Why is My Dog Constantly Itching?
I was asked recently how to help a dog with dry and itchy skin. This is a pretty common question and one I’ve talked about in the past. At the end of today’s dog care blog, I’ll link up to some of my previous articles for further reading.
Let’s recap a bit regarding a dog’s dry and flaky skin. We all need a diet with plenty of moisture to ensure our organs receive enough moisture to function properly. Our biggest organ is actually the skin. A Lack of moisture in a pet’s diet can lead to dehydration, and dry skin, including a dry nose and paws.
A dog with flaky skin, dry paws, and dry fur may also have a Yin Deficiency. In Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang need to be in balance for good health. Yin represents moisture, coolness, and calmness, whereas Yang represents dryness, heat, and activity. In other words, they are too hot and dry and can benefit from a more cooling and moisturizing diet.
Foods are energetically either more Yin or more Yang. Foods to consider can include rabbit, duck, cold water fish, beaver, and muskrat. Foods you may want to avoid are chicken, lamb, goat, and venison, these foods are energetically hot and may contribute to your dog’s dry coat. Learn more in this article.
Megan Conrad, BVMS, from Hello Ralphie mentions that “Another, lesser-known, cause of itchy skin in dogs is food sensitivities or mild allergies. Like us, your dog could happily eat the same food for years, then suddenly develop an allergy to it. If your dog is scratching and you have ruled out other causes, you may try changing their food.”
Your dog’s veterinarian may suggest an elimination diet. With the guidance of your dog’s veterinarian, you will start with a very strict meal plan, sometimes it’s just a novel protein, such as rabbit. Then, gradually, you will start to add in one ingredient at a time. You are looking to see if a specific ingredient causes a reaction in your dog. Together, with your dog’s veterinarian, you will be able to have a good list of ingredients and a list of ingredients you should avoid with your dog.
Just switching foods, usually isn’t successful due to the fact that there are so many ingredients in dog food, you won’t really know what the ingredients are to avoid. However, if your dog is on low-quality dog food, switching to a high-quality, limited-ingredient food, may do the trick.
There are a variety of dog allergy tests that may be helpful. It can be a bit of a hit or miss, so speak with your dog’s veterinarian regarding the pros and cons.
I spoke with Melissa M. Brock DVM, and she points out, “There are several potential causes of dry or itchy skin in dogs, and determining the underlying cause can be important for effectively treating the condition. Here are some troubleshooting tips for dog parents to help determine the cause of their dog’s dry or itchy skin.”
Dr. Brock suggests, “check for flea and tick infestations. These parasites can cause severe itching and scratching in dogs, which can lead to dry and irritated skin. Look for small black specks (flea feces) on the skin or in the fur, or for signs of tick bites.”
Patrik Holmboe, head veterinarian for Cooper Pet added, “parasites such as mites can cause itching and dry skin.” He went on to say, “Bacterial or yeast infections can cause itching and inflammation of the skin.” Dr. Holmboe also suggests, “Keep track of any changes in your dog’s diet or environment that may have occurred around the time the symptoms began.”
As I suggested earlier, diet plays an essential role in a dog’s overall health. Dr, Brock states, “Evaluate the dog’s diet. A diet that is low in essential fatty acids can cause dry and itchy skin. Consider switching to a diet that includes high-quality proteins and fats, such as fish or flaxseed oil.”
She went on to say, “Consider environmental factors. Allergies to pollen, mold or dust mites can cause dry, itchy skin in dogs. Keep an eye on the dog’s symptoms and try to identify any potential allergens in the environment.”
Dilber Hussain, DVM, a veterinarian at The Malamute Mom, comments, “Consider any changes in the environment. Have you recently moved? Changed cleaning products or laundry detergents? Anything that could cause an allergic reaction can lead to dry, itchy skin.” He went on to suggest, “If you suspect environmental allergies are to blame, try making some changes around your home and see if that helps.”
Medical issues can also play a huge role in a dog’s scratchy skin and biting. Dr. Brock said, “Rule out underlying medical conditions. Certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, can cause dry, itchy skin in dogs. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect an underlying medical condition.”
How to Help a Dog with Dry Skin
Dr. Hussain also noted, “Make sure your pup is hydrated. Proper hydration is also essential for keeping your pup’s skin healthy and moisturized. Make sure they always have access to fresh, clean water and increase their water intake if you suspect dehydration may be the underlying cause of their dry skin.”
Dr. Holmboe suggests, “Feeding a fresh, whole food diet that is appropriate for their dog’s breed, size, and any medical conditions. Provide omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, as they help to keep the skin moisturized and healthy.” He continued by saying, “Use a humidifier in the home to increase humidity and moisturize the air. Keep your dog in a clean and dust-free environment.”
If your dog has seasonal allergies, walking your dog in a light boot, or sock can help keep environmental allergies to a minimum. Dexter suffers from seasonal allergies, and he always gets a wipe-down after being outside. I also add various herbs that help boost his immune system or have anti-inflammatory properties. Some herbs include licorice root, stinging nettle leaf, and Meeker red raspberry seeds.
Dr. Holmboe suggests, “Bathing the dog with an appropriate, gentle, dog shampoo and avoid harsh chemicals and scented products on your dog’s skin.” I only use 4-Legger shampoo with Dexter. During allergy season, I typically use their moisturizing hemp shampoo. 4-Legger’s organic hemp dog shampoo is a powerhouse at bringing moisture back to a dog’s fur and skin. The all-organic ingredients like organic lemongrass essential oil and hemp seed oil are beneficial for toning and maintaining your dog’s natural skin moisture without blocking their pores.
I follow up with their apple cider vinegar spray. 4-Legger’s ACV spray is chock full of beneficial organic herbs and organic essential oils to improve a dog’s skin and coat and help restore their natural skin and coat balance.
With Dexter’s fresh diet, additional herbs, moisturizing baths, and wipe-downs, he’s been able to tackle allergy season much better than in the past.
If your dog is itching and suffering from dry skin, it’s important to take the steps to determine the root cause of your dog’s scratching. Only once you know the why, can you truly work towards a long-term solution. It might take some time and trials, but it is more than worth it.
- DIY Dog Itch Spray
- 4-Legger ACV Rinse and Spray
- Shampoo for Allergy Relief
- Topical Healing Balm
- Yeast Infections in Dogs
Your questions or comments are welcome below.
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