Playful yapping, children cooing… endless scratching?
There are several sounds you look forward to with a new puppy. Scratching is not one of them.
Unfortunately, dog itching is the second highest reason pet owners visit the vet. Find out the top reasons leading your pup to itch, and what you can do about it.
Top Reasons Your Puppy May Be Itching
Fleas are parasites that live off their host by biting and sucking blood. They are jumping insects with laterally flat bodies and no wings. They’re irritating and itchy for your pet; creepy and crawly to you.
Fleas appear as tiny, blackish-brown bugs ranging in size from half an appleseed to a grain of rice. Look for them at the base of the tail or on darker parts of your dog’s body, such as the stomach. If you don’t find fleas, look for their waste, which appear as tiny crumbs of “dirt”.
Treating Dog Fleas
In order to rid your dog of fleas for good, pesticides that attack adult fleas, and their larvae, is key. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe a pesticide with a larvae-killing chemical such as pyriproxyfen or methoprene.
Over-the-counter flea killers exist in both spot-on treatments and shampoo. Be sure to follow the directions closely, as overusing the shampoo can lead to further irritated skin.
Not all itch-inducing parasites are fleas, however. Scratching of the ears may indicate ear mites or an ear infection in your dog, with mange — a skin disease caused by several species of tiny mites — next on the list to watch out for.
Be it fleas, mites, mange, or another parasite, your veterinarian is your best bet to finding — and treating — the creepy, crawly cause.
Canine allergies: another leading culprit of itching in pups, as they are in humans. Medically known as atopy, canine atopy is similar to hay fever in humans—minus the runny nose and sneezing.
In dogs, atopy expresses as itchy skin. In contrast to a food allergy which lasts as long as the food is eaten, seasonal allergies peak and extend as your pup is exposed to the allergen.
Treating Atopy in Dogs
If you suspect your pup has allergies, take him to the vet. Your vet will take a skin and/or blood test to determine the offending allergens. Additionally, your vet will also want to rule out other causes of itchy skin, including mites; fleas; food sensitivity; fungal or bacterial infection, and/or reaction to medications.
Atopy can be frustrating to treat, especially if you don’t notice any progress in your pup. Keeping a good diary of whether the symptoms are progressing or not will help your vet prescribe the best treatment over time.
Atopy is treated in three ways:
- Getting rid of the allergen
- Testing and “allergy shots” to reduce sensitization
- Medications, supplements, antihistamines, and soothing anti-itch shampoos and conditioners
Treating Food Allergies
If you discover that your dog has food allergies, your vet will likely prescribe a hypoallergenic diet. In addition, the following foods have been used to reduce diet-related itching:
- Moist food
- Digestive enzymes added to every meal
- Fresh, filtered drinking water
- Fresh oils and other supplements added to meals, including: flaxseed oil, fish oil, and Spirulina
Of course, consult your vet before mixing these into your dog’s diet to ensure they don’t exacerbate his allergy.
While humans can turn to lotion to treat dry skin, dogs may lick, bite, or scratch theirs to the point of injury.
With dry skin, even the slightest touch can lead to violent scratching. Dry skin commonly affects dogs in areas with low humidity. It can also be caused by poor nutrition, or improper grooming.
So how can you tell if your puppy is affected? Try parting his fur. If your pup is afflicted by dry skin, he will have flakes of dandruff on his undercoat—even cracked or tough skin.
Treating Dry Skin in Dogs
There are several natural treatments to heal dry skin. Your vet may suggest any of the following:
- Natural remedies such as vitamin E or tea tree oils
- Warm baths with epsom salt
- Apple cider vinegar spray
- Low heat at the groomer
Puppy itching is unpleasant, both for you and your dog. If your pup is keeping you up with an itch he just can’t scratch, consult your veterinarian. The vet will work to provide the right diagnosis and treatment, giving your pup—and you—much-needed relief.