Irritated, itchy skin may prompt the dog to scratch, lick and chew on itself until it causes skin damage. Often caused by parasites, infections, or allergies, these symptoms have the potential to make your dog miserable, leaving you wondering what’s going on and how to help.
Unfortunately, such skin irritations are common in dogs, but the good news is that they can be effectively treated or managed with a combination of home care, preventive measures, and veterinary intervention.
cause of irritation
There are many potential causes of your dog’s itchy skin. In some cases, the cause is obvious, such as when the dog suffers from a severe flea infestation. In other cases, it may take some time and investigation to identify the problem. Once you and your veterinarian get to the source of the problem, you can develop a treatment plan to get your dog comfortable again.
It is relatively common for dogs to be affected by one or more external parasites. These tiny creatures live on or in your dog’s skin and can cause a lot of irritation and itching.
The most common skin parasites are:
- flea: Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to flea saliva, which is spread through flea bites.
- Ticks: Tick bites can itch or become infected on their own. If this happens, the skin may show signs of irritation for a few days after being bitten.
- Scabies: Sarcoptic mange (canine scabies) and Demodex are caused by different skin mites.Dogs with mange will experience intense itching in the affected area, and large numbers of Demodex mites often cause hair loss with or without itching. Proper diagnosis and identification by a veterinarian is essential for proper treatment.
Skin infections also occur relatively frequently in dogs. Infections can be caused by tiny bacteria or fungi that infect the skin.
- Bacterial infections: Pyoderma is a bacterial infection usually caused by staphylococcus bacteria (often called staphylococcus), but other bacteria may also be involved.Bacterial infections are often secondary to allergies or other skin problems, including hot spots in dogs.
- Yeast infection: Malassezia dermatitis is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of normal yeast in the body. Yeast infections can also be secondary to allergies or other health problems.
- Ringworm: Despite its name, it’s not really a worm. This is a contagious fungal infection that affects pets and humans.Ringworm usually causes itchy skin and hair loss.
canine atopic dermatitis
Canine atopic dermatitis is triggered by environmental allergens such as pollen, mold, and dust mites.Reacting to these triggers can cause your dog to have itchy skin, irritated ears, and sometimes sticky eyes. There are some medications that can help relieve these allergic reactions. For severe skin problems, your veterinarian may recommend allergy testing followed by desensitization treatment.
It is less common for dogs to be allergic to certain foods.Most dogs with food allergies are allergic to protein sources in the food, such as chicken or beef. Some dogs are allergic to carbohydrate ingredients such as corn or wheat.
Many dogs with food allergies exhibit novel (that your dog has not been exposed to) ingredients in their diets. Typically, such foods contain one major protein (such as duck or fish) and one major carbohydrate (such as sweet potatoes). Another option is hydrolyzed foods made with proteins that are broken down into small pieces that don’t stimulate the immune system. The best hypoallergenic dog food requires veterinary approval before purchasing.
There are many options to help soothe your dog’s skin. Your veterinarian will be able to help you start a treatment plan that should provide relief to your dog in no time.
Suggestions may include allergy medication, prescription flea treatments, medications for mange or infection, medicated shampoos, or food changes. However, it is important to understand that some skin problems in dogs, such as allergies, are ongoing problems that cannot be cured, but rather require management over time.
Prevent skin irritation
It’s important to be proactive about your dog’s skin problems so they don’t get out of hand, and there are things you can do on a regular basis to prevent the irritation from coming back.
- Use flea and tick preventatives regularly and year-round. This is important for all dogs, but even more so for those with a history of flea allergies. Just a few bites from fleas can cause severe discomfort or hinder your treatment efforts.
- Make sure you know how to properly remove ticks from your dog in case it gets bitten despite your precautions. You want to pull the tick straight out without twisting or turning it, and be very careful not to squeeze the tick’s body to help prevent infection.
- Many flea preventatives also protect dogs from mange mites. A healthy immune system is vital to preventing demodex overgrowth, so make sure your dog is eating well, getting plenty of exercise, and seeing your veterinarian regularly.
- Make sure you feed your dog a proper diet. A good quality food should include the nutrients needed to promote healthy skin and fur. Many homeowners prefer a natural diet. Work with your veterinarian to find the right food for your dog.
- Bathe your dog. Using a soothing shampoo, such as one that contains oatmeal or aloe vera, can go a long way in relieving your dog’s itchy symptoms. There are many on the market specifically designed for irritated skin. Depending on your dog’s condition, your veterinarian may also recommend a medicated shampoo.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your veterinarian right away. For health-related questions, be sure to consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know your pet’s health history, and can provide the best advice for your pet.