Itchy dogs are abundant in veterinarian offices. Dog skin problems can lead to scratching the face, ears, or body with a hind foot; rubbing the face on the floor or with front feet; or persistent paw, genital or belly licking. The fur of white or lighter colored dogs can be stained a rusty color from the dog’s saliva following constant licking. A dog that continually licks his abdomen will develop patchy black pigment in the skin. Dogs that scratch or lick frequently can lose their hair in the irritated areas or develop skin infections.
Recognizing dog skin problems is the easy part, determining the cause can be the challenge. An itchy dog can be a symptom of numerous skin disorders. Noting the details can help you and your dog’s vet identify the culprit: when the itching began; how severe is the problem; whether there are signs of external parasites (fleas, ticks, or mites); is there evidence of a skin infection; whether this is a reoccurring problem, if so, what factors were present in previous episodes (a particular season or environment); what dog medicines helped in the past (antihistamines, corticosteroids, antibiotics, medicated shampoos, change in diet, holistic dog treatments).
There is a number of dog skin problems that can lead to an itchy dog. Some common causes are an inhalant allergy, food allergy, contact hypersensitivity, skin parasites, dog ear infections, seborrhea, and obsessive-compulsive licking.
Itchy Dog-Inhalant Allergy
Most dog skin allergies are due to airborne substances and they produce symptoms such as an itchy dog and dog ear infections. An allergy diagnosed as an inhalant allergy is identified by itchiness at first linked to a season or environment that may later become constant.
This dog skin allergy often starts in young adulthood (ages one to four). The behaviors of the dog usually include paw-licking, face rubbing, belly-licking; and recurrent dog ear infections.
Treatment for dog skin allergies from environmental factors includes fish oil supplements, oral antihistamines, weekly baths with colloidal oatmeal shampoo, antihistamine or corticosteroid sprays, hyposensitization therapy (allergy shots) corticosteroid injection or tablets (rarely used).
Different antihistamines work better for different dogs. If your dog has been on one antihistamine and it hasn’t helped, talk to your vet about trying another. Four antihistamines that work well for many dogs include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), hydroxyzine (Atarax), clemastine (Tavist), and cetirizine (Zyrtec). Talk to your vet for the appropriate dose for your dog.
Hyposensitization therapy or allergy shots is an option so people choose for their animal companions. The principal is to periodically inject into the skin minute amounts of the purified substance or substances your dog is allergic to, so he will develop, and increased tolerance to them. Individual dogs must be tested for the allergens and have a formula created for their specific allergies. This option can be expensive and time-consuming and may not be available for every dog.