4 min read


Why Do Dogs Always Scratch Themselves



4 min read


Why Do Dogs Always Scratch Themselves




Is your dog’s hind leg always working on the area behind his ears, scratching an itch that does not seem to go away at all? Has he been rubbing himself against a piece of furniture? Does he look like he is trying to find relief? 

Are you the confused dog owner who does not understand the situation because your dog has been regularly taking medication to prevent ticks and fleas from making a home out of him? You are not alone. There are plenty of dog owners who do not know where to start but would like to do something to help.

Scratching is natural for dogs but have you ever noticed your dog scratching himself more frequently? Scratching once in a while is perfectly fine, however, frequent scratching can be a sign of something more serious and can make that particular problem a lot worse if not addressed right away.

The Root of the Behavior

It is important to know that there are external as well as internal reasons for excessive scratching. It is also important to acquaint yourself with these reasons, so you can correctly determine the next steps that you should take.

One of the most common reasons for scratching is allergies but can also be fungal. If you see that your dog has some areas without hair or there is some scaling on the skin, your precious pooch most likely has a fungal infection. Many of these fungi are contagious, not only to canines but also to humans. The issue might just go away with treatment such as topical ointment prescribed by the vet, but it is important to schedule another visit because the fungi might come back. 

Yeast is another reason for itching. You can tell if your dog has yeast because you will see itchy ears, loss of hair, skin lesions, and an unpleasant smell. Yeast is commonly the result of some type of allergies such as food or pollen. You can prevent yeast by making sure that your dog is always clean and dry. Humidity is a favorite of yeasts so you may want to blow your dog’s hair dry on a low heat setting after a bath if he has this problem.

Mites are the reason for mange in dogs and they cause irritation which makes dogs scratch themselves senseless. The tell-tale signs of mites are scabs and hair loss. Mange can get serious and can sometimes cause the death of puppies and geriatric dogs. Just like humans, dogs also get allergic to certain foods, and food allergies are often reflected on the skin. In order to be certain if your dog has any food allergy, you can eliminate certain foods and observe if there are any changes. 

Some of the most common internal causes of scratching are a hormonal imbalance or any alteration of the thyroid, ovaries, testes, or adrenal glands,  and seborrhea or excessive scaling of the skin.

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Encouraging the Behavior

Scratching is something which must not be encouraged in dogs. It is something which must be immediately given attention to because not only does it cause bad hair days but it can harm your dogs in the long term. You would not want to see your dogs with bald spots and scaly skin and you also do not want him to smell like he just came out of the sewer.

It may seem counterintuitive or strange but if your dog is not suffering from any physical ailment, then it is abnormal for dog owners to see their pets scratching and biting himself repeatedly. One of the things you should look at is your time away from the house. Are you away for long and extended periods of time? Is your dog left alone pretty much by himself?

One way of discouraging the behavior is by making sure that your dog gets enough exercise daily and that he has chew toys, as well as puzzles and ample water and food while you are away. Boredom and separation anxiety can lead to your dog finding other ways to keep himself entertained and in the absence of other alternatives to chewing and playing, he may resort to scratching.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Aside from determining what is causing your dog from itching and following your veterinarian’s instructions, there are other things which you can do to make your dog feel better.

The easiest thing that you can do is to ensure your dog has the right kind of nutrition. This will help keep him in healthy condition and will also reduce scratching and itching. Your veterinarian might even recommend a diet that is hypo-allergenic.

Using a special dermatological shampoo is something that can help relieve your dog. For example, an oatmeal bath can do wonders for your dog, just as it does wonders for children who suffer from chicken pox. Just make sure that you rinse the oatmeal out of the dog’s coat thoroughly.


Itching can be caused by plenty of things such as food allergies, fleas, yeast, hormonal imbalance, fungi, and bacteria. If you notice that your dog is scratching more often than it should, it is important to take him to the veterinarian right away so that a diagnosis is made, and the proper course of action is taken.

Written by a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

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