All dogs scratch, which is why it can be hard to tell when that scratching is becoming excessive.
If you think your pooch might be plugging away with his paws a little too intensely, here are a few reasons he can’t stop scratching.
Fleas are one of the most common reasons for scratching in dogs. They exist in nearly every outdoor environment and even the cleanest, most indoor dog can pick them up while out on a walk. If you’re not using a reputable flea prevention treatment, consider doing so now. To check for fleas you should inspect the places they’re most likely to congregate. The little buggers enjoy warm, dark spaces where they can hide so be sure to check under your pup’s tummy, armpits and groin. They also appear frequently on the back, near your dog’s tail.
Dogs are susceptible to a number of allergies ranging from food to environmental causes. If you find your dog scratching obsessively or chewing at his paws it might be time for a visit to the vet. A veterinarian can help determine whether your dog is suffering from food allergies or other causes. She might recommend a food trial to find the culprit or ask questions about changes in your yard, like new mulch or grass you might have planted.
If you live in an area with low humidity it’s possible your dog might have dry skin. This can certainly cause him to turn to scratching for temporary relief. Check your pup for flakes of dandruff in his fur or tough, cracked skin. Certain types of dry food can also cause dry skin due to a lack of essential nutrients and oils. Consider adding digestive enzymes to help combat this, or check out shampoos that can help your dog maintain moisture.
Microscopic mites that burrow under your dog’s skin could be the cause of his scratching. Mange comes in many different forms but almost all of them lead to skin infections, lesions and itchiness. Treatment is usually found in the vet’s office, though isolated cases of demodectic mange can go away on their own. Always check with your veterinarian for the best course of action when dealing with mange.
Ticks can be an uncomfortable experience for a dog. They burrow under the skin, leading to itchiness and sometimes pain. They can also pass diseases unto your dog, which is why it's important to remove them as soon as possible. Inspect your dog thoroughly for ticks on a regular basis and after every trip to the park or woods. Most flea preventions also protect against ticks, but make sure to read the label on yours to ensure your dog is covered.
Some dogs are prone to ear infections. Since they can’t reach in there and clean them out themselves, often they’ll resort to scratching at their ears to alleviate the itch and pain. Clean out your dog's ears on a regular basis and head to the vet if you notice him scratching excessively and shaking his head. He might have an abundance of yeast or bacteria in there needing treatment. Similarly, dogs with folds in their skin can also develop yeast and bacteria problems if not properly groomed enough.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.