If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ve probably at one time or another noticed him itching, chewing on his paws or even rubbing up against a fence or a piece of furniture. While occasional scratching is normal – think how often you scratch your nose! – for some people, their pup’s persistent itching is a constant worry and presents a struggle to find the cause.
Your first thought may be fleas, right? I mean, why else would my dog itch so often? But on closer inspection, you can’t find any of those irritating little pests on your best bud. So why in the world won’t my dog stop itching? Is it a symptom of a food allergy? In fact, the most common question we get asked is, “I’m looking for a new food. Fluffy’s itching, and I’m sure (I think) it’s chicken” (or fish, or grain, or beef, etc., etc., etc.) Other than helping dog owners find food for their picky eaters *link to article on picky eaters*, identifying a food that won’t make their dogs itch is a daily hurdle that we are glad to help with. Because we love our furry friends, we hate to see them in any kind of discomfort. So depending on the situation and how long your dog has been itching at herself, you’ve probably tried all sorts of store-bought and home remedies: changing foods, special shampoos, hemp-based lotions, grandma’s special salve. You name it, we’ve seen it at JDP.
Before you em-bark (ha ha!) on a wild goose chase to find out what’s irritating your dog, arm yourself with information about some common itch instigators so you can be strategic about what you try instead of just guessing. Once you know some of the usual causes, you can get started with an appropriate remedy. And remember, we’re only a phone call or an email away if you want to chat. So once fleas have been eliminated, a dietary allergy is only one of multiple reasons she may be itching.
What are some other reasons your dog won’t stop scratching?
Let’s find out. Reasons and possible remedies for your itchy dog:
1. Dry Skin § Winter/dry weather or ‘seasonal itching’
Just like people, some dogs have sensitive skin that gets dry and irritated during certain times of year. Fortunately, hydrating your dog’s skin will usually stop seasonal itching. We have customizable options at our Self Serve Dog Wash that are perfect for your pup’s needs! Come on in and suds up with our Itchy Dog package, which includes a gentle Oatmeal Baking Soda Shampoo and Luxury Remoisturizer Conditioner. Customers frequently tell us they notice less seasonal itching after this treatment, and marvel at how smooth their dog’s coat is as well. Solution: Using a quality dog-specific shampoo is a great first step in stopping your dog from itching incessantly. (Definitely no Head-and-Shoulders or other human shampoos—you r dog’s skin needs a PH balanced shampoo designed specifically for canine skin.) Hint: When you turn your heat on in the winter—it’s probably a good time to treat your dog (and her skin) to a nice bath…or a spa day at Just Dog People! § Fatty Acid deficiency
Another tried and true treatment for dry skin and coat is adding omega-3 and -6 fatty acid to your dog’s diet. If your dog is itching, doesn’t have fleas, and you are not aware of any food or environmental intolerances, (keep reading for more on these causes of itching), try adding these fatty acids to your dog’s diet. Your pup should be getting 20-55 mg of combined DHA and EPA (two main kinds of omega-3) per pound of body weight. Look on the side of the dog food bag—are omega-3 and 6 included? (show pics of bags with and without) If not, you can incorporate them in by way of supplements such as pills, powders, liquids/oils, etc. As a starting point, browse our selection of fatty acid supplements; “Grizzly Salmon Oil” is our most popular Omega product. Packaged in a pump bottle, simply apply to dog’s food, stir, and voila! Or, you can add fish to your pal’s diet – have you tried a dog food with fish as a main ingredient? And remember, you can always come in for a free dog food consultation. Solution: Take those omegas 3 and 6 via fish oil, supplements–or find a food that already contains your dog’s needed Omega allowance.
2. Intolerance or allergy to food
There are some common culprits for food allergens including the following: · Beef · Dairy · Chicken · Wheat · Soy · Lamb · Corn · Egg · Pork That said, any main ingredient can be causing an allergic reaction and setting off your dog’s itching. Furthermore, it could also be any micronutrient or additive in your dog’s food so you may need to experiment with different brands and ingredients. Solution: try a different dog food. To smoothly transition your furry friend to a new food, gradually change from food “a” to food “b” over a 7-10 day period. Start with 75% old food and 25% new for 2-3 days Move to 50/50 for 2-3 days Then 25% old, 75% new for the remaining period This will ensure our dog’s stomachs are prepared for the new food! And stick with the new food for 30-45 days to see if it makes any difference. You may want to start with our x product. It’s important to remember, dog allergies and dog intolerances are different. The topic is too in depth for this post, but please check out this article on the difference between Dog Allergies and Dog Intolerances.You can also read up on limited ingredient diets for your dog.
3. Intolerance to the environment
There are literally dozens of environmental elements that can cause your dog to itch. It can be things you wouldn’t suspect like grasses, weeds, other animals, dust mites, rat dung, wasps… Just today, as I’m writing this article, a customer of ours received her intolerance test results and couldn’t have been more shocked! I met “Dawn” in our store one day as she looked perplexed, staring at the labels on two different dog foods. I greeted her and asked her what specifically she was looking for (or looking OUT for), and she began to tell me all the things she’s done to stop her dog from itching. Dawn’s dog Spike was a bulldog, just over two years old. Over the period of about a year, he slowly showed signs that his intolerances were affecting him more and more. Upon hearing how many foods and even medicines Dawn had tried, I recommended she test her dog. She mentioned it was too expensive (almost $600). I spoke with her about intolerance testing and how many different factors can cause irritation and itching, and she decided to give it a try. Dawn purchased a test, went home and collected hair samples from her dog. About a week later, she shared her results with me—and let me say, we couldn’t have been more surprised! Instead of “Fish” or “Grain” or “Chicken” contributing to her dog’s itching, the factors we found to be highest were “Leather”, “Poplar,” and “Ragweed.” Come to find out, Dawn had made her dog a leather cot because he liked sleeping on the leather couch. And each evening after dinner she took her dog for a long walk through the woods behind their house. Dawn was astonished that this entire time, for YEARS, her dog’s sleeping arrangements and post-dinner activities were the leading intolerances causing him to itch! Solution: Because there are so many environmental factors that can cause sensitivities and scratching, the culprit may surprise you. Try thinking outside the box on what you change in your dog’s environment. And sometimes it’s worth the investment in testing for intolerances so you’re not taking a shot in the dark and you know what to focus on to help your pup feel better.
Katie and I are working quickly to bring a more advanced testing/solution tool to the market, and we expect completion by the end of March. Until then, please email us to learn more about Intolerance testing at +email@example.com
4. Force of Habit
Often when a dog has an itch, a sore or wound, or any other issue causing an itch, they focus so long on that area one that they actually develop a habit of licking. It’s similar to you and I biting our nails without really thinking about it. Licking can be self soothing to a dog, just like a baby sucking his thumb. Solution: try to keep an eye out on your pup and gently distract her when she starts itching that one spot! A puzzle toy, a short walk or a special treat can help distract them from obsessing over the itch.
Yes, it sounds odd…and this goes along with the ‘habit’ above, but if your dog simply lies around a boring house or inside a small kennel all day, she may develop the habit of gnawing, or itching at herself. Over time, this can cause secondary skin issues to develop too. And if a wound cannot stay dry and heal, you may notice that your dog’s persistent itching can cause open sores, causing even more problems for your dog. Solution: add in some stimulation for your pup, such as new toys and rotating through the toys he plays with, and getting plenty of time outside. And of course, nothing beats lots of interaction with his favorite human! Final Tips to Ditch the Itch Your dog’s constant scratching can come from seasonal dryness, food intolerances and allergies, environmental issues, health issues, or even passed down from ma and paw (haha, get it!). If you are trying to get your dog to stop itching on your own, we recommend that you make subtle changes, one at a time, and watch how your dog reacts. Keep a journal of your changes and dates. This will help if your journey takes longer than you expect—and can also help your vet during your dog’s next visit. Don’t hesitate to give your vet a call at any time. Often it will take weeks or even months for your dog to show improvement. Switching dog foods and treats often will make it difficult to narrow down on your own. We often tell customers that if they are switching foods, they should make one change per 30-45 days. Give the new food time to show results. And if you’d like to know sooner rather than later, give us a call or visit _____URL to Intolerance Test_____ to purchase an intolerance test today. Once complete, you’ll have a better picture as to what could be causing your dog to itch and which dog itching remedies will be your best bet. Until next time, Jason Just Dog People