It’s a well-known fact that dogs look absolutely adorable when they’re trying to scratch that pesky itch just right (okay, fine, maybe it’s not a fact). But how much itchiness is too much?
Itching — also known as pruritus — is one of the most common reasons dog owners seek veterinary care. But it can be caused by a number of things, making it hard to identify the source.
This article will discuss the most common causes of itching in dogs and the difference between normal and problematic itching. Plus, there will be some ideas for itch relief for your pup, including food options to support healthy skin.
What Commonly Causes Dogs to Itch?
As mentioned, there are various factors that can lead to itching in dogs, including environmental allergens, fleas, food allergies, skin infections, and underlying health conditions. To provide your pup effective relief from itching, it’s crucial to identify the root cause.
Similar to humans, dogs can have environmental allergies. There are certain breeds that are more prone to environmental allergens and hay fever. These include pit bulls, bichon frisés, boxers, cocker spaniels, German shepherds, golden retrievers, dalmatians, and Irish setters.
Some common environmental allergens include:
- Dust mites
- Pollen from grasses, trees, and plants of all sorts
- Airborne molds
Environmental allergies can significantly impact on your dog’s overall well-being, causing dry skin, hair loss, and of course, itching. Keep a close eye on your pup in the warmer months of the year, especially when plants and trees bloom, to see if their itching worsens.
A dog with fleas, or ectoparasites, may exhibit intense scratching and discomfort. That’s why it’s important to focus on prevention — especially as the weather starts to get warmer and infestation is more likely to occur.
Even if you’re diligent about using flea protection, sometimes fleas can still infect your dog if the product is not high-quality or if it’s not used as intended. Fleas have also become resistant to some flea treatments over time, making certain products less effective.
Your pup’s itching may also be caused by food allergies. Though food allergies are not as common in dogs as environmental allergies, it’s important to rule out the possibility. Some common food allergies among dogs include certain meats, dairy products, and some grains.
The typical sign of food allergies in dogs is itching around the paws, face, armpits, and belly. This dermatitis can be very uncomfortable for dogs and result in excessive scratching and licking, which can damage skin and lead to infection when left untreated. If you think your dog may have a food allergy, be sure to check in with your veterinarian.
In addition to excessive scratching and licking, skin infections can also result from bacterial and fungal infections, which can lead to even more excessive itching and licking. Some bacterial and fungal infections commonly seen in dogs include the following:
- Hot spots (acute moist dermatitis)
- Yeast infections
- Bacterial ear infections
- Lick granulomas
Bacterial and fungal skin infections often appear red, swollen, and irritated, especially if the dog has been licking or scratching at the infected area. So if you notice any troubling skin infections on your dog, you should see your vet as soon as possible for treatment.
Other health conditions, such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and even stress and anxiety, can manifest as itching and scratching in dogs. Because itching can be a sign of a number of conditions and diseases in dogs, it’s best to consult your vet if the itching doesn’t stop and is not clearly related to other causes.
Do Some Dog Breeds Get Itchier Than Others?
As mentioned, some dog breeds are more prone to allergies. However, some dog breeds are also more prone to atopy and atopic dermatitis, which is where the immune system overreacts to an airborne allergen that gains entry through the skin.
The following breeds are more prone to atopy:
- English bulldogs
- Cocker spaniels
- Shih Tzus
- West highland terriers
- Staffordshire terriers and American pit bull terriers
Comparing the Difference Between Normal Itching and Problem Itching
Another thing to consider when assessing your pup’s itching is if it’s normal itching or problematic itching. The ability to recognize persistent itching is an important first step in identifying a larger underlying issue.
A normal itch is one where, for example, a dog has a particle in their coat and they’re trying to get it out. If your dog continues to itch even after the particle is gone, this could be problematic itching. Incessant behavior implies non-normal itching.
Consult this chart for added clarity on the thresholds for normal and non-normal itching.
Finding Relief for Itchy Dogs
Even if your pup’s itching is the sign of a larger health issue, there are practical tips you can apply to relieve their itching while the vet determines other treatments or diagnoses.
Give Your Dog Preventatives
Using preventatives for ectoparasites like fleas, ticks, and scabies on a monthly basis is an essential step you can take to relieve your dog of potential itching. If a dog skips even one monthly dose — especially as the weather gets warmer — it can leave them vulnerable to ectoparasites.
Regularly Bathe and Groom Your Dog
Regular baths and grooming can ward off itchy skin. Try to bathe your dog at least once per month. If your pup isn’t prone to skin irritation or infections, a nice warm oatmeal-based bath works perfectly.
However, some dogs require an antiseptic bath with a medicated wash. You can check with your vet for specific recommendations on what to use to bathe your dog. A dog’s coat is meant to be a form of protection against their environment, but it needs to be maintained to remain effective.
In addition to bathing, regular brushing can be helpful for long-haired breeds, as it can remove particles from the hair that can cause itching. Shorter-hair breeds don’t need to be brushed as often, but they can be groomed for added hygiene.
Consider Dog Allergy Testing
To rule allergies in or out, you can also consider allergy testing. Elimination diets can be a great place to start for food allergies. For more specific food allergies and environmental allergies, blood and skin testing can be done at the vet. Keep it mind though, blood testing is not as reliable as skin testing.
For dogs that suffer from atopy, there are often food allergies associated as well, which means a hypoallergenic dog food can be helpful in some cases too. Additionally, antihistamines like Benadryl can be used as necessary. But be sure to consult your vet before you give your dog an antihistamine.
Provide a High-Quality Diet
A high-quality diet with the proper vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals can improve skin immunity and reduce excessive itching. Specifically, a diet that includes essential fatty acids, like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and fish oil, can support skin health.
Choosing the Best Dog Food That Helps With Itching
As noted, a high-quality diet is an important aspect of promoting healthy skin in your dog. If you need a place to start, The Honest Kitchen has a ton of options when it comes to pet food that is all human-grade, free of artificial preservatives, and rich in quality protein sources.
The Honest Kitchen’s line of dog foods is designed with the nutritional needs and preferences of pet owners and their pups in mind.
The Honest Kitchen’s Dry Food
Dry dog food offered by The Honest Kitchen is a convenient alternative to traditional kibble dog food. All recipes from The Honest Kitchen are human-grade and support a well-rounded diet, serving as a great first step towards coat and skin health.
Grain-Free Dog Food
Grains can cause an allergic reaction in some dogs and can also be hard on dogs with sensitive stomachs. So if that’s the case for your pup, The Honest Kitchen’s Grain-Free Beef Clusters may be a great option. This food is cold-pressed into bite-sized clusters to maintain maximum nutritional value.
The main ingredients in this grain-free dry food include beef, potatoes, peas, beef liver, lentils, carrots, ground flaxseed, eggs, pumpkin, apples, salmon oil, and tons of vitamins and minerals.
Whole Grain Dog Food
If whole grains are more your pup’s thing, then look no further than The Honest Kitchen’s Whole Grain Chicken Clusters. This minimally-processed dry dog food includes ingredients like cage-free chicken, oats, barley, carrots, eggs, and flaxseed. Plus, it contains superfoods like coconut oil, chia seed and kale, as well as vitamins A, B, D, and amino acids.
The Honest Kitchen’s Dehydrated Food
Dehydrated food is another excellent option that allows for more creativity in serving. The Honest Kitchen’s Dehydrated Whole Grain recipes are full of nutrients and flavor, and you can choose from chicken, beef, fish, or turkey.
Plus, it’s designed to be mixed with water for extra hydration. An added boost of hydration can further support your dog’s overall well-being, as well as their skin and coat health.
The Honest Kitchen’s Wet Food
As noted above, more liquid in your dog’s food can help support their overall hydration, which is an important factor in skin and coat health. The Honest Kitchen has both stews and pâtés in a variety of flavors.
The pâtés are made with nutrient-dense animal protein, like liver and muscle meat, as well as fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber. They come in beef, cheddar, and veggie, chicken and super greens, and turkey and autumn veggies recipes.
On the stew side, The Honest Kitchen offers chunky, hearty, nutrient-dense stews that can either be served as a complete meal or as topper to boost your pup’s health. Stew recipes include roasted beef stew with kale, sweet potatoes and carrots, slow cooked chicken stew with sweet potato, spinach, and apples, and simmered real salmon and chicken stew with brown rice and broccoli.
The Honest Kitchen’s Skin and Coat Topper
The final suggestion to support your furry friend’s overall wellness is The Honest Kitchen’s Skin and Coat Functional Pour Overs. These toppers are irresistible stews that you can put on top of your dog’s dry food as an added boost.
These protein rich stews come in wild-caught salmon, chicken, beef, and fish flavors. Plus, they include added helpings of omegas, biotin, and vitamin E to help support your dog’s skin and coat health.
Try The Honest Kitchen’s Human Grade Dog Food for a Happy, Healthy Dog
Though itching and scratching is common among dogs, it’s important as a pet parent to take note if the behavior becomes persistent or excessive, as it could be the sign of a serious health concern.
Luckily, there are things you can do to support your dog’s skin health and general well-being. One of those strategies is ensuring your dog’s diet is minimally processed and made with high quality ingredients that help support their overall health and well-being.
The Honest Kitchen offers so many high-quality, human-grade options that support a variety of nutritional needs. Whether your dog needs grain-free or whole-grain, wet food or dry, you can find a recipe that fits their needs and tastes at The Honest Kitchen.