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5 Reasons Your Dog Might Be Scratching and How to Help

Does your dog seem to have an itch they can’t scratch? When your dog persistently scratches, it can be just as frustrating for you as it is for them. They itch, lick or chew all day and all night.

Many dogs naturally have itches, just like humans do. There could be various causes for that itch, but if the scratching or licking is constant, it might be time to do something about it.

Dogs can develop a red spot from the licking, itching or chewing called a hot spot. Hot spots can become large and red very quickly if the itch is uncomfortable enough for your dog.

While some of these itching causes may be treatable at home, a veterinarian may have to deal with others. Your dog is part of your family, so you want them to feel their best. Here are five reasons your dog might be scratching and how to help.

1. Pests

One of the most common causes of an itchy dog is pests. Ticks, fleas and mites can make their way into your dog’s fur and skin.

The American dog tick, Lonestar tick and Blacklegged tick are types of ticks often found on dogs and humans. Ticks are visible to the naked eye, so you can easily spot them on your dog.

Fleas can also be seen with the naked eye, though they are relatively small. They make themselves at home in the warmth of your dog’s fur and bite your dog’s skin, causing irritation and possible infection. Plus, fleas lay eggs around your house, causing an extended problem.

You cannot see mites, but they produce worse problems than most other pests, like making your dog lose their fur, severe scratching and even mange.

The best thing you can do for your dog is to get rid of the pest. When removing ticks, make sure you get the head and the body at the same time to reduce the chance of infection. Regularly apply flea and tick treatments as well. For mites, shampoo your dog with an anti-parasite soap, or get medication if the infestation is detrimental.

2. Diet

The food you give your dog could also be the reason your dog is scratching. Dry dog food is, well, dry — it draws out moisture from your dog’s skin. Your dog may also have an allergy to an ingredient in the dog food, or the dog food might lack some nutritional value.

Try switching your dog’s diet. This doesn’t mean just changing to another dog food brand, though. You’ll want to look for a food that only has a few ingredients and has a different protein source. Exclude any treats that have the same ingredients as your original dog food as well.

3. Environmental Allergies

Do you get seasonal allergies or get an allergic reaction when exposed to mold? Many people do, and so do dogs!

Canine atopic dermatitis — triggered by pollen, mold or dust — is the name for the skin disease that may be making your dog scratch. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to environmental allergies than others, but there’s no reason to dismiss your surroundings as one of the sources for itching.

You can’t avoid the environment, but you can help your dog be less itchy. Try these to limit irritation:

  • Apple cider vinegar: Dog owners have found that an apple cider vinegar solution applied to their dog’s itchy areas has helped relieve them.
  • Allergy medication: If the allergy is persistent, you may want to see a vet to get an allergy medication.
  • Wiping your dog: When returning from a walk or from playing outside, wipe down your dog’s paws and belly.

Another allergy to be aware of is an allergy to the soap, shampoo or other products you use on your dog. If you notice your dog scratching after a bath, switch to a different shampoo.

4. Dry Skin

Depending on where you live, your dog may be itching because they have dry skin. Locations with lower humidity tend to make a pet’s skin dry.

You can tell if your dog has dry skin fairly easily — part your dog’s hair and look at the skin. The presence of dry flakes, or dandruff, means that they are probably scratching because their skin lacks moisture.

As previously mentioned, your dog’s food could be drawing out moisture. Add natural oils like flaxseed or add supplements to the food. If possible, switch to raw food. When bathing your dog, plain water works fine, as shampoo can cause dryness. If you do need to shampoo, choose one that is moisturizing.

5. Anxiety

An anxious or stressed dog will likely scratch more than dogs that aren’t anxious. Mild causes of anxiety could include your dog wanting to go outside for a walk or to play, so they may briefly scratch when they know you’re on your way outdoors.

Other causes of anxiety could be that your dog is scratching for a reason mentioned above, which will cause them to scratch even more. It circles around — your dog scratches because they stress about their itchiness caused by canine atopic dermatitis or pests that also cause them to itch.

Address the anxiety and make sure your dog is feeling the love from you and your family. Pay attention to their wants and needs to reduce their stress levels.

Help Your Dog Relieve the Itch

You know that itching can be extremely uncomfortable for yourself, so an itch will be uncomfortable and can even be painful for your dog. When you notice that your dog is always scratching, check for pests and dry skin first. If the scratching occurs seasonally, your dog may have an allergy.

Protect the hot spots on your dog to prevent further inflammation or irritation, and if the scratching worsens or doesn’t seem to go away, seek medical advice. Once you find the scratching source, you and your dog can go back to an enjoyable life.

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