Ask Dr. Aziza: Why Your Dog Can’t Stop Itching and How to Relieve it

Ask Dr. Aziza: Why Your Dog Can't Stop Itching and How to Relieve it

An itchy dog is a common
occurrence in the vet clinic, but several things could be causing this
discomfort. Let’s take a closer look at the top causes of itching and how we
treat it to provide your dog with some itch relief.

Reason #1: Fleas

Fleas are a type of
parasite that can cause severe itchiness and it’s the most common cause of
non-stop itching. Some dogs are more sensitive to fleas than others, but all
are affected to some degree. Flea preventatives are the best way to protect
your pup from fleas and avoid the need for dog itch relief products.

Once a flea infestation
has been diagnosed, it is also recommended to treat your house and yard for
fleas to further exterminate the flea population. Your veterinarian will
determine which flea product is best for your dogs based on its medical
history, lifestyle, and ease of administration.

Beagle dog eating from a bowl indoors

Reason #2: Food allergies

Like people, dogs can be
allergic to food. Contrary to popular belief, most dogs are allergic to the
protein source in food, not grain. To determine which food ingredient(s) to
avoid, it is recommended to perform a food diet trial. This can be conducted in
a couple of ways:

  • Novel protein diet trial: Pet owners compile a list of all food products their pet has ever received to the best of their knowledge, and feed a protein their pet has never received. Usually, pet parents will use uncommon protein diets like rabbit, bison, or whitefish. Thankfully, there are non-prescription diets, like Freshpet’s Vital Salmon & Ocean Whitefish recipe, that are readily available.
  • Hypoallergenic
    diet trial:
    A hypoallergenic
    food diet trial requires a pet to receive a prescription hypoallergenic diet.
    In both instances, pets can only receive the diets approved for the food trial,
    including treats, for about 4-12 weeks.

Want to learn more about our novel protein options? Take a look at our best chicken-free dog food recipes.

Reason #3: Environmental allergies

Dogs can also be
affected by environmental allergens. This includes both seasonal and
non-seasonal allergens. If you suspect that your dog’s itching is caused by
allergies, there are tests that help determine what specific allergens your dog
is allergic to as well as the severity of their allergy. Ideally, these tests
are performed by a veterinary dermatologist so your veterinarian may refer you
to another clinic if there isn’t one available at the practice.

To help provide your dog
with some itch relief, there are medications that are very effective in
minimizing the symptoms of these allergies and are designed for long-term use.

Dog taking bath at home. Bathing of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

Reason #4: Mange

In addition to fleas,
there are other parasites, namely mites, that cause itchiness in dogs and lead
to a host of secondary issues including:

  • Bacterial skin infections

This results in a common
disease known as mange. To diagnose mange, your dog will undergo a skin scrape
test which can be performed at most veterinary clinics. Thankfully, there are
medications that treat mites and provide your dog with itch relief.

Reason #5: Toxin exposure

There are toxins that
can cause itching and irritation to your dog’s skin. It can be caused by:

  • Common household cleaning products
  • Plants, such as poison ivy
  • Heavily scented products, such as candles or air

Usually, contact
allergies resolve when the source of exposure is removed from the pet’s
environment. Medications may be indicated to heal any skin lesions or provide
your dog with itch relief, but generally are not needed long term.

Minimal portrait of small Shi-Tsu dog lying on carpet in cozy home interior

In addition to these five reasons, some dogs just naturally have more sensitive skin that is prone to itchiness. If your dog falls into this category, it can be a good idea to switch them to a diet that is designed specifically for sensitive skin, such as Freshpet® Select Sensitive Stomach & Skin recipe.

In general, choosing a
diet that includes fresh animal proteins will provide your dog with more fatty
acids, which will in turn keep their coats healthy and help prevent dry skin!