Owners of pets that are constantly scratching will want to know how to relieve itching in dogs.
When Itching Becomes a Problem
When itchy dogs scratch a lot, it can be painful and upsetting for them as well as distressing for their owners. A certain level of scratching is completely normal for canines. They will scratch to relieve themselves of a temporary annoyance such as debris caught in the coat or an insect climbing on the skin. Some dogs simply enjoy a good scratch without there being any cause for concern.
Itching becomes a problem when a dog scratches to such an extent that he breaks the skin and causes an open sore. The sore then has the opportunity to become infected, leading to further complications. Itchy skin infections of this degree are referred to as "pruritus."
Causes of Itching in Dogs
Before it is possible to relieve itching in dogs, it is necessary to determine the cause. Unfortunately, there are numerous causes for itching, and even vets can have problems identifying the root of the irritation.
One of the most easily remedied causes of itching in dogs is a parasitic infection. Fleas and other insects bite at the a dog's flesh, causing him to itch and scratch. Some dogs actually have an allergy to fleas and this can exacerbate the problem. Ear mites also cause itching around the ears and head.
Like humans, some dogs are prone to eczema. This can be very uncomfortable, especially if the condition becomes chronic. Moist eczema, commonly referred to as a "hot spot," is one such condition many pet owners are familiar with. Although some owners believe white haired dogs are particularly prone to hot spots, this isn't completely true. White fur simply allows owners to detect the problem quicker, while darker colored dogs' hot spots may go unnoticed until fur loss becomes evident.
Dogs can be allergic to a variety of things, and narrowing down the cause can be a difficult task. Dogs can be allergic to grasses or plants, as well as chemicals used to spray gardens or parks. Food allergies can also spark skin reactions.
Skin infections are another source of itching. As mentioned previously, secondary infections can take hold when a dog's scratching ruptures the skin. Fungal irritants like ringworm and yeast infections can also make dogs miserable.
Diet can certainly affect how a dog feels. A poor or unbalanced diet can upset the skin's delicate balance, leading to dry flaky patches. Food allergies can also be included in this category.
Dogs love to roll around on the ground! As a consequence, they can pick up dirt, grass, twigs and other items that will make them itch.
Mission: How to Relieve Itching in Dogs
When scratching goes beyond normal, a vet can help identify the cause and devise a treatment plan. In the meantime, there are a number of things that can be done to provide an itchy dog with some relief.
Dogs should be treated with a parasitic treatment if they are showing any signs of infestation. There are a wide number of flea control products and miticides available, including collars, liquid treatments and injections. A vet or chemist will be able to advise on whether there are any location specific parasites that also need to be treated.
Minor itching can be reduced by using a special dermatological shampoo at each washing or as advised by your vet. An oatmeal bath may also be just as beneficial for your dog as it would be for a child with chicken pox. Just be sure to rinse all the oatmeal out of the dog's coat when you're finished.
In some cases, frequent shampooing might not be advised, especially if the dog's skin is particularly dry. In these situations, gentle brushing with a medium strength bristle brush will remove debris from the coat, but you have to be careful not to scratch the damaged skin.
Humans aren't the only ones who should eat a healthy diet! Providing well-balanced nutrition will help keep a dog in tip top condition, and this will reduce itching and scratching. If your dog's kibble is diagnosed as the cause of his skin irritation, your vet will recommend a hypo-allergenic diet for your pet. You might even choose to cook for your dog instead of feeding him commercial dog food.
Depending on a dog's diagnosis, a vet may prescribe certain medications to alleviate the conditions. Antibiotic may be used to clear up infections, while corticosteroids are generally prescribed to bring the itching under control.
Additional Tips to Help Reduce Itching
- Wearing an Elizabethan collar can prevent a dog from chewing an itchy wound, and allow the wound more time to heal.
- Holding an ice pack wrapped in a towel against the itchy area can provide temporary relief. Just make sure to remove the pack after a few minutes to make sure you're not doing additional damage to the skin.
- In a pinch, a dilute salt water solution can be used as an antiseptic cleanser to stop infection. Be sure to rinse the area well.
Skin irritations are definitely unpleasant, but many dogs will suffer from some degree of itching during their life. Most cases are relatively minor and are easily treated once you have an idea of how to relieve itching in dogs. Just remember, your vet is always there to help you sort out the problem, so never think you and your dog have to deal with the situation alone.