6 Common Reasons My Dog Scratches All the Time
What is the main reason dogs scratch?
Scratching is probably the number one reason people need a vet. More clients knock on the door when they need annual vaccines or a refill for their heartworm preventative, but in this case there really is a need, and something that can be done.
This article will help you by pointing out:
- Most common reasons for itching in dogs
- Appropriate treatments for those types of itching
- Common and alternative types of treatment for itching
So why do dogs scratch all the time?
The Most Common Cause Of Scratching
"It can´t be fleas. My dog doesn´t have fleas."
Do you have any idea how many times we hear this every day? The first thing to do, before you even take your dog in for an exam because of excessive scratching, is check for the obvious, fleas.
Run a flea comb (they are really cheap and well worth keeping around) through the hair along her back, especially over her rump and tail head. If she has any fleas you might see a few of the bugs but even if you do not you will see black flakes of “flea dirt”. Flea dirt is actually the dried blood that the fleas pass as stool when dining on your dog. Not sure about the dirt? Take the material collected from the dog and drop it onto a wet paper towel. If it becomes red around the dog, you are actually collecting dried blood.
Your dog´s blood!
Buy a flea control chemical (pill or spot-on) from your vet or fpr some alternatives read my article on non-chemical flea control. Some dogs become allergic to flea saliva and they are miserable, scratching constantly, so control this problem early before it is established in your home and yard.
What other reasons do dogs have for scratching all the time?
No flea dirt? The problem is tougher to diagnose but definitely can be solved. If she seems to itch so badly that she cannot even sleep you need to consider mange. The most common type of mange, sarcoptes, can also affect people and you might notice little itchy bites around your waist. You will have to take her in for diagnosis but there are several good alternative therapies you can try. (The other type of mange, demodex, does not cause the intense itching that is seen with sarcoptes but you will notice the hair loss and maybe a secondary bacterial infection, which can cause some itching.)
3. Contact allergies
If she licks and chews at her feet all of the time there is a good chance she has a contact allergy. Contact allergies to a food dish will cause the dog to be red and itchy around the mouth, contact allergy to a shampoo will make the dog itchy everywhere the shampoo is used. Contact allergies are a lot less common than fleas or mange but if you want to try and rule out this problem you need to get rid of everything that the dog comes into contact with. Once the problem is found, it is solved.
4. Food allergies
If she itches all over, her ears are swollen, and she has GI upsets, she may have food allergies. Several types of food can cause allergies and the only way to find out is by eliminating all of the potential allergens and feeding something totally new. It is not sufficient to just switch brands of kibble, since many of them use the same fillers and the dog may continue to have problems. Once a good diet is found you can keep the dog on that food or start adding the old components slowly until you have found out what she is allergic to. (This is called a challenge diet.)
5. Inhalant allergies
Allergies to environmental allergens (pollens from trees, grass, weeds, etc) will also cause dogs to act itchy all over. Dogs with inhalant allergies might present with problems the same time every year, or it might be something in the house and so be a year-round problem. The only way to find out what is causing the problem is by doing allergy testing. The results are not very reliable but it is the only test available.
6. Fungal and bacterial infections
Itching and scratching may not be the main signs you notice when your dog has a fungal or bacterial infection. The itching may be pretty mild compared to the hair loss and the nasty smell. The dog might have patches of infected skin (hot spots) or have a generalized infection.
How can scratching be treated?
The best treatment really depends on diagnosing the cause of the scratching, and since several of the allergies listed will appear to be something else, this is not always easy. Diagnosing allergies is difficult and not something anyone can master just reading articles.
Treating the primary problem is great if your veterinarian can figure it out.
1. Flea control: There are a lot of great products introduced every year, or you can use natural flea control.
2. Mange treatment
3. Removing the allergen from the environment: This may not be easy but if your dog is allergic to dust mites, for example, there are things you can do to reduce their buildup in the home. Find out some alternatives by reading my article on how to make an allergic dog feel more comfortable.
4. Allergy injections (immunotherapy): This method of controlling inhalant allergies may not be very effective, but if your dog is allergic this is a possibility.
5. Hypoallergenic diet
Some Scratching Relief
To give your dog some temporary relief, your veterinarian might also suggest:
1. Steroids. (Although steroids have a lot of side effects, in the short term they can provide a lot of relief for itchy skin and for that reason are still used frequently.) If your dog is in so much discomfort that he is not able to sleep at night, this is definitely something to consider.
2. Antihistamines. (Sometimes they work, sometimes they do not. They can help a lot in some cases but in others the dog may be just as miserable.)
3. Bathing. (You can use a soothing shampoo like oatmeal. This therapy can help a lot by removing the allergens on the skin and moisturizing the skin.) Bathing can end up taking a lot of time but in some cases they make a dog feel better than any other therapy.
4. Dietary supplements. (Like fatty acids, vitamin C, and some other antioxidants. They might take longer to provide your dog with some relief so will need to be used with other therapies.)
5. Antibiotics. (This may be a primary treatment in case of a skin infection but most likely it will just give the dog some relief while allergies are dealt with.)
6. Alternative therapies, like apple cider vinegar and herbs. (Not all veterinarians will discuss these alternative therapies with you, so you might need to read about them and consult a holistic vet. If you want to avoid the negative side effects of therapies like chronic steroids, ACV and some herbal cures that may be of some benefit.)
Vinegar is a great alternative therapy and organic apple cider vinegar has many other positive effects. I add a teaspoon to my dogs water dish.
Get Help For Your Scratching Dog
If your dog has fleas, take care of it right away and avoid further problems.
Most dog owners will notice if their dog has another problem and find help early. If you ignore the problem though it can get much worse and will be much harder to treat. If your dog is itchy and scratching he is damaging his skin even if you cannot tell; you should investigate the problem as soon as possible and try to find a solution.
Other Articles About Scratching Dogs That Might Help....
- Natural Dog Health : Allergies
In holistic veterinary medicine symptoms like itchy skin and allergies to flea bites are considered to be caused by poor quality food, over vaccination, and continual exposure to toxins in the environment. These are some alternative treatments for do