All of a sudden your dog starts itching more. He may be scratching his ears or licking his paws nonstop. It may or may not coincide with a change in the weather, such as the onset of Spring. Some amount of licking, scratching and chewing is normal dog behavior. However, if he is itching to the point of hurting himself, you need to look for the underlying cause. Too often dogs will develop “hot spots” which are red, moist irritations on the skin that can appear anywhere on the body, particularly the head, chest or hips.
The bottom line is, it could be miserable for your dog. Itching is the second most common reason people take their dogs to the vet, behind stomach aches and diarrhea.
The Causes of Itching
Here are a few main reasons dogs may itch:
- Dry skin: Your dog may have dry skin. Part your dog’s fur and see if you can identify flakes or dandruff or dry, tough skin. Dry skin may be caused by your pet food, because many commercial products process out the good oils that contribute to healthy skin and a lustrous coat. Dry foods in particular can have a dehydrating effect. Your vet may recommend a medicated shampoo, reduction in bathing, or the addition of olive oil to the food.
- Allergies: Dogs’ allergies usually stem from one of three things: environment, food or fleas. Allergies can rarely be cured, but the symptoms can be managed. Many vets will recommend a change in diet, particularly the introduction of probiotics, fish oil, flax seed or antihistamines. The only way to diagnose a food allergy is through a strict elimination diet. Believe it or not, they even have allergy shots for dogs! Some of the things that may cause dog allergies include:
- Dust & house mites
- Cigarette smoke
- Certain ingredients in pet foods
- Cleaning products
It is important to note that food allergies are not restricted to puppies … your dog may develop an allergy to his food out of the blue! There are many natural remedies available to help your dog manage his/her allergies.
If your dog’s skin condition worsens, see a veterinarian to rule out other causes for his itching, like mange, infection or ringworm.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery county and northern Chester County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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