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Why does my dog scratch so much

July 17, 2022


There are many causes that can cause irritation and hair loss, sometimes in a localized way and in others in a generalized way. Some of these causes are trivial and others instead require our attention or a veterinary visit. Continue reading and we will see the most common causes and solutions.


My dog scratches a lot, is it normal?


We should not worry if our dog scratches a little. Dogs scratch themselves every day, just like us, to soothe any slight itchiness on their skin. If we do not see that the dog has visible wounds or sores, or other worrying symptoms, in principle, there is no need to be alarmed.


But these symptoms that we list below are no longer normal, and we should pay attention when:


  • Our dog scratches obsessively.
  • We see sores, skin rash, redness or wounds.
  • If we notice a bad smell on their skin.
  • If before your dog didn’t scratch itself much and now suddenly it does it nonstop (that is, the normal behavior has changed).

Depending on the symptoms there are different probable causes.


My dog scratches a lot - Parasites


The appearance of external parasites, especially if we are talking about an infestation, can cause serious health problems in the dog, in addition to hair loss, since some act as vectors of other diseases. We are talking about fleas, ticks, mites, mosquitoes and lice.


The uncontrolled presence of external parasites causes discomfort and irritation of the dog's skin, which causes constant scratching, and may even bite itself to relieve itching, which easily leads to wounds, scabs and infections.


What to do if your dog has parasites?


The first step will be to check the dog's coat completely, paying special attention to the neck area, ears, legs, armpits and groin area. If you observe the presence of parasites, it will be imperative to bathe your dog with the use of an antiparasitic shampoo, the manual removal of ticks and the use of a flea comb to remove the rest.


Two days after the bath we will use a pipette or an antiparasitic collar to repel and avoid a second infestation. In addition, it is advisable to carry out a blood test to rule out any disease (leishmania or babesiosis, for example) and offer the dog a pill for internal deworming, since some of the external parasites may be carriers of heartworm or taeniasis.


It is important to note that scabies will require a different treatment than the one mentioned above, which requires a much stricter follow-up by the veterinarian.


Finally, we want to remind you that it is essential to clean and disinfect all the dog's personal belongings, especially fabrics, since parasites can survive in the environment. We will also deworm all the animals in the home.


My dog scratches a lot - Atopic or Allergic Dermatitis


Atopic or allergic dermatitis is a chronic disease of the dermis that causes inflammation and hypersensitivity. It is generally of hereditary origin, although there are breeds with a certain predisposition to suffer from it, such as the West Highland White Terrier, the Boxer, the Shar Pei or the French bulldog, among others. To develop this disease, the presence of environmental allergens is necessary, the most common being pollen, mites, chemicals, fertilizers or some fabrics.


We can see that the dog scratches itself a lot and makes wounds, loses hair, licks itself, constantly rubs different areas of the body with its paws and even bites itself. It is also common to witness fur and skin discoloration, watery eyes or thickened and darkened skin. When the dog scratches itself excessively and does not have fleas, the most common cause is usually this type of dermatitis.


What to do if your dog has atopic or allergic dermatitis?


Although atopic dermatitis has no cure, it can be controlled by eliminating the presence of allergens in the environment as much as possible, and offering the dog a veterinary prescription diet specially formulated for atopic dermatitis. On the other hand, supplements also help protect dogs from atopic dermatitis by reinforcing the skin barrier.


Using the right shampoo to bathe your dog is another essential step to help keep atopic dermatitis at bay.


In the most serious cases, the use of medication stipulated by the veterinarian may be necessary.


My dog scratches a lot - Seborrheic Dermatitis


Seborrheic dermatitis is a very common disease that affects the dog's dermis, causing scales, crusts and excess oil. The discomfort caused by the appearance of seborrhea causes a bad smell and discomfort in the dog, which can start scratching, causing wounds, irritation and hair loss.


The first phase can be defined as dry seborrhea and is identified by the presence of scales on the mantle, which is often confused with dandruff. If it is not treated, it becomes oily seborrhea, in which case we will see a lack of shine in the coat, greasy hairs attached to dry skin, scales and irritation of the dermis. Later this condition can cause infections, alopecia, fever and even depression. With this type of dermatitis it is common to observe that the dog scratches a lot and smells bad due to excess fat.


What to do if your dog has seborrheic dermatitis?


Finding the cause that is causing seborrhea is essential to start treatment and prevent the dog from scratching so much, which is why talking to a pet expert or a veterinary visit is required. However, in general, frequent baths are usually recommended with the use of an antiseborrheic soap that helps cleanse, protect and reduce inflammation of the skin, as well as a change in diet or the use of supplements that provide omega 3.


My dog scratches a lot and bites itself - Moist Dermatitis


Acute moist dermatitis is a health problem that tends to appear in summer and spring, mainly caused by excess moisture in the dog's dermis. Some factors, such as heat, parasites or allergies themselves, can favor the appearance of moist dermatitis. In addition, and due to the sensation of itching, the dog scratches and licks continuously, losing hair and weighing down the remaining fur in the area, which increases humidity levels and worsens the situation.


We should not confuse acute moist dermatitis with acral lick dermatitis, in this case the dog scratches a lot, bites and licks a specific area of the body in a stereotyped way and is generally due to a problem related to stress and anxiety.


What to do if your dog has moist dermatitis?


The veterinary visit is mandatory, since a skin scraping must be carried out to detect the presence of Staphylococcus, an opportunistic bacterium that proliferates rapidly when this pathology occurs. The treatment used is based on antibiotics.


The veterinarian may also recommend the use of a veterinary prescription shampoo to help soothe the skin, heal wounds, moisturize the dermis and reduce inflammation in the area.


My dog scratches a lot and has red skin - Contact Dermatitis


That the dog scratches a lot and has red or irritated skin is not an exclusive symptom of contact dermatitis, since it is also present in atopic dermatitis, for example. However, it is true that it is one of the main signs, since contact dermatitis appears when the dog comes into contact with a substance that causes skin irritation and hypersensitivity. In addition, this type of dermatitis can be aggravated if the dog already has skin problems.


Generally, it appears after the dog comes into contact with different types of chemical products, such as paints, dyes, bleach or fuel, and it is common to see inflammation of the skin, itching, scratching, scabs, redness and hair loss. However, it can also happen that the dog shows the reaction when it comes into contact with its new bed, collar, drinker or any synthetic object, for example. For this reason, it is common to see that the dog scratches his neck a lot if he has just got a new collar.


What to do if your dog has contact dermatitis?


If we observe that the dog is losing its hair in areas, for example if it scratches its neck a lot, we could suspect that the cause of the problem is its new collar, in which case we must remove it immediately. Likewise, it is advisable to talk to a pet expert or go to the veterinarian to ensure the diagnosis and receive temporary treatment to calm the discomfort that the dog may suffer. The use of a specific shampoo, antihistamines or applying a lotion to the affected area can be some examples of the treatment to be applied.


My dog scratches its face a lot - Food Allergy


Food allergy is an inappropriate and exaggerated response issued by the immune system to a substance that does not cause damage to the body. Generally, it is due to a genetic factor, but it can also occur spontaneously.


The most common allergens are corn, wheat, chicken or soy, but each dog can show hypersensitivity to a specific food. In the event that the dog suffers from a food allergy, we will observe various symptoms such as vomiting, excessive flatulence, diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite or frequent belching. But it can also happen that they do not present these symptoms and that we only observe skin reactions, such as irritation, redness and scratching, it being common to see that the dog scratches a lot and has swollen eyes.


What to do if your dog has food allergies?


To diagnose food allergy, the pet expert will take into account the symptoms that we observe in the dog and will propose an elimination diet, which consists of offering the dog different foods to detect which of them it is allergic to. The elimination diet is the only sure way to diagnose a food allergy, but it can take five to eight weeks to complete, in some cases even more than eight.


My dog scratches a lot and has bald spots - Fungus


Fungi are organisms that reproduce quickly in humid and warm environments, so their appearance in summer or on the skin of dogs that have many wrinkles is not unusual. It is very common to detect them, because the dog shows reddening of the skin, hair loss, scratching and serious injuries, mainly because it is a very annoying condition.


Fungi can affect all kinds of dogs and other living beings, regardless of their age or breed, as they are highly contagious and can be transmitted to people, other dogs and even other pets in the home.


What to do if your dog has fungus?


Due to the great variety of fungi that exist, the veterinary visit is mandatory. A Wood's lamp will be used, which can detect up to 50% of the parasites, and if this does not work, a tissue sample must be analyzed, such as hair, nails or skin. An examination under a microscope or a culture is then done.


The treatment to be followed is usually based on corticosteroids and/or antibiotics. It is also recommended to pay special attention to the dog's skin, avoiding humidity, drying thoroughly after each bath and cleaning their blankets frequently.


My dog scratches a lot but has nothing - Anxiety and Stress


All dogs experience small spikes in stress during the day. It is an automatic response of the body to a stimulus and it can be positive or negative, which will cause different reactions in the dog's body.


Chronic stress can lead to the appearance of stereotypies, constant repetitive movements with no apparent purpose, which can result in excessive scratching or continuous biting. In addition, as a result of immunosuppression, we can observe an alarming loss of hair.


What to do if your dog has anxiety and stress?


It is not always easy to assess the stress levels of the dog, in the most serious cases, it may be indicated to go to a specialist, such as an ethologist, canine educator or trainer, to help us identify the cause of stress and provide us with guidelines specific ones adapted to our situation. Even so, we can improve our dog's quality of life and begin to treat stress in the dog with relatively simple tricks: quality walks, use of intelligence toys, compliance with sleep hours, mental stimulation, avoiding exposure to fears etc.


Why does my dog scratch a lot and lose his hair?


All of the above causes can justify excessive scratching and shedding, however, when the dog scratches a lot and does not have fleas, wounds, redness, or any other symptom that alerts us to a health problem, it is most likely that it is about the coat change. There are many factors that can cause hair loss, such as temperature, health or sexual cycles. Shedding is by far one of the most common causes and can easily be mistaken for disease because not all areas of the coat shed at the same time.


There are three phases of hair: anagen, catagen and telogen, and they do not always coincide at the same time. The accumulated hair causes discomfort to the dog and it is common to see the dog scratching and losing hair, for this reason, many people can get confused and think that their dog suffers from some pathology.


Shedding is governed by changes in light which, unlike temperature, are much more stable. Thus, we will observe a greater loss of hair during the changes of season. It is also common for dogs to experience unregulated shedding when living indoors or that some breeds lose more hair than others.


What to do if your dog is changing coats?


When we begin to detect the dog's shedding, which generally begins in autumn and spring, it will be essential to spend more time brushing, which must be done daily so that the dog is comfortable. In addition, we can make the dog's bath coincide after a brushing session, in this way we will be able to remove much more dead hair.


To promote the growth of beautiful and shiny hair, we can consult with a pet expert about the option of offering some type of supplement, but there are also foods, such as eggs and olive oil, that can greatly improve the quality of the coat. Offering one or two homemade recipes a week with these ingredients can be beneficial for the dog.


For more information, talk to one of our Pet Experts and get customized advice by submitting a request in our Mavyn websiteMavyn app or Mavyn Pet page.