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What is Constantly Itching?

Itching is a common behavior in dogs, from just a casual itch to an all-out “scratchfest”. You may notice your dog rubbing his face on things like walls, carpets, or furniture, trying to relieve an itch on his face. It may be a simple tickle on his nose, but he will continue until that tickle has been taken care of. It may also be a behavioral symptom. Your dog may scratch his ears or bite his feet due to boredom. The signs you will most likely notice are scratching, licking, face rubbing, hair loss, scabs or flaky skin, and biting parts of his body such as the feet, ears, and tail. Some of the most common reasons for constant itching include:

  • Fleas or mites
  • Dry skin
  • Allergy
  • Infection
  • Boredom
  • Nervousness
  • Habit

Why Constantly Itching Occurs in Dogs

Environment

Some common environmental reasons for itching are dry heat or lack of moisture, which causes dry skin. On the other hand, too much moisture in the air can cause hot spots (moisture eczema). This may be from being outside in the rain or snow. Make sure you let your dog indoors during rain and snow to prevent this from happening. Also, make sure to dry your dog well because prolonged moisture on the skin can cause bacteria to grow wild.

Nutrition

Just like humans, dogs need certain vitamins and nutrients to maintain healthy skin and coats. For example, imagine what your hair and skin would look like if you were seriously deficient in nutrients. Read the ingredients on your dog’s food and make sure he is getting a good amount of meat such as fish, lamb, chicken, or beef.

Parasites

One of the most common causes of itching in dogs is fleas. In fact, most people with dogs automatically think their dog has fleas as soon as they see him scratch. Of course, there are plenty of other parasites that can cause itching in your dog such as mites (sarcoptic or cheyletiella), lice, ticks, chiggers, mosquitos, and flies. 

Allergy

There are many causes of allergy in dogs, just like humans. Allergies are the second most common cause of itching in dogs. Flea allergy dermatitis, food allergy, allergy to shampoo or other product, and allergy to mold, pollen, or grass are all possible reasons for itching. Additionally, if you feed your dog the same kind of food all the time, sometimes his immune system builds up a resistance to the protein or another ingredient.

  • Flea allergy can be found in any breed at any age although dogs with long hair coats have a tendency to attract more fleas
  • Food allergies are more common in Labrador Retrievers, West Highland White Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels; the ingredients that most often cause allergic responses are wheat, soy, corn, eggs, dairy, fish, pork, and beef
  • Shampoo allergies are common because most owners tend to use too much shampoo (it is best to only use a small amount of shampoo especially made for dogs); talk to your veterinarian about what kind is best for your dog
  • The Shar Pei, Fox Terrier, Golden Retriever, West Highland White Terrier, Scottish Terrier, Shih Tzu, Dalmatian, Lhasa Apso, Boston Terrier, and Labrador Retriever are more susceptible to inhalant allergies like pollen and mold

Neurogenic

This is the worst type of itching because there is no known reason for your dog to be itching. In other words, it is a behavioral issue. Many dogs itch when they are nervous, bored, frustrated, or just because it is a habit. 

Infectious

Some of the infectious forms of itching in dogs include yeast, fungal, and bacterial infections such as ringworm and malassezia.

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What to do if your Dog is Constantly Itching

Your dog’s itching may not be a reason to see the veterinarian. If it seems like your dog is just itching out of boredom or frustration, you could try taking him for a walk or playing fetch.

However, if you think your dog may have fleas or other parasites, an infection, or a hot spot, you should call your veterinarian and make an appointment. Some of the treatments your veterinarian may suggest are flea shampoo or topical ointment, ivermectin for other parasites and medicated shampoo to soothe itchy skin. Corticosteroids may also be an option to help get rid of the itching.

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Prevention of Constantly Itching

To prevent itching, you should make sure your dog has a balanced diet free of preservatives and additives. If your dog is allergic to the food, he is eating, the veterinarian can suggest a special diet that will likely include a novel protein or a hypoallergenic food.

Keep your dog’s skin and coat clean and dry as much as possible and do not use too much shampoo when you bathe him. You should only bathe your dog about once or twice a month, although more often may be necessary if he gets extra dirty. Of course, this depends on your dog’s lifestyle. If he goes outside often, you may need to bathe him once a week or more. Be sure to use mild shampoo if that is the case.

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Cost of Constantly Itching

The cost of relieving your dog’s itch depends on the reason for the itchiness and your pet's response to the initial treatment. The cost can range from $10 for a medicated shampoo up to $2500 for a veterinary visit and allergy tests, which can be very expensive. The national average of treating itchiness is approximately $500.

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Constantly Itching Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Luna

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Husky

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Itch, Scratch, Lick And Bite

I recently just notice my dog stared to scratch herself like crazy (mostly in the back area) sometime face and ears, occasionally she would look like she bites her tail or lick her legs. I wasn’t sure what is the cause. She got all her shots n dewormed when I got her, she allergic to chicken because she always got diarrhea so I switched to beef and different brand too and her stool came out good. Her nose is wet over all looks healthy to me but it just the scratching and biting is getting out of hand. Took her the vet and he said give her some bendryl which did not help. I tried anti itch spray, anti itch calm shampoo doesn’t help either. I don’t know if she has ticks or flea since I couldn’t see because of her double coat long hair and also have tried tick and flea shampoo doesn’t help either. Please help!!

May 1, 2018

Luna's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

I noticed you asked two similar questions so I’ll answer them both together. There are various causes for a dog to be constantly itching which may include allergies, infections, parasites, chemical irritants, environmental factors (temperature, humidity etc…) among other less likely issues like autoimmune diseases among others. Without examining Luna thoroughly and checking the skin for parasites, signs of infection, trauma and other symptoms I cannot say what the cause is unfortunately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 1, 2018

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Luna

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Husky

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Itchy, Scratch, Lick And Biting

My dog Luna recently started to scratching herself near the back n cheeks a lot. Occasionally she would bite something in her back, tail and legs too. I don’t know what’s the cause as I know she allergic to chicken because she had diarrhea so I switched to beef flavor and her stool is perfect, nose is always wet. I try to look for flea and ticks but couldn’t find any because her fur is double coat very thick and long. Her skin color seems to be normal too. I’ve tried benedryl and calm itch shampoo and doesn’t seem to help either. One thing I noticed that she only scratch when she’s inside the home when I walk her or go to the park she seems to be normal rarely would scratch herself again. I honestly don’t know what is the problem :(

May 1, 2018

Luna's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

I noticed you asked two similar questions so I’ll answer them both together. There are various causes for a dog to be constantly itching which may include allergies, infections, parasites, chemical irritants, environmental factors (temperature, humidity etc…) among other less likely issues like autoimmune diseases among others. Without examining Luna thoroughly and checking the skin for parasites, signs of infection, trauma and other symptoms I cannot say what the cause is unfortunately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 1, 2018

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Gypsy

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Rottweiler

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5 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Constantly Scratching

5 month old rottweiler that constantly scratches. She didn't start scratching until we gave her a bath. She is now constantly scratching. Her skin is not red or irritated. She has some scabs and some fleas but that is all I noticed

April 2, 2018

Gypsy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Fleas can be a significant source of itchiness for dogs, and until you get rid of the fleas, it is unclear whether Gypsy has a bigger problem. Some shampoos are also very drying to the skin. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian to examine her skin and determine the best course of treatment.

April 2, 2018

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Leia

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Australian Cattle Dog

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15 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itching

My puppy has started constantly itching for the past two weeks. Most of the time she starts there is nothing I can do to get her attention, she is so focused on it. It isn't fleas and ticks as we are constantly checking. If it is boredom is there anything we can do? We constantly play with her and can't take her for a walk yet as she doesn't have all her vaccines. Any advice would be amazing! Thank you :)

March 10, 2018

Leia's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Common problems in puppies include parasites and bacterial or fungal infections. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they will be able to look at her skin, determine what might be going on, and give her appropriate therapy. I hope that all goes well with her!

March 10, 2018

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Trisha

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Shih-Tzu

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Ear Itching
Licking
Itching
Scratching
Dry Patches
Flakes
Neck Discomfort

My dog has been itching a little more than usual as of late. Since we got her when she was 8 weeks old, she always enjoyed a good scratch so it wasn’t anything unusual until now. In August due to lapse in her Frontline plus, she had a nasty flea problem that caused severe and constant itching for weeks. I mean she could barely sleep or lay down without violently scratching to the point of numerous hotspots and scabs. She was promptly treated once the problem was detected and the environment was treated as well. She was given steroids for a week in a September which helped tremendously. Since then, no more fleas or bites. Because of the fleas, I have been more aware of how much she scratches everyday so it is uncertain whether she is actually scratching more than usual or I’m being paranoid and thinking that she is. She mostly scratches her face/ears and licks her paws which have been stained for years. She also does the occasional armpit scratch. I took her to the vet about 1 month ago because she was flapping her ears and I thought she had an ear infection. The vet gave some medicine for the ears and told me that she has dry skin so he gave me medicated shampoo. The shampoo does provide some relief but she still has dandruff and flakes, more so on the top of the head and her back. About 3 weeks ago when I took her for a recheck for the ears, i asked the vet the possibility of her having scabies because I did some research and although she never showed the classic signs ( severe itching, redness, hair loss, scabs, red bumps) I just wanted to make sure. I’m context, my dog is rarely in contact with other dogs. She’s a house dog who goes on walks once a day and she goes to the groomers once every 6 weeks. My vet assured me that she doesn’t have scabies, and even though he did not perform a skin scraping, he gave me 2 doses of Revolution just for peace of mind. He told me it could be due to allergies due to the areas in which she is itchy, the lack of sore and scabs, and the fact that she sneezes often with a runny nose. I gave Trisha her second dose of Revolution 1 week ago. I can’t say for sure if her itching has gotten better because it has never gotten to the point of being constant, severe, or causing self trauma. She was scratching 100x more when she had fleas in August and I read that scabies is more itchy than fleas. My question is, how would I know if the Revolution was what Trisha needed? If she had scabies, would I not have seen at least some type of improvement in her condition, even if just a little? Could it really be just her dry skin and allergies causing the itching? I was thinking god adding salmon oil to her food to see if that helps with her condition. Her chest area right below her neck is pink at times so I’m not sure if that is due to the itching.

Dec. 3, 2017

Trisha's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Itching can be difficult to diagnose at times and some dogs will just occasionally itch themselves for no apparent reason, if the cause was scabies would have have notices severe signs of itching, self mutilation much more than the fleas. It is possible that Trisha is just itching herself the same as before and you’re just being extra vigilant due to the flea episode earlier in the year. From your description, it sounds like the itching is the same as before the Revolution than afterwards; it is really impossible for me to tell. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dec. 4, 2017

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