If you have noticed your dog scratching a lot more than often please don’t ignore it.
A decent bit of canine detective work is needed to find out the cause!
Dogs can feel itchy at times and understanding the potential causes can help other underlying problems.
Walking on sandy beaches and swimming in the seas can make your dog’s skin feel more itchy than usual so it’s always a good idea to rinse their paws thoroughly after beach walks and wash out any sand particles caught between their pads and also to wash out any sea salt from their coats.
As humans, we kind of get into the idea that the saltwater is good for us, but there is a lot of bacteria in that water so if your dog has any kind of scratch or open bite already (from a flea or tick) it can easily become infected.
Summer insects are rife during the warmer months and in both the US and UK increasingly warm and damp summers can provide ideal breeding grounds for the little critters to have a banquet on your pooch.
More mosquitos, especially around rivers and ponds are a particular problem where the air is most moist. In fact, in countries like Scotland, this can be a particularly painful problem for our dogs and us as they are increasingly more aggressive and attack at will.
Mosquitos inject their own saliva into the victim’s blood to make it easier for them to suck back up and drink and this is of course why so many get ill or worse. It’s not the bite, it’s the infected saliva they leave behind.
Generally, all that happens is that it can leave us and dogs with an itchy reaction however it can develop into an allergic reaction and that is more serious.
In more exotic, warmer, and tropical countries this is where the fatalities occur as Mosquitos carry varying diseases and one of these that attacks dogs is heartworm.
To prevent or minimize the mosquitos and midges from biting your dog in the UK, try to avoid walking your dog at dawn or dusk, especially on hot and humid days.
In the home try to use plugin insect repellents and install mesh screens indoors and on windows.
If your dog does get bitten and keeps scratching, try to discourage them from catching. Easier said than done, I know, but if you can try to soothe the bite with hydrocortisone creams that can be used on dogs can help reduce the itch and redness associated with insect stings and bites.
If you need any advice about what to get that can help then a quick phone call to your vet will certainly point you in the right direction and it’s always good to build up a stash of these kinds of creams to add to your dog’s grooming kit at home anyway for the times that they scrape themselves or have any kind of skin mishap, which happens from time to time.
Another common cause of itchiness in our dogs can be caused by an intolerance to certain foods with certain ingredients.
The signs to look for can be:
- Redness of skin
- Skin irritation
- Patchy Hairloss
- Skin Abrasions
Along with this, you may see your dog vomiting or having looser stools or diarrhea.
Breathing problems can occur too although this is rarer.
Milk and dairy products are common triggers for this to happen along with heavy carbohydrates like Wheat which contains gluten.
Corn and Barley and even some protein sources like beef, pork, and lamb.
One solution can be a grain-free diet and these kinds of pet foods contain a higher proportion of quality proteins, cooked vegetables, and quality, easy to digest animal fats.
These formulations often contain fewer artificial additives, flavors, preservatives, and colors too.
These kinds of foods encourage the renewal of skin cells to improve the overall health and appearance of your dog’s skin and coat.
Parasites & Pests
Parasites are most likely the reason that your dog is scratching and as well as the common dog flea problem there are other prime suspects that can make our dogs and us uncomfortable too.
A common parasite that you can find on dogs is a skin mite called cheyletiella or “Creeping Dandruff”.
In very serious cases of this, you will see a thick white scaly dandruff on the fur. This is often referred to as Mange.
The cause of this is often caused by dental problems so a good diet is a must as this may well reverse this condition quickly.
Again, with this, a trip to the vet is a must just to get it checked out.
These highly contagious parasites can cause crusty skin deep inside the ears and can be the cause of your dog sometimes shaking their heads more than usual.
Keep an eye on this as they can develop into a more serious condition that results in bleeding, so again, a trip to your vet who may well prescribe ear drops or soothing sprays which can really help your dog get some comfort.
Don’t ignore this though as it is very uncomfortable for your dog.
This is a fungal infection that causes scaly or irritated skin and hair loss often around the nose and ears.
Another parasite to look out for especially in the spring and summer are Ticks.
This is especially important for owner who walks their dogs in more rural areas of the country or goes for walks in long grass and woodland areas.
Ticks attach themselves to your dog’s skin and if they are not removed they stay there and suck your dog’s blood for up to five days.
This feeding process not only causes skin irritation and abscesses, but it can also pass on the potentially fatal bacterial infection called Lymes Disease.
Therefore any Tick should be removed straight away.
This is a great video that will show you how to do it safely but if at all in doubt or if you just don’t feel you can do this or indeed your dog won’t let you, then a trip to the Vet is an absolute definite course of action.
You can beat Ticks with preventative parasite treatments, with regular checks after walks and by keeping your dog away from long grass or woodland areas during these seasons too.
Tick collars are known to have some success too, but again it’s all about keeping a regular eye on your dog and checking them too.
Did you know that tick prevention products work in different ways?
Some products such as tablets and some spot ons, are active in your dog’s bloodstream, meaning that ticks need to actually attach and feed before they die.
Seresto is different.
The active ingredients in Seresto flea and tick control collars are released throughout your dog’s coat and skin at a very low and controlled rate of seven to eight months.
In all that time the collar is actively repelling and killing ticks without the need for them to bite your dog in the first place.
This is great news because once those little suckers get attached to your dog, it can be difficult to remove them, especially if they attach themselves in awkward and sensitive areas.
In the past, I have had to remove a couple of ticks from my Greyhounds penis area and groin and he wasn’t too keen on me getting involved down there (I removed them OK!)
When a tick lands on your dog, Seresto’s unique and clinically proven combination of active ingredients is absorbed by the parasite, which in turn leads to them becoming paralyzed and stops it from taking a blood meal from your dog’s skin.
The collars are waterproof too and they offer long-lasting protection and peace of mind too.
I have found using them absolutely brilliant because they are a great solution for me as I live rurally and they are a simple solution to a problem that has happened quite a bit over the years.
Pop the collar on and you then know your dog is protected for seven to eight months and this is much better for me than having to remember to apply spot-ons or give him tablets every 28 days too.
I don’t want him to be bitten first either before those other treatments start to work as well!
This great video tells you a bit more about the collars and how they work too..
There are of course other causes of scratching or similar obsessive behaviors.
Dry skin or just generally having a poor coat can irritate a dog and you may find them licking or scratching more because of this.
I know my Greyhound is a short-haired dog but he still likes to be groomed regularly as shedding fur even on short-haired dogs is an issue if not dealt with.
Regular brushing of your dog is a good practice to undertake because not only do they enjoy it (generally), but it gives you a great chance to defluff them of old hair and dead skin and at the same time, inspect them for any bites, scratches, lumps or bumps.
You don’t need to bathe your dog unless it is necessary as they produce the right kind of oils for their coats and skin through healthy diet and exercise, but if you do need to as they have decided to roll in fox poo or get completely covered in mud from a forest walk or indeed to get rid of sea salts, then try to always use a gentle pet-safe shampoo.