5 Tips to Help Your Dog Ditch the Itch
All dogs scratch occasionally. It’s just a natural fact of life.
But frequent or constant scratching, rubbing, licking and chewing is not normal, and could mean your dog has allergies, fleas — or something else. Because skin conditions in dogs are so common, here’s what you need to know about their causes and how you can help your best friend.
Continual scratching has many causes
A dog scratches, licks, chews and rubs as a result of an itching sensation in the skin. Itching can be mild or extreme, and even cause your dog to damage their skin in an attempt to find relief. It’s also important to know that itching isn’t a disease but the result of a disease process.
The most common causes of itching in dogs are:
- Allergies, including environmental and food allergies
- External parasites, such as fleas, mites or lice
- Infections, such as bacterial, yeast or ringworm
- Dry, flaky skin
- Boredom or anxiety
- Hormone imbalances, including too little thyroid hormone or too much cortisol
Regardless of the cause, persistent scratching, licking and chewing can make life miserable for your dog — and you. With so many potential causes for your dog’s symptoms, it’s important to have your veterinarian examine your dog’s skin and perform some diagnostic tests to help determine the underlying cause. Once the most likely cause is identified, your veterinarian will be able to recommend the best approach to helping your dog ditch their itch.
How you can help your itchy dog
Relieving your dog’s itchiness and controlling their symptoms may require a combination of therapies, depending on what’s making them scratch, lick or chew. Here are some tips for soothing your best friend’s skin that you can try. Your veterinarian will likely have more recommendations.
Eliminate parasites like fleas or mites.
Fleas are one of the most common reasons why dogs scratch and have irritated skin. If you’re not already treating your dog with a flea control product, you’ll want to do so. Don’t forget to check with your veterinarian for the most effective option for your dog and the area where you live.
Groom your dog regularly.
If your dog has dry skin due to a combination of cold, dry winter weather and indoor heating, brush them at least once or twice a day to remove skin flakes and loose hair. Brushing will also help stimulate and distribute the skin’s natural oils that form a protective, moisturizing barrier.
You’ll also want to bathe your dog regularly with a gentle, hypoallergenic or medicated (if your veterinarian recommends) shampoo that’s specifically formulated for dogs. Baths with lukewarm water can help remove dandruff and allergens while soothing irritated, itchy skin.
Address potential boredom or anxiety.
Dogs who are bored or anxious sometimes develop compulsive licking or chewing behaviors as a way to manage their stress, fear or boredom while home alone. Be sure your dog gets plenty of physical and mental activities to avoid these behaviors.
Supplement with omega-3 fatty acids.
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can help reduce skin itchiness and self-trauma from constant scratching and improve coat quality. You’ll want to ask your veterinarian about an appropriate dose for your dog, and be aware that it can take up to six weeks to see benefits from omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
Switch your dog’s food.
Even if your dog doesn’t have a food allergy but does suffer from environmental allergies, they may benefit from eating a high-quality food formulated specifically to support skin health, such as Diamond Naturals Skin & Coat All Life Stages Dog Formula. This new grain-free diet features salmon and fish meal as its protein sources and potatoes, lentils, peas and fava beans as its primary carbohydrate sources.
How the right food can help your itchy dog
Many nutrients — especially protein, fatty acids and water — are needed to help keep your dog’s skin healthy and their coat shiny. When your dog has skin issues, it’s even more important to feed a food that’s rich in protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins A and E, and the minerals zinc and selenium because these nutrients play essential roles in supporting your dog’s skin and coat.
When considering a skin and coat formula for your dog, here’s why you’ll want to look at these important skin-protecting nutrients:
Protein provides amino acids, which are the building blocks used to build and repair cells. If food doesn’t provide enough protein, your dog’s coat may become dry, dull and brittle. There may also be patches of hair loss.
Essential fatty acids
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids help maintain healthy skin, promote a strong immune system and play a role in cell growth and repair. If your dog doesn’t get enough essential fatty acids, then their skin may become dry, flaky and inflamed, and their coat may be dull looking with patches of hair loss.
Vitamins A and E along with minerals zinc and selenium are important to your dog’s healthy immune system and help protect your dog’s body from damage cause by free radicals. They also support healthy skin and shiny coat.
Finally, don’t forget to provide plenty of fresh, clean water to help your dog maintain their hydration. Even mild dehydration can play a role in skin dryness and flakiness. To encourage water intake during winter months, consider adding warm water to your dog’s dry food or adding a splash of low- or no-added-sodium broth to their water dish.
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