It is not uncommon for dogs to suffer from itchy skin, medically known as Pruritus, at some point in their lives. There are many different causes of itchy skin and it can sometimes be hard to determine what the problem is. If your dog is suffering from itchy skin you should consult your veterinarian for a correct diagnosis, advice and treatment options. The following are some common causes of pruritus or itchy skin in dogs.
Fleas are the most common cause of itchy skin. When fleas bite a dog this can be irritating and they will often react by scratching or biting at the area. Some dogs will also suffer from a flea allergy dermatitis, which is when the dog is allergic or hypersensitive to the saliva of fleas. This is a very itchy and often painful condition that results in the dog severely scratching and biting the skin causing significant hair loss, skin inflammation and painful sores. It is also common for the broken skin to develop secondary bacterial and yeast infections. In order to stop the itching caused by fleas and flea allergy dermatitis you must eliminate the fleas from the dog and the environment. There are a number of flea control and preventative treatments available including spot-on treatments, tablets, washes, sprays and collars. The dog may also require some medications from the veterinarian like steroids or anti-inflammatories to help settle the itch and/or antibiotics to treat any infections. For further information of eliminating fleas please visit our Help Centre article Flea Control and Eradication.
Mites are very tiny parasites that can be found on the dogs skin, coat or in their ears, but they are very difficult or almost impossible to see with the naked eye. The main types of mites to affect dogs are sarcoptic mites, demodex mites, surface mites and ear mites. Some mites will burrow into the skin or hair follicles and some will just remain on the surface of the skin. Dogs suffering from mites will frantically scratch, bite, lick and rub at the affected areas. This can often result in hair loss and broken skin which allows secondary bacterial and fungal infections to develop. Getting rid of mites can be a difficult process and most often requires veterinary attention so that the mites can be correctly identified and a treatment plan undertaken.
Atopic Dermatitis is a chronic itchy skin disease that occurs when the bodies immune system reacts abnormally to allergens in the environment. These allergens may include dust mites, pollens, insects, grass seeds or mould. Dogs suffering from atopic dermatitis will often scratch, bite, rub, chew and lick the aggravated areas excessively. The dogs skin will also often appear red, inflamed or thickened. Atopic dermatitis can present in only certain areas like the feet, face, ears or it can be all over the body. In susceptible dogs their first case will usually present at 3-6 months of age and the condition is usually a lifelong battle. Atopic dermatitis can be difficult to treat and usually involves medications prescribed by a vet, like antihistamines or steroids. Sometimes antibiotics are also required to treat any secondary bacterial infection that are quite common. Skin soothing shampoos, conditioners and treatments can offer immediate, short term relief from itching. Food supplements that have been specifically designed for skin and coats can also be beneficial as they often contain essential fatty acids and omega oils.
Pyoderma is a skin infection caused by bacteria and can occur when there is a cut, graze or lesion to the dogs skin and then bacteria enters the wound. This can result in itchy skin often with a crusty appearance, pustules, lesions and discharge at the affected area. In cases of Pyoderma a vet must be contacted to examine and clean the wound and prescribe antibiotics and topical ointments. Washing the dog with a medicated shampoo like Pyoderm S or Malaseb on a regular basis can help reduce the incidence of pyoderma and will also help treat the bacterial infection and any fungal skin infections.
Food Allergies is another, although less common, cause of pruritus in dogs. Just like people some dogs can be allergic to certain ingredients, preservatives, flavours or additives that are in their food or treats. Diagnosing what sort of food or ingredient that your dog is allergic to can be very tricky with the usual way of determining the allergy being through a process of elimination. There are a number of foods available that can be feed to dogs that are allergic to certain ingredients which means that they can still have a very balanced and healthy diet.
If your dog is suffering from itchy skin and you are unsure why, you should contact your veterinarian to get a correct diagnosis. The quicker you can determine the cause and start treatment the easier the problem will be to get under control and then your dog can get back to normal and itch free