There’s nothing worse than having an itch that just won’t go away. Whether from a bug bite, food allergy, or dry skin, itching can be unbearable for humans and pets alike. Many pet owners ask, “What can I give my dog for itchy paws naturally?” or, “What home remedy can I give my dog for itching?” While these are valid questions, it’s important to understand and dig deeper into the cause of your pet’s itch before trying random, potentially unsafe treatments on your pet at home.

Let’s explore some potential causes of itchy skin, what signs you may observe at home, and when you should see your Penny Paws veterinarian.

Common Reasons Why Your Dog Has Itchy Skin

Pets become itchy for a myriad of reasons, but most stem from either an allergy, a parasite, or both. Here are the most common underlying causes of itchy skin in dogs:

  1. Environmental allergy. Also known as atopy, environmental allergens can include many allergens that humans are allergic to such as grasses, pollens, and molds. When these allergens are inhaled, a sensitive pet will mount an immune response, creating a cascade of events that lead to changes in the skin. Sometimes, allergens may cause a topical, localized reaction when a pet comes in contact with it (i.e. grass on the paw pads).
  2. Food allergy. Less commonly, pets may develop allergies to certain foods. Contrary to popular belief, grains are not a common food allergy in pets. Most pets with food allergies have a sensitivity to a protein—chicken and beef are the most common culprits. Other possibilities include eggs or soy.
  3. Parasites. Commons ectoparasites such as fleas are a nuisance to both pets and people. These blood-sucking insects are uncomfortable for pets on their own, but many furry friends are allergic to their saliva, resulting in a highly uncomfortable situation. Other bugs such as skin mites, ear mites, and lice can also lead to mild or severe itch. A tell-tale sign that you may be dealing with parasites is if multiple pets at home are exhibiting similar, itchy signs.
  4. Infection. Bacterial and/or yeast infections are exceedingly common in dogs with underlying skin allergies. First, an allergen or parasite initiates the onset of itching. Once the pet becomes itchy, the skin barrier becomes susceptible to microorganisms on the skin, such as normal bacterial flora and yeast. When an overgrowth of these organisms occurs, infection sets in, leading to increased itching and discomfort. Dermatologic infections can occur anywhere on the skin, but areas where moisture may become trapped are most common, such as in the ears or in skin folds near the face or tail.

Common Symptoms Of Itchy Skin In Dogs

When you think of allergies, signs like itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, and other upper respiratory signs may come to mind. Unlike humans, however, allergies in dogs typically manifest as problems with the skin or ears—the most common sign is itching.

Here are some signs you may observe, depending on the underlying cause of your pet’s itch:

  • Scratching the skin or ears
  • Rubbing body or face against furniture or carpet
  • Chewing the skin or paws
  • Red, irritated skin
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Red bumps or patches on the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Darkened skin pigment
  • Discharge from the ears
  • Odor from the skin or ears
  • Visible parasites on the skin

Of course, not all pets present the same way and signs may vary from mild to severe. Some dog breeds are more prone to allergies and/or secondary skin infections such as golden retrievers, Boston terriers, bulldogs, Chinese shar-peis, basset hounds, and cocker spaniels, but any dog can develop an allergy.

When To See Your Veterinarian For Your Dog’s Itchy Skin

If you catch your pet itching or notice a change in their skin or coat, a visit to your Penny Paws veterinarian is warranted—and, the sooner the better. The longer an itchy pet goes without a diagnosis or treatment, the harder the itch can be to control. And while many over-the-counter pet products promise healing miracles by way of oatmeal baths and coconut oil, most of the time these won’t do the trick. If parasites are the problem, an antiparasitic from your veterinarian may suffice. But allergic pets may require multiple diagnostics and treatments before relief is achieved. In either case, your veterinarian needs to examine your pet to determine the root cause for their itch.

Diagnosing And Treating Your Dog’s Itchy Skin

After a thorough physical examination, your veterinarian may have an idea of what is leading to your pet’s itchy signs. They may observe fleas or other parasites, see characteristic skin changes that signify a bacterial or yeast infection, or view abnormalities on examination of the ears. Depending on the findings, your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostics to attain a definitive diagnosis. These tests are not recommended simply to spend your money, but rather to identify the root cause of your pet’s signs so that treatment can begin promptly—effectively saving you time and money in the long run. Plus, running accurate diagnostics is just plain good medicine—and what your pet deserves.

Possible tests your veterinarian may advise for your itchy pet include:

  • Skin or ear cytology testing
  • Skin scrape testing
  • Bacterial culture and susceptibility testing
  • IDAT (Intradermal Allergy Testing)
  • Diet trial 
  • Blood testing before starting any medications

Answers from these diagnostics help paint a picture of your pet’s problem, making it easier to understand and treat. The more answers your veterinarian has, the quicker they can provide accurate treatment which may involve a diet change, anti-itch medications, topical products, dietary supplements, or even antimicrobials. Avoid giving your pet any topical or oral products without first consulting your veterinarian.

Get More Help From Penny Paws Animal Clinic Today

Watching your dog constantly biting, scratching, licking, or rubbing an itchy spot can be frustrating. Not only is it painful to watch, but neglecting the underlying problem can lead to worsening disease and pain for your pet. At Penny Paws Animal Clinic, we are here to help. Together, we can help you beat your pet’s itch!

Learn more about itching and allergies in dogs by contacting us today.