Why is My Dog Itching?

Ever had an itch that just wouldn’t go away?  If so, you know how frustrating that can be.  If you’ve noticed that your dog seems to be very itchy and frequently scratches their skin, you can sympathize with them.  You may also be concerned if you notice dry spots on their skin, dandruff, or sores from scratching.  But, why is your dog itching so much?  What can you do to identify the problem and help them find relief?  Seeing your veterinarian is the best way to receive an official diagnosis.  But, let’s take a look at these questions and learn more about the possible reasons dogs itch so you’ll be prepared for your appointment.

dog itching

What causes a dog to itch excessively?

There isn’t a simple answer to this question, unfortunately.  If your dog has been incessantly scratching at their skin trying to relieve an itch, there could be a number of different explanations. 

Excessive itching is referred to as pruritus.  Many dogs deal with pruritus.  In fact, next to diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues, pruritus is the top reason owners bring their dogs to see their veterinarian.

Watching your poor pup continue to itch, without seeming to find relief, can be hard.  You want to know what you can do to help them find relief.  It can be even more concerning if you notice that your dog has developed a hot spot. 

Hot spots are irritated areas on the skin that are caused by scratching, licking, chewing, or rubbing at the skin.  Hot spots look red, and may be large or small.  In most cases, hot spots appear on a dog’s chest, hips, or head. However, hot spots can form anywhere that excessive scratching takes place.

How much itching is normal for a dog?

Everyone gets itchy from time to time, even dogs.  Knowing how much itching is normal for a dog can help you identify whether your pup has a problem. 

So, how much itching is normal for dogs? 

Normal itching for dogs looks similar to normal itching for humans.  Just as you aren’t concerned you’re dealing with a major issue when your back occasionally itches, you shouldn’t be concerned that your dog is itching too much if they only scratch themselves every now and then.

However, if they seem to be scratching, biting, licking, or rubbing their skin frequently or a lot more than they typically do, that is not normal.  Such excessive itching is a sign that something isn’t right.

Common Reasons Why Dogs Itch

If your dog is dealing with pruritus, you want to help them find relief.  However, you can’t implement a treatsince there are many possible causes of pruritus, before yomu can implement a treatment plan, you’ll need to identify the reason for their excessive itching.  Working with your veterinarian can help you pinpoint what exactly is making your dog so itchy. 

Below are some possible reasons why your dog may be itching so much that you can discuss with your veterinarian.

Environmental Allergies

Like humans, dogs can be allergic to pollen, dander, plants, or insects. 

Allergies can cause atopic dermatitis, a skin condition that can make a dog’s feet, belly, ears, armpits, toes, and other areas of their body very itchy.  Additional symptoms of atopic dermatitis include rubbing, licking, redness, tough or greasy skin, and the smell of yeast. 

Any breed can develop allergies, but some, such as poodles, bulldogs, and golden retrievers, are more prone to them.

Most dogs with have atopic dermatitis will start to show signs between the ages of one and six.

Food Allergies

Just as environmental allergies can lead to skin conditions and itchiness, so too can food allergies.  If your dog is allergic to a food they are eating, some other symptoms you may notice include diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, hyperactivity, or low energy.  Dogs can be allergic to a variety of different foods (even seemingly random foods like olives), but proteins, eggs, gluten, and soy are among the most common.

dog itching

Parasites

Fleas, mites, or ticks can also make a dog very itchy.  Other symptoms of fleas include redness, scabbing, restlessness, and hair loss. 

You may also be able to find physical evidence of fleas in the form of flea dirt.  Flea dirt looks like tiny, copper-colored dirt. If you add a drop of water to it, it will turn red.

Skin Infections

Bacterial skin infections, referred to as pyoderma, can also cause discomfort and itching.  If you notice that your dog has pimple-like lesions on their skin, it can be a sign of pyoderma.  Flaky and dry skin, hair loss, and circular crusts on a dog can also be a sign of pyoderma.  Bacterial infections are typically caused by excessive scratching, so they may be a symptom of a separate issue.

Dogs can also develop yeast infections.  Yeast infections are most common in areas where the skin is folded, such as the neck or ears. They can make the skin appear greasy and red.  Yeast also has a very unique odor, which can make it easier to diagnose.

Dry Skin

Dry skin could also be the reason why your dog is itching so much.  Allergies, skin infections, and parasites, which are described above, can cause dry skin. However, there are other possible causes for dry skin as well.  

Dry skin can sometimes indicate the presence of a larger problem, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, which are metabolic diseases.  Symptoms of cancer and other autoimmune diseases may also include dry skin.  Some dog breeds are also more prone to certain conditions that can cause dry skin. 

Using soaps or shampoos that are too harsh or bathing your dog too much can also lead to dry skin.  Poor diet is another potential cause as well.

Some of the possible signs of dry skin in dogs include itchiness, dandruff, hair loss, inflammation, odor, scabs, pimples, and odor.

Boredom

Believe it or not, some dogs will itch when they are bored.  If your vet can find a medical reason behind your dog’s excessive itching, boredom may be to blame.  Some other signs of boredom include chewing, digging, pacing, barking, getting overly exciting, and destructive play.

dog itching

Imbalance of Hormones

Hormonal imbalances can also cause dogs to scratch themselves more than normal.  Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome could be to blame for a hormonal imbalance. 

Some dogs also suffer a hormonal imbalance following being spayed or neutered.  Male dogs who aren’t neutered can also have a hormonal imbalance caused by too much testosterone being produced. 

Other signs of hormonal imbalances include lethargy, weight gain, changes in appetite, excessive drinking, panting, flaky or oily skin, and thinning fur.

Pain

Finally, your dog may be itching themselves because they are in pain. 

If your dog is itching or licking the same area, it could mean that they are uncomfortable.

Why is my dog so itchy but has no fleas?

Fleas are just one possible reason why dogs itch.  If you’ve confirmed that your dog doesn’t have fleas, then fleas clearly aren’t the reason behind their itchiness.  

As I shared above, there are many other conditions aside from fleas that can cause a dog to itch.  These include allergies, dry skin, boredom, hormonal imbalances, pain, and skin infections.

What can you give a dog for severe itching?

“How can I get my dog to stop scratching” is a common question.  If your dog is itching so much, you can tell that they aren’t comfortable.  Treating hot spots or finding an anti itch for dogs is important. 

Here are a few itch relief for dogs solutions to consider:

Change Your Dog’s Food

Changing a dog’s diet can be an effective solution for excessive itching. 

Some foods, such as Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach or Diamond Natural Skin & Coat, are specifically formulated for dogs with sensitive skin.  They contain ingredients designed to improve a dog’s skin and coat.  These foods may offer the help that some dogs need.  

If your dog has a food allergy to one of the ingredients in their food, then switching to a different food is essential. Once you have identified the specific allergen, be sure to choose foods that avoid that ingredient. 

If you are unsure which ingredient is the culprit, consider choosing a limited ingredient diet dog food, like Zignature Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Dry Dog Food, Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet, or Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food.  Limited ingredient foods avoid some of the most common allergens, such as chicken, grains, soy, dairy, and eggs.

Treat Your Dogs for Parasites

If parasites, such as fleas, are the reason for your dog’s itching, you’ll need to treat them for fleas immediately.  Some flea treatment options include flea sprays, flea baths, and oral treatments.

After you have cleared up any flea infestation, choose a flea preventative, such as Frontline Plus or Seresto Flea and Tick Collars, to prevent the fleas from coming back.  You’ll also need to wash any bedding or soft surfaces your dog has come into contact with and vacuum the floors.  Fleas can live in carpets and other soft surfaces, so if these areas aren’t cleaned, they may re-infect your dog.

Colloidal Oatmeal Baths

You can also consider giving your dog a colloidal oatmeal bath.  The colloidal oatmeal is very soothing for their skin. It can also help remove any allergens that are in their coat and reduce inflammation.  If your dog isn’t a fan of bath time or being groomed, you may need to take a few steps to help keep them calm before bathing them.

itch relief for dogs

Make an Apple Cider Vinegar Spray

As long as your dog doesn’t have any hot spots, open wounds, or raw skin, you can also try making an apple cider vinegar spray to deliver some itch relief. 

Apple cider vinegar has antifungal and antibacterial properties, so it can help cut back on itchiness. 

To make the spray, mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water in a clean spray bottle.  You can spritz your dog’s fur with the spray to reduce itchiness, or even let them soak their itchy paws in the mixture for about five minutes at a time.

Baking Soda Paste

Applying a baking soda paste (equal parts baking soda and water) to your dog’s skin can also provide itch relief.  The baking soda can work to dry out rashes and reduce inflammation.  Let the paste sit on the irritated areas of your dog’s skin for about 15-20 minutes, and then rinse it all off.

Aloe Vera

One natural remedy for hot spots and skin irritation to try is aloe vera

Aloe vera pulls heat away from the skin, helps skin heal, and reduces inflammation and redness.  Always choose alcohol-free aloe vera so you don’t burn your pup’s skin.  

Provide Your Dog with Additional Physical and Mental Stimulation

If boredom is the reason behind your dog’s excessive itching, then you’ll need to find additional ways to keep your dog stimulated. 

Make sure they are getting plenty of physical exercise in the form of walks and playtime.  You should also look for ways to give them more attention. 

Some toys, such as Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel, SPOT Seek-a-Treat Flip ‘N Slide Treat Dispenser, or the KONG Extreme, can also keep a dog busy and give them an alternative to scratching or biting themselves.

anti itch for dogs

Take Steps to Stop the Itching

Itching can become a compulsive behavior for dogs.  Since it can potentially threaten their health, you’ll want to work to make them stop itching, even if you’re not exactly sure what is causing the itchiness. 

Consider using an Elizabethan collar, like Katoggy Inflatable Dog Cone Collar or GLADOG Soft Dog Cone Collar, to prevent your dog from continuing to lick or scratch hot spots.  Bitter sprays can also be effective if your dog is licking the same area over and over.

Discuss medication with the veterinarian

Your dog’s veterinarian may suggest a prescription treatment to address an underlying issue that is causing the excessive itching.  Sometimes, they may also suggest using anti-itch medications, such as steroids, if your dog has a skin infection or hot spots.

Why is My Dog Itching – Closing Thoughts

Seeing your pup incessantly itching isn’t easy as a dog owner.  You want to step in, solve the problem for them, and help keep them comfortable.  Unfortunately, there isn’t just one cause for dog itching.  Hopefully reading through our list of possibilities has provided you with some insight into your dog’s specific problem and given you some ideas to bring up with their veterinarian.