Published on January 26th, 2015 | by Debbie Martin0
Causes of itching in Dogs
Pruritus is the technical Latin term for excessive scratching or itching in dogs – an incredibly common ailment among animals of all shapes and sizes. It is a symptom of many different conditions; it is therefore important that its causes are diagnosed before they can do further damage.
This sounds alarming, but in most cases there is not a great deal to worry about. Like human beings, dogs have to scratch themselves from time to time. This is perfectly natural and should not be considered pathological – unless it is particularly persistent and severe.
If, however, your dog is incessantly clawing, biting and gnawing at its skin, then you should investigate further – and if necessary, consult a vet. This may seem all the more severe at night – when things are typically a great deal quieter.
In the main, there are three reasons that a dog may itch. The first surrounds the general state of the dog’s skin – it may be overly oily, or even infected, but in most cases the cause is excessive dryness. The second is an allergic reaction. In this article we shall briefly examine both of these causes. The third of course is creepy crawlies such as fleas and ticks in which there are many ways to eradicate them.
If your dog is itching, then the chances are this is because its skin has dried out. This problem is common in areas of low humidity, in particular during the winter – when the heating is set high inside the house.
Fortunately, dry skin is quite easy to recognise. The most obvious signs are in the skin itself – if it is cracked and tough, then it is dried out. Dry skin is also evidenced by dandruff; if you part the dog’s hair and see small flakes of dead white skin, you can be fairly certain that the problem is dryness. If, during this inspection, your dog begins to scratch itself all the more frantically, then dryness is almost certainly to blame: touching dry skin makes it all the more itchy!
Having identified the problem, you must take steps to remedy it. Since the major causes of dry skin are environmental, so should the solutions be. You should therefore try to make the humidity levels in your home as comfortable as possible – turn off any heaters which can dry out the air.
If you wash your dog from time to time, then consider switching to a allergy shampoo such as Allermyl. Try to towel dry the dog as much as possible. If you are in the habit of having your dog professionally groomed, then you should advise the groomer of the problem – they can turn down the heat on the dryer, which will help a great deal.
A dog’s diet can also be a possible factor in the condition of its skin. Unfortunately, many pet foods do not contain the required oils which afford dogs with healthy skin and fur. Dry foods, like biscuits, have an even more severe dehydrating effect.
Dogs will compensate for this, to an extent, by drinking more – though this is rarely enough. If your dog is dehydrated, it follows that it will be thirsty. You should encourage this by offering them the best possible quality of water. You should not let water stand for days on end without being replaced. You might also consider investing in a water filter – you, too, may feel the benefits.
You may want to consider a supplement in your dog’s food – particularly if you intend to persist with a dried food diet. A digestive enzyme will help keep your dog’s digestive system healthy, which in turn will improve its absorption of fluid. This will help to combat you dog’s dehydration and also keep it feeling more generally healthy.
If you are concerned about the animal and nothing you do seems to do anything to alleviate the problem, then you should consider taking it to the vet.
The other major cause of itching in dogs is their allergies. There are many allergic reactions which can alter the state of a dog’s skin, making it turn oily or dry. This will cause the dog some discomfort, and prompt them to itch – which only exacerbates the problem.
In comparison with dried out skin, an allergic reaction can be subtle and difficult to pinpoint. There is no obvious symptom other than the state of the skin itself, which can be affected by a variety of factors. Moreover, there are many different sorts of allergic reactions and each of them manifests differently and affect some breeds of dogs more than others.
Allergies can be similarly difficult to treat. Unfortunately, allergies are rarely cured – once a dog is known to have one, it is generally there for life. All that can be done is to manage the symptoms. This means, in some cases, a large quantity of medication – though this needn’t diminish the dog’s quality of life. The earlier a dog is treated, the better. It is therefore crucial that any allergy be identified sooner rather than later. If you suspect that your dog has developed an allergy, you should take it to the vet at the earliest possible opportunity.
The symptoms of allergies can be managed largely through diet. There are a number of foodstuffs which have been shown to help alleviate the problem. The most common dietary supplements are fish oil and flax seeds, both of which are tried and tested. The dog may also benefit from a course of antihistamines – though it may take a long while before such measures yield results.
Prevention, however, is better than cure. And the best way of preventing your dog from developing an allergy is, according to most experts, also through diet – specifically in the administration of probiotic bacteria during the first few years of a dog’s life. This may seem an extreme measure. Fortunately, probiotics are, for the most part, very cheap. They will go a long way toward preventing the development of an allergy later on in life; a small fee now will help you to save huge amounts in veterinary bills later in the dog’s life – not to mention stress!