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Saving Your Dog from His Scratching

Updated on January 9, 2018
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


There are many causes for the scratching. Some, like fleas and pet food allergies, are easier to identify and resolve. Others, such as psychosomatic scratching, are harder to resolve. Yet the scratching needs to be stopped, because it can create wounds that lead to infections, blotched fur and suffering. How can you identify the cause of your dog's scratching, and how do you stop the scratching?

Pets are part of our family, which is why we want to stop the scratching before our pets contract infections or create scars.
Pets are part of our family, which is why we want to stop the scratching before our pets contract infections or create scars. | Source


While repeated scratching leads to sores that are easily infected, scratching itself may be caused by an infection. Existing skin infections may be caused by bacteria, fungi or yeast. The telltale signs are red swelling in the area, greasy sores and hairless patches with rough or scaly skin.

If you suspect infection, clean the area. If the area is inflamed, you could apply ointments to treat it. If over the counter remedies are not good enough or don’t work, then take your dog to a veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.

It is not advisable to use prescription or over the counter treatments intended for humans on your dog.


Neurogenic means neurological in origin. Yes, your dog’s scratching could originate in his head. Scratching could be an outlet for anxiety, similar to a woman who twirls her hair when nervous. Scratching along with licking and chewing may be your pet’s way of avoiding boredom, akin to someone tapping their fingers.

You can resolve this by getting your pet enough exercise, providing more toys and offering stimulation such as a TV running in the background. Spend time with your pet in the morning before leaving to work to reduce the anxiety of being left alone. You can tell that the cause is neurogenic when changes in environment and behavior stop the scratching.


Pets can suffer from allergies just like their owners. Pets sometimes suffer from food allergies. Allergic reactions to pets, plants and dust are more common. The best solution is thoroughly cleaning the pet, his environment and his favorite places. When you suspect allergic reactions, remove the allergen if possible. While allergies are treated with antihistamines, consult with a veterinarian instead of giving your pet human medications.


Environmental causes can cause skin rashes and itching. For example, a human covered in dirt will suffer from skin irritation as the particles block pores and chafe the epidermis. Pets coated in dirt or debris can suffer the same way. Too much swimming or abrasion with objects also causes skin irritation. Keep your pet clean through regular bathing and grooming. When your dog plays in the mud, give it a bath shortly thereafter. Groom your dog’s fur to remove things like leaves and dirt that aggravate the skin.


Pet owners know that a pet’s diet affects its coat. Diet also affects the skin. Malnutrition in pets can cause sores and eczema in pets. If you suspect your pet is malnourished, switch to a high quality dog food and talk to your vet. While food allergies are rare in dogs, if you suspect food allergies, switch pet foods to determine if this is the cost.


Parasites cause itchy skin in pets and owners alike. Ticks and fleas are the most familiar, and owners need to take care to remove these from their pets. Mosquitoes, gnats and mites are parasites that can also cause dog scratching.

For these parasites, you may want to use medications to treat the affected site and chemicals to kill the pests. Talk to a veterinarian if you suspect your pet’s scratching is aggravated by repeated infestation or an allergic reaction to the insect bites.

How to Stop Your Dog's Scratching Immediately

A cone will prevent your pet from biting at an affected area. Spraying bitter apple or pepper spray on areas your pet repeatedly licks will deter this behavior, though you must never spray these compounds on open wounds.

If the problem is neurological, immediately give your dog something else to do. Start taking your dogs for long walks and providing more toys and entertainment. Or let the dog sit outside in the back yard instead of using a crate all day. When the dog is sufficiently occupied and no longer wants to attack the favorite scratching area, you can try removing the cone.

The cone will need to stay on until your dog’s underlying infection or pest problem is resolved. Then the cone can come off. If the pet resumes scratching, talk to your vet to identify other potential causes.


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