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
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Why Constantly Itching Occurs in Dogs
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Some of the infectious forms of itching in dogs include yeast, fungal, and bacterial infections such as ringworm and malassezia.
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.
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.
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.
Constantly Itching Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
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.
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My Chihuahua is constantly itching. No visible fleas/mites, skin is a little dry but nothing major, no hot spots. At times she will run around house rolling and rubbing on anything she can. It almost looks like she is possessed!! Her eyes get wild looking and she is miserable. I've tried cortisone spray, coconut oil and lavender oil. She keeps me up most of the night. Not sure what to do??? Could it be something internal like worms or a parasite?
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itches all over
There are numerous causes of itching including allergies, skin infections, parasites, hormonal conditions, chemical irritation, nutritional deficiency, internal disease among other causes; if two dogs are affected it may be due to parasites, allergies or chemical irritants (did you change any cleaning products before the this started?). A visit to your Veterinarian would be required to narrow down on a diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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