Why is my dog itching so much? Have you ever wondered that? If you have, then you’re in the right place. In this article, we will talk about everything related to canine itching – what may be causing it and what you can do to give them some relief.
So, here’s everything you need to know about why your dog is itching.
When Should You Be Concerned About The Itching?
We all itch sometimes, and it’s okay. Itching a bit once a while is never a problem. When does normal itching become a reason for concern? When:
- The itching wakes them up or distracts them from daily activities
- They are whining or complaining
- They are itching themselves against walls and other sharp corners, in desperate attempts to relieve themselves
- You see red spots (hot spots or acute dermatitis) on their skin
- There is a substantial amount of hair loss in irritable places
- The itching does not go away
If one or more of these things are happening to your dog, it does become a reason for concern.
‘Why Is My Dog Itching So Much?’ Here Are 5 Possible Reasons
Here are all the possible reasons why your dog is itching. We have also listed natural remedies that are bound to give them comfort.
Once you take your dog to the vet, there will be a series of examinations to find the cause of the itching. The first thing your veterinarian will do is check their fur for fleas and ticks. A moderate amount of fleas and ticks is not as concerning because you can get rid of them with medicine or natural remedies.
However, never ignore fleas and ticks because too many of them can lead to other illnesses like tick fever.
Intestinal parasites eat their food and suck their blood. This leads to poor nutrition and ultimately, itchy brittle skin. Since dogs are outdoorsy animals, intestinal parasites are inevitable.
They will sniff rotting food, or faecal matter, they may even pick up something disgusting while they are on a walk which may lead to intestinal parasites. However, this is nothing to worry about. A simple deworming tablet can fix this. An adult dog should be dewormed, once every 4 months and this should solve most of their intestinal parasite problems.
Remedies For Parasitic Infections In Dogs
Flea and tick medications are usually very strong. If the infection is very severe, you have no other option but to go ahead with the medication.
However, if the infection is moderate to mild, you can use home remedies to get rid of fleas and ticks.
Here are some remedies that have proven to work with flea and tick infections:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits and can work wonders for your dog if you use it in moderation.
It is particularly helpful with fleas and ticks. Add equal parts ACV and water in a spray bottle and gently spray it around your dog’s neck and paws – all the places where you often find ticks and fleas. Be careful not to spray it on their face. ACV can cause irritation on the nose and eyes.
It’s safer to spray it on a bandana and tie it around their neck. That way, you won’t risk getting ACV in their eyes and nose.
2. Natural Oils
Some natural oils do act as good repellants, but be careful not to overdo them. They have a very sensitive nose, and some of these oils can irritate them and can really hamper their ability to smell.
Lavender and peppermint are very effective for fleas but remember to use only a few drops. Some add a few drops of lavender oil or peppermint oil to their shampoo. Others make the ACV solution as mentioned above.
Coconut oil is also very effective. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties, which is an added bonus. You also don’t need to dilute coconut oil. Rub it on the parts of their fur that is mostly affected by ticks and fleas.
Some dogs really light coconut oil and they may try to lick it off. Though there’s no harm if they ingest some of it, if they lick themselves often, you may have to put a cone on them. It takes time for natural remedies to take effect and if they lick it right off, it won’t kill as many parasites.
You can also add 1tsp (½ tsp for small dogs) of coconut oil in their diet to get rid of fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites.
Remember that too much coconut oil can lead to an upset stomach. The general rule for coconut oil is 1tsp for every 10 kg. But this may differ from dog to dog because of their weight and diet. So we’d suggest keeping it less at first and making sure your dog can digest the oil.
3. Can Diet Reduce Ticks And Fleas?
Of course, there is no better way to reduce fleas and ticks than to work inside out. Because when you try to reduce it through food and diet, you are looking at a long term fix.
Usually, when you try to reduce fleas and tick through diet, you are trying to make their blood taste unappealing so that lesser ticks latch onto them.
Garlic usually works wonders for dogs. Dogs that have small quantities of garlic every day, hardly ever get flea and tick problems.
But wait! Before you give your dog any garlic, let’s clarify that large amounts of garlic can be very toxic for dogs.
A good rule of thumb is ½ a clove of garlic for every 10 kilos. But again, just like we suggested with coconut oil, always start less and make sure that your dog can handle it.
If your dog has hemolytic anaemia, you shouldn’t give them garlic. Also, cats are much more intolerant to garlic, so do not use this treatment for cats.
Did you know that 20 – 25% of seasonal vet visits usually include dogs with allergies? Many dogs can get environmental allergies, in which case, they’d be itchier during certain times of the year.
All mammals have H1 Histamine Receptors. We have it around our ears, so when we have an allergic reaction to something in the environment, our sinuses act up, and we may get a runny nose, blocked sinuses and so on.
Dogs have H1 Histamine Receptors all over their body, so while they can be allergic to the same things as you are allergic to, they will not get a runny nose as you do.
For them, allergies will usually show in the form of red, irritable skin. It is probably why you’re wondering ‘why is my dog itching so much.
Remedies For Allergies In Dogs
While some doctors may prescribe medication, we do not recommend it as our first choice. Since allergies are, in fact, your immune system is fighting against the body. Medication usually suppresses the immune system.
This opens the door to many infections, diseases, cancer etc.
Medicines, like Prednisone, is a steroid, and while it may soothe the itching, it may lead to irreversible illnesses like Cushing’s Disease or thyroid problems.
Of course, if the allergies are too severe, you have no other option but to give your dog medicines, but in other cases, we will suggest home remedies.
There are two types of allergies, namely environmental allergies and food allergies. Remedies will depend on the type of allergies they have.
1. Remedies For Environmental Allergies
Since environment allergies are often seasonal, and the itching is caused by inflammation, you should find ways to reduce the inflammation.
Homemade oatmeal shampoo during allergy season usually works wonders for their fur. It has conditioning properties, and the oils in the oatmeal soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.
To make your own oatmeal shampoo, you should take equal parts oats and baking soda (which is also a great cleanser) and a small amount of coconut oil/olive oil. If you take a cup each of oatmeal and baking soda, you can add a teaspoon of oil.
Usually, this mixture is too much for a single bathing session, in which case you should consider halving the mixture. Consider bathing them once in two weeks with this oatmeal shampoo to reduce allergies.
Since the oatmeal reduces irritation, dogs are less likely to itch the affected area, which will also reduce the spreading of the red itchy spot.
Avoiding The Allergy Causing Element
So, if your dog has a pollen allergy, avoid taking them to places where there are a lot of flowers. If your dog is allergic to tall grass, don’t let them run in it.
But then we’re all put in situations where it is just unavoidable. In this case, we’d suggest putting a fitting (breathable) t-shirt on them. This will reduce the chances of the pollen, or allergy-causing agent, to latch onto their skin and they will be less irritable for the rest of the day.
This may be tough, but every time your dog itches themselves, they break through their fur, and they end up spreading the allergy-causing agents around their body. Too much itching can lead to infections.
So a good way to reduce the itching is by not letting them itch. This is easier said than done because no one likes to suppress an itch.
But if we use safe moisturisers like coconut oil and olive oil, we can reduce the urge to itch. The oatmeal shampoo we mentioned earlier also reduces the urge to itch.
Along with these natural remedies, we would also suggest putting a t-shirt on them so that they can’t sink their teeth or nails into the itchy spot.
Can Certain Edibles Reduce Environmental Allergies?
Many sources have mentioned that honey can be beneficial for dogs with pollen allergies. However, for this to work, you need to give them raw, locally sourced honey. The reason for this is that local honey will be made of pollen within your area.
Over time your dog will grow immune to the pollen by having it in the form of honey.
But before you give your dog honey, we want to caution you that honey is very high in sugar, so it’s not for everyone. Even half a teaspoon of honey may be too much for a little dog. So, be careful with how much honey you give them.
Honey is not the best treatment for environmental allergies if your dog is suffering from:
- Obesity – Honey is very high in calories and therefore not recommended for dogs struggling with weight issues
- A compromised immune system – Sugar in the honey can further compromise their immune system.
- Diabetes – Avoid honey because of the high sugar content
- Cancer – Cancer cells feed on sugar and carbs which is why honey is not recommended for dogs with cancer
- Senior dogs and puppies – older dogs and younger dogs generally have a compromised immune system and therefore do not benefit from honey
2. Remedies for Food Allergies
Food allergies can lead to an upset stomach and sluggishness, but they can also present itself through itchy and irritable skin. In fact, allergies towards certain proteins most commonly show through itching and redness on the skin.
Food allergies are not as common as one would think. However, if you suspect that your dog has allergies to certain edibles, the first step is always to find out what they are allergic to. Once you know what is causing the allergy you need to completely remove that allergy-causing protein from their diet.
Here are some remedies for food-related allergies:
Shift To A Meat They Have Never Tried Before
Most dogs develop allergies to meats that they were having since they were puppies. So in most cases, dogs show allergic reactions towards chicken, because it is the most common meat we give them. Some may even become allergies to a group of meat like poultry meat, or fish meat etc.
The best and the only remedy for this is to change the meat altogether. Find a formula that has a named meat (like chicken, duck pork), that they have never tried before, as their first ingredient.
Some dogs are just more prone to protein allergies and they may have allergic reactions within a few months of switching to a new protein. It becomes very difficult to find the right formula for these dogs.
For these dogs, we’d suggest trying a combination of exotic meat prepared especially for hypoallergenic dogs.
Avoid Starchy Ingredients
While it is true that most grain allergies show in the form of an upset stomach – vomiting and diarrhoea, starchy grains and fillers, can aggravate other allergies because it causes a lot of inflammation.
Avoid cheaper dog food formulas because they have low-quality fillers and oils that can become rancid before the expiration date. While it may not cause the allergy, it may because inflammation and cause other allergies to flare up.
Avoid Hydrolysed Protein
Avoid formulas that enlist ‘hydrolysed protein’ as one of their ingredients. While the hydrolysed protein is nothing but whey protein, poor processing strategies create monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Some dogs have shown allergic reactions to MSG. You may not be able to pinpoint this allergy but, for these dogs, you may have noticed that they are fine when they have home-cooked food, but the moment you switch them to their previous formula (with the same meat as the one you made at home) their allergies start to act up again.
Always try to go for premium quality dog food as they are very less likely to have ingredients like hydrolysed protein. MSD has many other adverse effects, so it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Avoid Formulas With Artificial Colours, Flavours and Preservatives
More often than not, dogs show allergic reactions to artificial ingredients, and we tend to misinterpret that as a protein or grain allergy.
Here are some artificial ingredients that you should avoid:
Red 40, Yellow 5 and Blue 2 – Dogs really don’t care about the colour and so shouldn’t you. These colours are very toxic and can lead to long term issues like behavioural problems and even cancer! If your dog is allergic to it, it may get very itchy.
Animal By-Products – Though by-products are not artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, they are unnatural. Hence we have listed them here. Anything from skin, hair, beak claws can be listed as a ‘by-product’, and they just don’t have enough nutrition to support their skin and fur.
Long term consumption of by-products can lead to itchy irritable skin.
3. Poor Diet
Another common reason for itchy skin is a poor diet. A diet should be rich in healthy essential oils – like omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, at least one (responsibly sourced) animal protein and dog-safe fruits and vegetables that are full of vitamins, minerals, fibres and antioxidants.
But a dog food like this may be moderately priced.
Cheaper dog food will naturally have lower quality ingredients. Not enough healthy oil can make the skin brittle and itchy. Also, dog food formulas that have wheat and other starchy carbs can cause a lot of inflammation.
Some dog food companies even add variations of sugar and salt on their formulas which lowers your dog’s immunity. And this, in turn, can aggravate their itching.
The good news is, if a poor diet is causing them the itching, you can easily fix this without putting them on any medication or treatment. SImply change their diet and notice the benefits. Here’s what a good diet should look like:
Should Be Rich In Omega Fatty Acids
Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are great for the skin and the fur. They add a lubricant that soothes the skin and reduces itching. Omega 3 fatty acids, in particular, have anti-inflammatory properties and are therefore a great way to reduce itching.
However, you must make sure that the omega acids are sourced from animal sources (usually fish meat). Flax seeds are also a great source of omega fatty acids, and many companies use flaxseed oil for dog foods and treat because it is cheaper.
But dogs cannot break down flaxseed oil into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which is ultimately used to lubricate their skin. This is why is it not as beneficial to them as it is to us. You can give them small amounts of flax seeds but avoid formulas that primarily source their omega fatty acids from flaxseed oil.
Should Not Contain High Amounts Of Fillers
While some healthy grains are good for digestion, many companies lower their cost of production by adding high quantities of cheap grains like maise, wheat, corn etc.
There are many reasons why you should avoid formulas that have grains as their first ingredient. Here are some mentioned below:
- Low-quality grains require a lot of water to get digested. This can strip their skin off of essential oils and nutrients
- They cause inflammation and inflammation leads to itching
- They lower the immunity – this is the opposite of what allergies do. Low immunity invites a host of skin infections that cause redness and itchiness
Should Contain A Healthy Source Of Animal Protein
Protein is the building block of life. It helps fight infections and is one of the main reasons for healthy shiny fur. The fur is, after all, made of protein (keratin) and whatever surplus protein and fats the body has, it sends it to the skin and coat.
So, good quality skin and coat is a reflection of a dog’s good health.
Ideally, you should go for lean white meat that is easy to digest and does not put a lot of pressure on the body. Fish meat tends to work wonders for dogs with itchy skin, mostly because fish meat is rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
So, the next time you are looking for a skin and fur formula for your dog, look for something that sources salmon, tuna, trout, herring or haddock (or a combination of these meats) as their primary ingredients.
Should Contain Important Minerals
Small amounts of responsibly sourced copper, zinc, selenium and iron improve coat quality and is likely to reduce itching.
Here are some benefits of each mineral:
Copper – It prevents hair loss and keeps their coat soft and shiny
Zinc – High-quality zinc reduces inflammation and even helps fight against bacterial and fungal infections
Selenium – Helps maintain their overall immunity so that they can fight against infections
Iron – Prevents hair loss
Should Contain Important Vitamins
Certain vitamins also help maintain skin and coat quality and can reduce itching. Here are some vitamins that your dog should have in their dog food formula:
Vitamin A – It stimulates hair follicles to grow. With a dense outer coat, dogs are less likely to get itches.
Vitamin B Complex – Biotin, or vitamin B complex stimulates the growth of tissues. But studies have shown that B complex deficiencies can lead to rough, brittle skin.
Vitamin E – This is a great antioxidant, and it protects the skin from outside particles
4. Behavioural Conditions
Dogs can itch out of anxiety and boredom, and unfortunately, diet cannot help if Canine Compulsive Disorder or separation anxiety is the root cause of all the itching.
Training and management is the only thing that can help them reduce the urge. In case of severe CCD, your dog will need medicines, however, in milder cases, you can increase their walking time and training time to keep them occupied and reduce CCD behaviours.
Keep them occupied with mental games and indoor games. Collectively, this can reduce their urge to compulsively itch themselves.
As for dogs with separation anxiety, pet parents need to work on ways to desensitise them with the ‘leaving process’. There are many ways to do it, but all of them require patience and consistency.
Of course, long walk times and toys with treats can definitely help a dog with separation anxiety as well. When their mind is occupied with something else, they are less likely to itch and claw at themselves.
5. Pain and Fractures
Sometimes when dogs are in pain, they itch themselves to get some relief. Things like anal sac disease (or anal gland disease) can certainly make them persistently itch themselves around their rear area for some relief.
You may also notice them itching insistently on their paws or hips. While it can definitely be an allergy, we cannot rule out pains and fractures.
In fact, the most common sources of pain-related itching are the paws, elbows and hips. So if you see your dog itching insistently in these places, it would be a good idea to make note of any other symptoms.
Other concerning symptoms of pains and fractures may be:
- A foul smell – this isn’t caused because of the fracture itself but because persistent itching and moistness that leads to bacterial or fungal infections
- A change in their behaviour – lethargy, disinterest in food etc
If you notice one or more of the above symptoms, along with the itching, it is important to take them to the vet immediately and get them treated.
How To Treat Hot Spots In Dogs?
Hot spots, or acute moist dermatitis, are really uncomfortable, and they need to be treated on time to prevent severe infections. Here are some simple steps to treat a hot spot at home:
1. Shave The Affected Area
Fur in the affected area can further worsen the infection, so make sure you shave the affected area.
Your dog may feel scared, or the clipper may feel uncomfortable against their infected skin, so make sure you have someone with you to hold them and comfort them while you shave the fur.
2. Clean The Area
You can give them a bath in a natural, antifungal and antibacterial shampoo. This will help get rid of some of the infection superficially.
Make sure to massage the shampoo in and wash it thoroughly.
3. Treat The Area
There are many ways to treat the infected area. You can use a natural anti-inflammatory spray that reduces the itch and soothes the area.
Natural treatments include small amounts of coconut oil or turmeric paste. However, be careful with the turmeric paste as it can get all over your bedding and clothes and the stains are impossible to remove!
4. Protect The Area
Dust particles and other foreign particles can also aggravate the itching and the infection. So, we’d suggest putting on a clean, breathable t-shirt or a cloth on the affected area when they go out on a walk.
Remember to take off the article of clothing when they come back home so that the wound can stay open.
You can also clean your carpets and their bedding to reduce dust mites.
5. Prevent Them From Itching The Area
Itching can worsen the infection or slow down the recovery process. So, if you want them to heal faster, you must stop them from itching.
This may mean that you have to use the dreaded cone!
If you follow all the steps above, their hot spot should heal quickly. But, if it does not heal, or seems to deteriorate, you should visit a vet.
6. Find The Root Cause
To make sure they don’t ever get a hot spot again, you need to find a root cause. And for that, you need to scroll up and start reading the article once again!
Remember that superficial infections and allergies are no fun. So if it is persistent, you will have no other choice but to visit a veterinarian. You may even have to put them on medication, but if you follow some of the remedies mentioned above, it can definitely reduce skin and fur problems to a great extent.
We hope you found this article helpful. Have you ever wondered ‘why is my dog itching so much? We hope this article answered all your questions.