Have you noticed your dog is itching a lot and aren’t sure what the cause is or how to help them? As a dog owner, it can be tough to watch your dog suffer and not be able to communicate with him to figure out what he is feeling. Instead, you are left to observe his symptoms and do your best to help him get better. Dog itching is a common occurrence that can stem from a number of different causes. Determining the underlying reason is essential to finding the right treatment to alleviate the itching. Below is an introductory guide that covers some of the potential causes of itchiness in dogs and what to do to help your pup get rid of his uncomfortable symptoms.
Potential Causes of Itchiness in Dogs
If your dog is itching constantly, you can feel helpless and unsure of what could be the culprit. Itchiness in dogs can stem from a number of different reasons, some of which can be easily addressed at home and others will require veterinary and medical intervention to diagnose and treat. Below is a breakdown of some of the potential causes of itchiness in dogs.
One of the most common causes of itchiness in dogs is allergies. Just like human beings, dogs can suffer from a multitude of different canine allergies that can make them feel itchy and uncomfortable until the allergen is removed. Some of the most common allergens for dogs are foods and environmental triggers, such as grains, poultry, pollen, or mold. As with allergies for humans, it can take time and trial and error to narrow down what the potential allergen may be, but in some cases, it may be simple to identify based on the timing of when the itching began. If there is no simple explanation that aligns with the timing, a visit to a veterinarian will help to narrow down what the potential allergen may be and eliminate any other potential causes that may be triggering the itchiness.
Veterinarians have a variety of different means at their disposal to uncover what the potential allergen may be. If they suspect a food allergy, they may recommend putting your dog on a restricted diet to narrow down the number of ingredients he is consuming to see if the itchiness abates, worsens, or stays the same. If they suspect that an environmental allergen may be the cause, they may want to proceed with a blood test or intradermal skin testing to see what specific allergens your dog needs to avoid.
Depending on the severity of the itchiness the dog is experiencing, some veterinarians may recommend a combination of different treatment methods. Some potential treatments for allergies in canines include oral medications, allergy injections, regular grooming, a restricted diet, and more. If you think your dog is suffering from allergies, it is important to consult with a veterinarian before beginning any treatments. They will be able to perform a physical examination and conduct any additional testing that is necessary to make an accurate diagnosis.
Dry skin is another potential cause of itchiness in dogs. Dry skin can stem from a number of different factors, such as colder weather that strips the skin of its natural oils or a fatty acid deficiency. If you think that your dog may be suffering from this condition, inspect the surface of his skin and see if there is anything noticeable or distinct. Are there flakes of skin? Does the skin appear inflamed or red? Does the itching seem to be concentrated to one particular area of the body or is it everywhere? This will allow you to better gauge the situation and have answers ready for an appointment with a veterinarian. A veterinarian will be able to assess your dog and recommend a treatment plan to help address the underlying issue.
Boredom or Anxiety
Did you know dogs can feel anxious and bored just like human beings can? While a person may begin to bite their nails or tap their fingers on a table when they are nervous, anxious, or bored, dogs may itch as a way to process how they are feeling. In some dogs, this behavior may become severe if the boredom and anxiety are not addressed and the behavior corrected. If you think your dog may be itching out of boredom or anxiety, it can be helpful to increase his mental and physical stimulation to channel his feelings into a productive and fun activity. Examples of this could be playing a training game that will require him to be active, while still responding to verbal commands quickly and efficiently, or going for a long walk. In many dogs, an increase in mental and physical stimulation will help to reduce feelings of boredom, canine anxiety, and associated destructive behaviors.
Another common culprit for itchiness in dogs is external parasites, such as fleas and ticks. Most dog owners have had experiences with fleas and ticks. Unfortunately, they can be tricky to get rid of once an infestation has occurred. Both fleas and ticks on dogs can cause a canine to experience itching that can range from mild to severe. Fleas on dogs are usually considered less dangerous than ticks, but when there is an infestation, they can be extremely uncomfortable and itchy.
Some dogs can also be allergic to the saliva in flea bites, which can cause them to develop additional uncomfortable and painful symptoms, such as swelling, hair loss, canine bacterial infection, and hot spots. Ticks, on the other hand, are blood-dependent parasites that bite into a dog and latch themselves onto their skin. For a tick, a dog is a perfect host that they feed off until they are completely filled with blood. However, for the dog, ticks can be painful and dangerous. Ticks can also carry a number of different diseases that can be harmful to canines.
So how do you know if your dog may be itching a lot because of external parasites? The first step is to do a visual inspection of their body. For fleas, you can utilize a clean flea comb to gently section out and brush through your dog’s hair to see if there are fleas present. If your dog does have fleas, keep in mind that they may have spread elsewhere in your household. Fleas can be difficult to contain once they have infested, so it is vital to check your dog as soon as you suspect they may be suffering from fleas. To look for ticks, slowly and methodically check the entire surface of your dog’s body. Ticks will become larger and more noticeable once they have filled up on blood, which will make them easier to spot.
If your dog has fleas or ticks, it is important to see a veterinarian to determine the best course of action, which will be dependent on the type of parasite and the severity of the infestation. Fleas and ticks can both be dangerous and uncomfortable for your dog, so you will want to get them parasite-free as soon as possible and adopt preventative measures to help ward any parasites in the future. There are a number of different treatments that your veterinarian may recommend, such as medicated shampoos, medicated collars, prescription medications, and more.
What To Do To Help Your Dog
If your dog is itching a lot and you can’t determine why, it’s important to bring him to the veterinarian as soon as possible so that they can be assessed. Below are a few things you can expect to take place and to be asked during your visit to the veterinarian. While the order may vary, most veterinarians will utilize the below information to form an accurate diagnosis of what your dog’s itchiness may be stemming from.
- Collect a brief medical history. This step is crucial to give your veterinarian a picture of what your dog’s health has looked like throughout his lifetime. Do they have any pre-existing medical conditions? Are they on any medications? Just like with humans, an accurate medical history lays the groundwork for an accurate diagnosis.
- Why are you bringing your dog in? Once your veterinarian has an idea of what your dog’s medical history has looked like up until this point, they will likely dive into why you are bringing your dog in. They will open up the conversation to allow you to give them a brief synopsis of why you felt that your dog needed a medical assessment and what behaviors or symptoms are concerning you.
- When did your dog first begin displaying symptoms? Your veterinarian will likely want to establish a timeline of when your dog first became symptomatic so that they can factor that into the diagnosis.
- Have the symptoms worsened in severity or stayed the same? In addition to establishing the overall timeline of your dog’s symptoms, the veterinarian will also likely inquire whether or not the symptoms they have been displaying have worsened over time or if they have remained the same. They may also ask you whether or not the symptoms have been intermittent or continuous.
- Are there any other behaviors or circumstances that coincide with the onset of the symptoms? As outlined above, a number of different factors can lead to a dog becoming itchy and some of them are centered around various food-related and environmental elements that could help your veterinarian to make a diagnosis. Did your dog recently switch to a new brand of food? Did your dog take a trip to a new dog park recently? Did you recently treat your lawn with chemicals? Even things that may not seem relevant could be a contributing factor and the more information that your veterinarian has, the better they will be to assess all of the information holistically.
- Perform a full visual and physical examination. Once the veterinarian has collected the information they need from you, they will usually turn their attention to your dog and begin to conduct a full visual and physical examination. During this exam, they will usually check the ears, eyes, skin, legs, and more to see if there is anything that alerts them. Once the veterinarian concludes their examination, they will usually let you know their preliminary diagnosis and treatment plan.
Appointments with a veterinarian can be intimidating for both the owner and the dog, but by being prepared with the pertinent information, you can be more at ease and focus your attention on making your dog feel comfortable. If your dog is itching a lot, you will want him to get relief as soon as possible, and a quick trip to the veterinarian will usually yield a diagnosis and treatment plan that will get your furry friend back to optimal health.
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