Why is Your Dog Scratching?

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Why is Your Dog Scratching?

An occasional scratch here and there is pretty normal for dogs, but excessive scratching can signal an underlying issue, such as fleas, allergies, and skin conditions. By keeping an eye on your pet, you’ll be able to spot any unusual scratching habits and get to the root of it before it becomes more of a problem. If you understand why your dog is scratching, you can give them the help they need, make changes to prevent it happening again, and arrange to see a vet when appropriate.

How much scratching is normal?

A small amount of scratching isn’t usually anything to worry about, it’s often a way for your dog to relieve an itch, clean their fur, or just stretch their muscles. However, if you notice that they’re scratching with increased frequency or intensity, or if they’re biting and licking themselves, it could be a sign of an underlying issue.

Reasons why your dog might be scratching

Dogs scratch for a number of different reasons, from fleas or insect bites to allergies and skin conditions.

Fleas

Fleas are a common type of parasite that can live on your dog's fur and skin, causing intense itching. You may also notice small red bumps on your dog's skin or see fleas or ‘flea dirt’ on your dog's fur. It’s important to treat a flea infestation as they can transmit tapeworms and cause skin irritation that is very uncomfortable for your dog.

Insect bites

Just like us, dogs can get bitten by bugs like mosquitoes, ants, or ticks, which can be very irritating and lead to your dog scratching. You might also notice swelling and redness at the site of the bite. If you discover your dog has been bitten by a tick, it’s important that you remove the tick carefully from their skin and clean the area thoroughly. If your dog develops a fever, lethargy, lameness, or swollen lymph nodes, contact your vet immediately.

Allergies

Dogs can develop allergies to a range of things, such as foods, pollen, or mould, and one of the main symptoms can be itchiness. Other signs of an allergy can include hair loss, inflamed skin, vomiting and diarrhoea, or sneezing and runny eyes. If you’re unsure what’s causing the allergic reaction, make an appointment with your vet for advice.

Skin conditions

In some cases, your dog may have an underlying skin condition like eczema or dermatitis, which can cause itching, redness, inflammation, bumps, and hair loss. These will usually require a topical treatment prescribed by your vet.

Other factors

Other factors like stress, boredom and anxiety can also cause your dog to scratch excessively. If this is the case, they’re likely to exhibit other signs, such as destructive behaviour, attention seeking and whining. If you think this could be the problem, do what you can to keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated, avoid leaving them alone for long periods, and give them some loving attention.

How to stop your dog from scratching too much

The best way to stop your dog from scratching excessively is to work out what’s causing the itching in the first place. Once you know the reason for their itching, you can work on finding a solution.

Finding and treating the cause of the itch

To figure out the cause of your dog’s itch, be sure to check their fur and skin for any signs of fleas, bites, redness, swelling or flaking skin. Once you have identified the cause, you can choose the right treatment for the cause of the itch. Over-the-counter treatments such as spot-on treatments, shampoos, and sprays can be effective at preventing and treating parasites like fleas and ticks, whereas other complications may require veterinary attention.

Consulting your vet 

If you suspect your dog is suffering from a skin condition, or their scratching is accompanied by other symptoms, like vomiting, diarrhoea, or loss of appetite, you should consult your vet. They will be able to perform a thorough examination and prescribe the most effective treatment and may recommend lifestyle changes like diet modifications or behavioural therapy.

Scratching is common among dogs, but it's not something that should be ignored. Whether your dog’s itching is caused by allergies, parasites, dry skin, infections, or even anxiety, there are various treatments available to help them feel better. If you're unsure about the cause of your dog's scratching, be sure to consult your vet to make sure you can find a solution. For more tips and advice on caring for your dog, check out our pet care blog.

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