

The environment may be causing your dog's scratching. From your carpet cleaner to your yard chemicals just about anything your dog has contact with may be the cause. Known common causes are dust, grasses, pollen, dust mites and molds.

Diagnosis in this case may be more challenging than thought. The vet may prescribe an antihistamine such as Atarax or even give a steroid shot in most severe cases.

Dogs may suffer hot spots. These are areas where the skin is exposed to moisture deriving from rain, a puddle or a pond. This moisture is trapped in due to the dog's coat or the presence of hair mats. Bacteria will reproduce and the area will become easily infected. The dog may make the area progressively worse by biting it and licking.

Medications may be causing a skin allergic reaction. If your dog is on any medication read the label carefully and see if itching is listed as a side effect. If in doubt contact the vet that prescribed your dog's medications.

Allergies can be challenging and very bothersome, both for the owner watching its pet scratch and for the dog actually scratching. In some cases the real culprit may never be identified and therefore, supportive treatment is provided to give relief.

Knowing the possible allergy triggers may give some hints on identifying what is causing your dog to scratch and hopefully your insight may help your vet come to a diagnosis.

Soothing oatmeal for dry, itchy skin


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