Why Is My Dog So Itchy? – Top 5 Reasons
by Jessi Larson
As a dog owner, it’s upsetting to see your pup scratching in discomfort. You’ll wonder “Why is my dog so itchy?” and try to figure out how to fix it.
We had this happen the other day with our dog Toby. He just wouldn’t stop itching! He’d agitatedly itch his fur with his hind leg and roll around in anguish – not exactly a pleasant experience considering he’s a 115-lb giant.
As we learned, itchy skin can affect dogs of all breeds and may lead to further skin irritation or even injury without proper treatment, which is why it’s important to get to the bottom of things.
Though the reason for your dog itching may be quite simple and easy to fix, it’s still necessary for a vet to determine the exact cause and create a plan of treatment.
Making assumptions or trying to treat your dog’s itching without first knowing the cause can create more problems for your dog down the road.
Why Is My Dog So Itchy?
As you’re wondering why is my dog so itchy, know that you’re not alone. This is a common ailment among canines.
For the most part, these are the 5 most common reasons behind your dog’s itchy skin.
1. Your Dog Has Fleas
There’s a reason we associate an itchy dog with fleas, as they are often the culprits behind your dog’s discomfort.
Flea infestations can be extremely uncomfortable for a dog and can even cause serious skin reactions that require care from your veterinarian.
This is because some dogs actually have an allergic reaction to fleabites, a condition which results in swelling, hair loss and even infection.
Fleas are relatively easy to spot and can be noticed during regular grooming sessions. You can use a flea comb to brush through your dog’s hair to identify the pests, or check their frequently used areas such as their bed or crate.
Another sign that your dog has a flea infestation is a reddish brown coloring of water when you’re bathing your dog.
Check your pup for fleas regularly, as these pests can jump hosts and infect other members of your household, including humans.
If your dog has a flea infestation, it’s important to also check and make sure they haven’t transferred to you or other members of your family to be safe.
2. Your Dog Has Ticks
Unlike fleas, detecting tick bites can be a bit more challenging until they’ve grown engorged.
For this reason, it’s important to check your dog after going outside, especially if you live in an area where ticks are common.
Since these pests can transfer dangerous illnesses, it’s critical to have your dog checked and treated by a vet if you locate a tick on its body.
Tips for Preventing Fleas and Ticks
Though there are various treatments for these common pests, the best way to treat fleas and ticks is through prevention.
Deterring these pests is much easier than treating a full-blown infestation, that is why it’s important to ask your vet about recommended preventative treatments for your pup.
You’ll have a number of choices ranging from shampoos and sprays to flea and tick collars. Before making your final choice, consult with your vet to ensure the treatment is safe for your dog.
If you do find fleas or ticks on your dog’s skin, contact your vet and have your dog treated as soon as possible.
Flea and Tick Shampoo
If you find your four-legged friend has been invaded by fleas or ticks, you can buy shampoos formulated specifically to solve the problem.
This type of shampoo kills fleas, ticks, flea eggs, flea larvae and lice and soothes the skin afterward.
Flea and Tick Collars
To prevent these unwanted critters in the first place, a flea and tick collar is a solution used by many pup parents.
The collar stays on your dog’s neck and emits repellent chemicals that spread over the pet via the natural oils of the hair, coat and skin.
Flea and Tick Treatment
Another option is topical flea and tick treatments. This is what we use on our dog Toby.
Once a month, we apply FRONTLINE to a spot between his shoulder blades since he can’t lick this area. The pest-killing solution stores itself in a pup’s oil glands and self-distributes to their hair and skin through the hair follicles.
It’s really easy to apply and ensures fleas, ticks and lice don’t inhabit our beloved dog.
3. Food Allergies
Much like their owners, dogs can have allergic reactions to the food they consume.
So if fleas and other pests have been eliminated as the culprit behind your dog’s itching, this may be a sign that a food allergy is at play.
The problem is, many dog foods contain a number of ingredients that may be leading to your dog’s allergic reaction, which makes finding the problem ingredient rather difficult.
As always, it’s important to consult with your vet before starting any treatment or assuming food allergies are the source of your dog’s discomfort.
Identifying a Food Allergy
Based on your vet’s recommendations, you’ll most likely need to eliminate certain foods that have potential for an allergic reaction.
Your vet may recommend trials of hydrolyzed protein food to ensure your dog gets proper nutrition while you try to pinpoint foods that may be causing the issues.
Again, generic dog foods may not allow you to practice enough control over your dog’s nutrition, so ask your vet to help you choose a food with limited antigens that will take care of your dog’s specific nutritional requirements.
4. Environmental Allergens
If a food allergy has been ruled out as the source of your dog’s irritated skin and you’re still wondering why is my dog itchy, the problem may have to do with environmental allergens.
Common allergens include pollen from plants, dander or other chemicals coming into contact with your dog’s skin.
As before, it’s important to consult with your vet for suggestions on combatting environmental irritants and allergens.
Because the treatment for environmental allergens can span from oral medication to steroid injections, do not try to take this important decision into your own hands without a vet’s supervision.
In the end, we discovered that this is what was causing Toby’s itching. He suffers from seasonal allergies, and when they’re acting up, our vet has advised us to give him a small dose of Benadryl. Problem solved!
5. Anxiety or Boredom
If you’ve eliminated pests or allergens as the source behind your dog’s persistent itching, the issue may actually be anxiety or boredom.
Though these things will not cause itchy skin, they may be behind your dog’s incessant licking or chewing, which can irritate the skin.
If you suspect your dog’s behavior may be caused by a psychological factor, offer your dog plenty of physical exercise to relieve the excess stress.
It’s still important, however, that your vet has eliminated the possibility of other underlying issues at this point.
Final Thoughts: Why Is My Dog So Itchy?
If you’ve ever wondered “Why is my dog so itchy?”, we hope this information helps point you in the right direction.
Though pests and allergens are commonly the sources of your dog’s incessant itching, it’s imperative that a vet confirms these conditions before you chose a course of treatment.
Eliminating all allergens and irritants from your dog’s surroundings can sound daunting, but with professional guidance, your pup will be back to their happy, healthy self in no time!
How to Find the Right Veterinarian to Care for Your Dog
As you can see above, it’s important that you have a veterinarian you know and trust.
When you have a trusted veterinarian who knows your dog’s overall health and history, it’s much easier to figure out what’s causing their current ailment.
In this case, you could quickly schedule an appointment or even email or call with the question of why is my dog so itchy.
To find that dependable doctor, follow these steps.
1. Look Locally
First things first: Find a vet that is near you. If heaven forbid something happens to your dog and it’s even remotely urgent, you’ll want to be able to get to the clinic in a short period of time.
This is also important if you have to take time off work for vet appointments. It’s tough enough to get away from work but even tougher when you factor in extra drive time.
For the most part, vet visits are usually planned. You know when your dog’s due for an exam or needs vaccinations.
But as we’ve learned throughout the years, things come up. Your dog ate something funky and doesn’t seem like himself. You spot a weird growth and can’t stop worrying. Your dog has a cut on his face that needs a few stitches.
Or in this case, you need to know why is my dog so itchy.
If your vet is closer, that makes things much easier.
2. Read Online Reviews
This is probably an obvious statement, but reading online reviews is incredibly important as a consumer.
And now there are more review sites than ever – Google, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc.
Search around and see what people are saying about each clinic you’re looking at.
3. Ask for Recommendations
Another useful tip is to ask around. Where do your neighbors take their dogs? How about friends, family and co-workers in the area?
If your dog is taking training lessons or going to doggy daycare, get the opinion of people at these organizations, too.
This is a great method because you’ll get honest, qualitative feedback that can help make your decision.
4. Do a Test Run
Once you find a vet clinic that seems like a good fit, make an appointment for your dog to be seen.
In this initial appointment, the vet will conduct an assessment of your dog’s health. But really, you’ll also be working on an assessment of your own.
Things to consider as you figure out if this is the right place for you and your dog:
- Facilities – The first thing is to take inventory of the clinic. Is it clean and comfortable?
- Veterinarian – Most importantly, what do you think of the vet? Did they explain things clearly? How was their bedside manner? How did your dog respond to them?
- Support staff – It’s not just the vet you have to consider. You’ll actually be spending just as much time with the support staff, which includes the vet technicians, front office team members and so forth.
- Service – How was the level of service? Is the staff pleasant? Was it easy to make an appointment? How is the communication?
5. Trust Your Gut
As always, trust your gut reaction. It’s more important than people realize.
If you had a good first impression of the clinic and the team and your dog responded well, by all means proceed.
If something felt off and the experience wasn’t what you had hoped for, don’t be afraid to look for other options.
Bonus Tip: Find an Emergency Pet Hospital
While you’re looking for a standard vet clinic, it’s smart to also identify emergency pet hospitals in the area.
This is a place to go if your dog needs care urgently and you can’t wait for the next available appointment at your regular vet.
If your dog has a serious issue come up outside of the normal office hours or on the weekend – and it will happen – this is the place to go.
Generally, you won’t need an emergency vet to help with the question of why is my dog so itchy, but is helpful to have such a clinic identified for more urgent issues.