Causes of dog itching and scratching and Solutions

Have you noticed your dog’s chronic itching? At first, this behavior may not bother you, but then you realized that he started to bite himself, and now there is this fresh wound on his back. Yikes! No need to panic as usually, this problem has an easy solution.

Usually, dogs scratch and bite themselves as a result of skin infections, parasites, and even psychological issues. You can do home remedies and also consult your veterinarian for a solution depending on the extent of the behavior. 

It is good to remember that the effect of this behavior can be minimal but it can also be severe. Therefore, it is important to keep a close eye on your dog especially if he is already showing signs of discomfort.

If you cannot wrap your head around as to why your dog keeps on biting and scratching himself, then this is the article for you! We are going to talk about the causes of this behavior as well as the things that you can do to aid your dog. So read on!

What Is This Biting and Scratching Behavior?

Before we discuss any type of treatment for your dog’s problem, it is vital that we get to the bottom of what he is actually experiencing. In this way, you can easily gauge if what you currently have is a problem that requires immediate attention or not.

The general term that is used when a dog tends to scratch and bite himself due to intense itchiness is called Pruritus. This means that your dog is not actually biting and scratching himself for the heck of it. Instead, he wants to find some relief from the uncomfortable feeling of being itchy.

In the process of doing so, your dog may experience the following:

  • Hair loss
  • Redness of the skin
  • Inflamed skin
  • Constant licking
  • Aggression

Pruritus may be experienced in just one area of your dog’s body or it can also be experienced in various parts of his body. More often than not, if the itch is concentrated in just one part the underlying cause is just skin conditions.

However, if the itchiness is scattered around the body, then it can be due to parasites. The tricky part is when you observe that the itchiness comes from random parts of the body and it seems like your dog is just choosing where he wants to feel an itch.

If this is the case, then this is a huge clue that your dog has a behavioral disorder. Something may be causing your dog to feel uncomfortable and he is thinking that he should scratch an itch when the itch does not even exist!

Causes of Itchiness in Your Dog

As we have mentioned previously, you can divide this condition into three major causes. These are bad skin conditions, parasites, and behavioral disorders. But we are going to step it up a notch as we are going to add another cause which you can categorize as “Other Causes.”

When it comes to our fluffy loved ones, we really cannot leave anything to chance. So we want to cover all our bases and also include some other external factors that may be the cause of your dog’s itchiness. Let us now take a look at the four causes. 

Skin Conditions

This refers to the current state of your dog’s skin. The problem may have developed due to the change of temperature, environmental stressors, or it can even just pop out of the blue. 

  • Dry Skin

Just like humans, our dogs need some skin TLC too! If they develop dry skin, then surely, just like us, everything will just become so itchy. This can be due to the weather or diet deficiencies (usually a lack of fatty acids) This is imminent when you see that they have cracked skin. They can also get flaky spots and dandruff. 

  • Skin Infections

This can occur when there are hormonal imbalances in your dog’s body. The most common is when they have a thyroid problem. On the other hand, it can also be caused due to the imbalance of cortisol. This is evident when you see red bumps on the skin of your dog. Also, this type of infection may cause your dog’s hair to become greasy and oily. Moreover, they can also experience a sticky discharge in their ears. 

  • Allergies

Our dogs can also have allergies due to dust, pollen, or even mold. This is also the same with certain food or ingredients in their kibble. This may also surprise you, but they can also be allergic to certain brands of a vaccine. When they experience this, you may notice some swelling on your dog’s snout and paws. Of course, you will also notice that they will not even pause to breathe when they start scratching themselves. 

Parasites

We have arrived at the creepy crawlies and jumpers! These parasites tend to latch on your dog’s skin to feed or much worse—to breed. Basically, the itch is caused by these parasites’ regular biting. This is also usually the time when your dog starts to bite himself in an effort to rid himself of these parasites. 

  • Fleas

Fleas will live in your dog’s fur for a very long time with the sole intention of breeding. The problem with fleas is that they are not easily seen unless you already have a full infestation. They feed on your dog’s blood which will cause severe itching and flea saliva can also cause dermatitis.

  • Ticks

These buggers are easily detected as they have a bigger body than fleas. We are not saying that getting ticks are better than having fleas, but a single tick bite can result in hours of scratching and biting for your dog. As they drink your dog’s blood, they start to engorge and they will stay in the same area until they are fully engorged. Bites from ticks can also cause wounds and bacterial infections.

  • Mites 

Mites are different from ticks and fleas in such a way that they will burrow into your dog’s fur and skin, then start a civilization there. What is most disturbing about mites is that they target the insides of your dog’s ear. Therefore, they stay in unreachable spots which in turn may lead your dog to constantly scratch his ear without getting any relief.

Behavioral Disorders

This is the cause of itching that can be a bit confusing as you can see that there is absolutely nothing wrong with your dog’s skin nor does he have any parasites. So what seems to be the problem? It might be your dog himself, or much worse your dynamics with your dog.

  • Anxiety

Dogs are a lot like humans in such a way that they have certain ticks when they are feeling a certain way. An excited dog may run back and forth and a hungry dog may keep on licking his food bowl. Dogs that suffer from anxiety may result in scratching and biting themselves. They do this as a defense mechanism from what is causing them stress. It can be due to loneliness when you leave them for a long time or it can also be a product of your dog’s lack of socialization with other humans or dogs. 

  • Boredom

The easiest way to know if your dog is scratching and biting himself due to boredom is to check if they are doing this behavior on their legs and paws. Even when you are around, you may see them constantly licking their front legs until it is already a puddle of wetness. In turn, once their fur dries, it turns into this black sticky goo that ends up falling off along with your dog’s fur. 

Other Causes

If you still cannot see any signs that fall under the three categories that we have discussed, then probably your dog’s scratching and biting problem stem from the following factors.

  • Pain

Definitely, your dog will keep on scratching and biting the same spot if something is causing him discomfort. It is good to check that specific spot as he might have stepped on something sharp or he might have bumped into something that produced a wound. 

  • Aches

If you have a senior dog, then constant licking and biting is a sign of a deeper underlying orthopedic problem. Usually, dogs will scratch or bite their hind legs when they are experiencing the symptoms of hip dysplasia and even arthritis. This is common in small dogs.

  • Sores

Did your dog engage in some rough play? Did he fall from a significant height? Did he trip over something? All of these may develop sores around his body which cannot be easily seen by the naked eye. In response, while that certain part is healing, your dog will keep on scratching and biting that area, which may further aggravate the sore.

What Should I Do?

You have two options to deal with the scratching and biting behavior of your dog. Keep in mind that you should never give medications or remedies to your dog without consulting your vet. 

At-Home Treatment and Remedies

Here are the things that you can immediately do to help your dog to at least make him more comfortable while dealing with Pruritus. 

Change in Diet

Once you have determined that your dog is suffering from allergies due to some ingredients in his food, then it is best to change his food right away! You might have switched to another brand, so it will be good if you go back to the old brand of kibble.

If you are not sure if it was the kibble that caused the allergies, then you can switch to a raw food diet in the meantime. You can boil carrots or potatoes for your dog. Also, you can offer him boiled chicken or beef. 

Remove Foreign Objects

Upon closer inspection of your dog, you noticed that he is developing skin irritations due to grass. So you need to remove those immediately. The same goes for any foreign objects that got stuck in their paws. On the other hand, if you are dealing with parasites, never remove them by yourself, you should let your vet take care of that.

Cold Compress

If your dog has started to develop itchy bumps, you can relieve the itchiness by applying a cold compress. In this way, you can lessen your dog’s scratching and biting behavior until the time that you can visit your vet. This will also prevent any wounds from happening.

Training and Bonding

Teaching your dog a few simple tricks can enhance trust between the two of you which can lessen their anxiety. You can also devote a significant amount of time to just bond and play with your dog so that he will not become bored.

Visit the Vet

When the cause of the itchiness is medical problems, never give medications or topical treatments to your dog without consulting your vet. Go for a check-up so that your vet can give you the proper medication and treatment. 

Elimination of Parasites 

Your vet will give you oral and topical medications to deal with parasites. It will depend on the current condition of your dog, but usually, treatment lasts for two weeks. They may give your dog steroids, antibiotics, or even shots. 

Treatment of Skin Conditions

Besides the medications that your vet will prescribe to your dog, you will also be directed to take care of your dog’s bumps, itches, or wounds. This may include adding something to their food or applying topical creams. You may also need to bathe your dog with a special treatment shampoo.

General Physical Exam

A skin test may be needed if the vet thinks that your dog may be suffering from other diseases. If these tests come back negative, then a general physical exam may be done just so other sicknesses may be ruled out. For the general exam, these are usually x-rays and blood tests. 

Final Thoughts

Seeing your dog scratching and biting himself may be stressful, but just imagine how much discomfort your dog may be feeling. So instead of worrying over it, immediately get down to business and try to determine the cause of your dog’s itchiness. The solution can be as simple as changing his food. Remember, early detection of the problem can prevent any serious problems from occurring. 

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