What causes Itching in dogs, and what you can do to help
- by DR Roxanne Jones
Is your pooch scratching, scratching, scratching, 24/7, and driving himself – and you! – up the wall? Incessant itching in dogs is a common problem and we see it frequently at our practice. It’s known as pruritus, and it accounts for around 30% of the issues we see as vets.
Despite how common it is, it’s important to get your pet to the vet ASAP so you can find the cause of the issue. Even in cases where it’s not serious, it’s causing your furkid an unnecessary amount of discomfort, and that’s something that needs to be resolved as quickly as possible.
Why is my dog itching?
- Fleas and flea allergies (very common)
- Allergies (also common)
- Certain types of mites
- Bacterial skin infection
- Fungal skin infection
- Yeast infection of the skin
- Certain autoimmune conditions
What to expect when you visit the vet
Your pooch will undergo a thorough clinical examination and your vet will ask you for a detailed history about your dog’s condition. Often, your vet will need to run additional tests like skin scrapings, hair pluckings, ‘Scotch tape’ tests, skin biopsies, bacterial and fungal cultures, and a clinical trial of medication and dietary changes to make an accurate diagnosis.
It’s important to remember that in some cases, diagnosis may be more difficult and will require a little time and patience. Some conditions are easy to treat and can be resolved, while other conditions will require lifelong management
Allergies in dogs
Allergies are very common in dogs, and can be highly frustrating for your furkid, for you, and even for your vet. Common symptoms include:
- Overall itching of the body
- Itching that may or may not be seasonal
- Itching in specific areas, such as armpits and groin area
- Itching of the ears and feet (often presenting as shaking of the head and licking of the feet)
It’s often impossible to know for sure what the cause of the allergy is. Dogs can be allergic to a wide variety of things commonly found in their environment, and things they come into contact with on a daily basis.
Depending on the severity of the allergy, your dog will likely need lifelong medical management to keep their condition under control. Note that in most cases, allergies cannot be cured. They can however be well managed to offer your pooch relief from their symptoms.
Things you can do at home to help manage your dog’s itching
- Meticulous flea control – chat to your vet about the right treatment for your pet (and remember: you can schedule regular deliveries of flea medication from Zuki.co.za.
- Bathing your pooch every one to two weeks using soothing hypoallergenic, tea tree, oatmeal or specially medicated shampoo. Lather your dog until s/he is foamy, leave the shampoo on for 10 minutes (good luck!), then rinse off. Don’t bathe your doggie too often as this may aggravate the itchiness and strip the skin of its natural oils. Your vet may however recommend more frequent bathing depending on the skin condition and shampoo he prescribes.
- Adding essential oils like Omega 3, 6 and 9, as well as the right vitamins and minerals to your dog’s diet. Good quality over-the-counter products are available from your vet or vet shop. These help immensely, as they have anti-inflammatory properties and will help improve the moisture and condition of your pet’s skin.
- Diet – this is a big one, so here are some step-by-step tips
- Some pets can be allergic to certain ingredients in dog food. Often this is an allergy to protein from beef or chicken. Other dogs may not be allergic to the food itself, but still benefit nonetheless from switching to a hypoallergenic diet
- For dogs allergic to food itself, switching to a hypoallergenic novel ( proteins not commonly exposed to) diet can have life-changing results.
- For dogs not allergic to the food itself but still suffer from other allergies , a special diet will reduce the amount of allergens s/he is exposed to on a daily basis, helping to bring relief from symptoms, reduce the amount of medication required, and give your animal a much better quality of life.
- If you decide to try premium pet food, remember that your pooch needs to stick to this food exclusively – no other food, no snacks and no treats in between, as you won’t be able to tell if the food is having the desired hypoallergenic effects, and it may even inhibit the effects of the new diet.
- You also need to trial the specific diet for a minimum of eight weeks, with no cheating, to be able to tell if it’s working or not. Eight weeks gives the body enough time to rid itself of all previous allergens ingested.
Which premium dog food diet should I try for my pet?
There are many options available on the market. Commercially available food for allergic dogs, like Hills, Eukanuba and Royal Canin can be bought from your vet or vet shop.
Alternatively, if you want to try something more natural and holistic, try Six Fish from Orijen. It’s natural and free from preservatives, loaded with healthy oils and vitamins and a novel protien source for many pooches. Many pets have great success with it.
There are lots of other natural dog foods available, and raw food diets are increasing in popularity too. However, it’s vital that you talk to your vet first. Feeding your furkid the wrong diet could cause more harm than good, so make sure you get professional advice before changing your doggie’s diet
You can also check out our range of premium food and treats which we’ll deliver directly to your door.
Here’s hoping you and your pooch successfully scratch that itch – and fast!