ITCHING in dogs – Possible Causes & Treatment

ITCHING in dogs

Here’s a breakdown of why dogs get itchy, including key takeaways for owners:

Why The Itch? Possible Causes

  • Parasites:

    • Fleas are the obvious culprit, but don’t forget…
    • Mites – Tiny, often hard to see, causing various skin reactions
    • Lice – Skin eaters leading to bald patches and irritation
  • Skin Diseases:

    • Ringworm (Fungal) – Think circular bald spots, contagious to humans too!
    • Yeast Infections – Common in certain breeds, often fueled by allergies or weakened health
    • Bacterial Infections – Damaged skin is an open door for these
  • Dry Skin: Too cold or too hot weather can cause discomfort, leading to licking and scratching.

  • Allergies:

    • Food – It’s not always fleas! Even small treats can trigger reactions.
    • Environmental – Pollen, dust, even YOUR perfume might irritate their skin.
  • Stress: Yes, dogs get stressed too! It can manifest physically as itchy skin.

Diagnosis Isn’t Easy

  • Many conditions LOOK similar – vets need clues:

    • When did it start? Any changes in the dog’s life before the itch?
    • Are the symptoms seasonal?
    • Did you try any at-home remedies?
  • Tests Might Be Necessary:

    • Skin scrapings (checking for mites)
    • Skin cultures (fungus or bacteria)
    • Allergy trials (ruling out triggers)

Treatment Depends on the CAUSE

  • Don’t self-medicate! You could make it worse.
  • Parasites: Specific meds are needed, not all flea treatments work on everything.
  • Infections: Antibiotics or antifungals targeted to the problem.
  • Allergies: Managing them is often long-term. This might mean diet changes, allergy meds, etc.

Prevention is Key

  • Regular parasite control is non-negotiable.
  • High-quality diet builds healthy skin, making it less vulnerable.
  • Minimize stress – happy dogs are less likely to have skin flare-ups.

Key Takeaways

  • “My dog is itchy” is a SYMPTOM, not a diagnosis.
  • Vets are your allies – they have the tools to uncover the root cause.
  • Don’t expect quick fixes – treating underlying issues takes time.
  • Investing in prevention saves you and your dog a lot of misery in the long run!

Most Common Causes of Itching In Dogs:

There are no fleas, but the dog is itching – this is precisely the complaint with which clients quite often turn to us for help. The reasons, due to both external and internal factors, may be different. Let’s look at the main ones.


If your dog is itching, the itching may be caused by mites, lice, or lice. These ectoparasites are very small and even microscopic in size, so they are almost impossible to detect with the naked eye. The most dangerous ticks are carriers of various diseases that affect not only animals but also humans. There are many types of such parasites in nature, but the most common are the following:

Ixodid Ticks:

Due to salivary secretions, the dog experiences severe itching, resulting in scratching on the head, neck, and ears. An allergic reaction may occur, which manifests itself in the form of a rash.

Gamasid Mites:

Typically affects rodents and birds, but can use a dog to move to a new location. Causes allergic reactions of varying severity.

Subcutaneous Mites:

They settle in the epidermis, feeding on its keratinized particles, which causes demodicosis. They cause severely itchy inflammations on the nose, mouth and eyes, which eventually begin to fester.

Scabies Spider Mites:

They cause severe itching at night and lead to serious wounds due to constant scratching.

Ear Mites:

They settle in the ear canals, where they feed on secretions. While they are making their way to them, they can chew the skin on any part of the body to get to the lymph. When they appear, the dog scratches its ears and constantly shakes them.

Lice and lice eat particles of skin and soft fluff.

They usually settle on the head and neck, as well as along the spine. In these places, the hair gradually falls out and rashes appear.

Skin Diseases in Dogs:

Often, skin diseases in dogs are accompanied by unbearable itching, which makes pets scratch constantly. There are a lot of such ailments; in most cases, an accurate diagnosis can be made only after laboratory and other types of research.


Dermatophytosis is caused by fungi that live in the upper layers of the skin and fur. The disease most often affects animals with a weakened immune system, exacerbation of chronic diseases, under stress, poor nutrition, or undergoing long-term steroid therapy.

It is dangerous because it affects not only pets but also people, so treatment should be approached with the utmost seriousness.

In addition to the fact that an adult dog or puppy is constantly itching, you can find other symptoms of dermatophytosis:

  • Balding areas of skin with redness;
  • Peeling and crusting;
  • Fragility of wool;
  • Formation of abscesses.

The fungus most often affects the head, tail, and front legs, but can spread throughout the body.

Malassezia Dermatitis:

The disease is caused by yeast-like fungi from the genus Malassesia, which settle on the skin and surface of the ears. As a rule, such dermatitis is secondary, develops against the background of another skin disease, or manifests itself as a result of decreased immunity.

West Highland white terriers, basset hounds, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, and poodles are genetically predisposed to it, although the fungus can affect any breed of dog.

Malassezia dermatitis most often develops in warm, humid weather. It can be local or generalized (distributed throughout the body). Its symptoms:

  • Skin redness;
  • Small pimples without purulent contents;
  • A rusty shade of fur in the affected area.

Trying to eliminate the itching, the dog scratches its head and constantly licks other infected areas, thereby further injuring them. As a result, scratches and crusts begin to appear, and a greasy coating with an unpleasant odor accumulates on the skin.

Irritation from Cold or Heat:

If your dog is itching, the reason may lie in overheating or frostbite, which injures the skin. Because of them, the pet begins to constantly lick the affected areas, which leads to the appearance of acral dermatitis.

First, the skin turns red, then crusts, scales, and purulent discharge appear on it, and the hair gradually falls out. Then the epidermis becomes denser, and dense tissue with wounds, cracks, fistulas, and suppurations is formed. All this is accompanied by severe itching. Without treatment, the disease leads to dangerous intoxication and even cancer.


If you cannot visually determine why your dog is itching, the cause may be allergic reactions that occur in animals just like humans. Most often they are observed in toy terriers, English and American bulldogs, dachshunds, Staffordshire bull terriers, and Yorkshire terriers.

Allergies are common in dogs, which are often fed treats from the master’s table – sometimes even a small piece of smoked fish or fatty sausage can cause severe itching.

Food allergies can often be determined quite simply: a dog or puppy itches literally half an hour to an hour after eating the allergen. Along with itching, there is redness of the skin and the appearance of a rash on the stomach and other places where there is no fur.

If symptoms are left untreated, your pet will scratch itself into wounds, which over time can become infected with fungi or bacteria, making the situation worse.

Dogs often have allergic reactions to other allergens besides food – household chemicals, owner’s perfume, pollen, dust, medications, etc. In such cases, determining the cause is much more difficult – this has to be done by exclusion, while simultaneously taking the necessary measures to alleviate the pet’s condition.


In medicine, this disease is called trichophytosis or microsporia, depending on what fungus it is caused by. It should be taken seriously due to the fact that ringworm, like dermatophytosis, affects not only animals but also humans.

Most often, infection occurs through contact with stray dogs. Puppies, older pets, and individuals with reduced immunity are most at risk of infection.

Ringworm usually affects the paws and head, forming round lesions on them, but over time it can spread throughout the body. The following symptoms are also observed:

  • Redness and peeling of the skin;
  • Hair loss;
  • Severe itching.

The dog is noticeably nervous, cannot find a place for itself, scratches, and even tries to chew the areas affected by lichen. Due to the fact that the skin is damaged, the fungus begins to spread faster, in addition, the wounds can become infected, which will lead to serious inflammation.

Bacterial Infections:

One of the most common bacterial diseases is pyoderma, which is caused by staphylococci and streptococci. It is characterized by purulent inflammation of the superficial and deep layers of the skin.

It affects dogs of all breeds and any age, most often occurring with reduced immunity, infectious and parasitic diseases, and sudden changes in living conditions.

If you can’t figure out why your puppy is itching, it may be due to pyoderma. Young animals are susceptible to a special form of this disease that causes red bumps to appear in the armpits, groin, and abdomen.

Over time, they increase in size and spread across the skin, causing itching. However, there are no other negative symptoms.

Hyperfunction of the Sebaceous Glands:

The exact reason why the sebaceous glands are disrupted has not yet been established. However, there are certain factors that indicate a predisposition to this condition:

Itching occurs in the area of the tail and anus, in these places you can find redness, peeling, and the appearance of blackheads. The fur sticks together and gradually falls out.


Oddly enough, dogs can also experience itchy skin when under extreme stress. The fact is that during intrauterine embryonic development, nervous tissue, and skin are formed from one germ layer. Thus, these two organs (skin and nervous system) are very connected. Most often, during times of stress, dogs lick the front surfaces of their limbs, and ulcerative lesions often form in these places.

Diagnosis Of Itchy Skin:

Diagnosing the causes of itchy skin is often a difficult task for both the doctor and the owner. There are quite a few tests and studies that can confirm any skin disease.

At the appointment, the doctor will definitely ask the owner some questions: how long ago the problems appeared, what happened before – itching or lesions on the skin. Have you had skin problems before and,

if so, is there any seasonality in the manifestation of the disease, for example, itching appears every spring. Have you started taking any medications and treatments on your own, and did they have a positive effect? What and when were the last treatments for external parasites carried out?

Next, the dermatologist will conduct some skin tests:

Superficial Scraping:

It is carried out to exclude diseases such as sarcoptic mange and cheyletiosis. However, it is not always possible to find sarcoptic mange in scrapings; there may not be enough mites in the material taken for detection.

Deep Scraping:

Used to detect demodicosis. It is most often not difficult to detect demodicosis, but false-positive results are occasionally possible. It is necessary to evaluate the results obtained together with the clinical picture.


With the help of cytological examination, it is possible to identify secondary bacterial and fungal infections, cells of inflammation and allergic reactions, cells of autoimmune processes.

Native Ear Swab:

By taking a swab from the ears, it is very easy to detect ear mites there. Finding even one tick confirms the diagnosis.

To identify the cause of the allergic reaction, a trial treatment is carried out: flea treatments, and an elimination diet.

To make a diagnosis of atopy, it is necessary to go through all the above steps and exclude all other possible diagnoses.

Stress-induced itch is also diagnosed by exclusion, but the animal will not respond to medications used to relieve normal skin itch.

Treatment Of Itchy Skin:

If your dog itches, licks, and chews its fur, do not rush to change food. Allergies and atopy in dogs and cats should be looked for after research into the above irritants. Take tests from the affected areas, a wash from the eyes, scraping from the skin, blood for worms, etc.

If the tests are clear, then pay attention to what new food your pet ate and whether it might have picked up something during a walk. Perhaps the house has a new carpet or bed, new perfume, hand cream, soap, floor cleaner, etc. Inspect the ammunition, it might be pinching or rubbing somewhere. If the dog begins to itch sharply with the appearance of something new in the house, then try to eliminate the allergen and observe. Antihistamines will help.

Some fungi and bacteria stay in our pets’ bodies all their lives and do no harm, but under certain factors, they begin to actively multiply and cause a lot of trouble. It is necessary to start treatment on time.

You can get tested purposefully and not overpay for an examination by a veterinarian. Go for a consultation with a dermatologist with ready-made results.

Veterinarians often make diagnoses by eye. Be prepared that they will dissuade you and claim that taking tests is useless, they will not show anything, etc. Insist on your point of view.

In terms of external signs, many of the causes of scratching and receding hairline are similar, but the treatment is fundamentally different. There is a possibility of harming your pet from incorrectly selected treatment and spending extra money, but there will be no result.

How To Prevent Itchy Skin?

Parasitic diseases can be successfully prevented by using anti-parasite remedies in the form of drops on the withers, tablets, and collars. These drugs must be used constantly, depending on the duration of their action indicated in the instructions.

Allergic reactions are difficult to prevent since this disease is often hereditary and transmitted from parents to offspring.

You can avoid itching caused by stress by creating a favorable environment for your dog. A specialist zoopsychologist can help with this. He will advise you on how to properly build a relationship with your dog, how to properly walk and exercise, and what exercises are best for him.

You can safely reduce itching by using decoctions of strawberry leaves and roots, string, young birch leaves, oats, and oak bark. Antipruritic shampoos that contain sulfur, coal tar, and salicylic acid are also used for treatment. The sulfur solution helps fight ectoparasites and also neutralizes their waste products, which leads to the development of the inflammatory process.

If skin irritation is caused by an allergic reaction, the diet should include foods high in omega fatty acids (of all the foods that can be given to dogs, the highest content of these substances is found in cold-water fish), flaxseed oil, or fish oil.


If a dog itches, scratches itself until it bleeds, or chews out its fur, most often when visiting a veterinary clinic, they make a diagnosis of allergies or atopic dermatitis and recommend hypoallergenic food, a change in protein with the obligatory use of expensive medications, etc.

These drugs generally relieve the symptoms a little, but the reason remains. Accustoming and dependence occur on drugs that have a detrimental effect on the immune system. While taking them, other problems appear.

Aapt Dubey
Aapt Dubey

Aapt Dubey, a devoted canine enthusiast and experienced dog Owner, brings boundless passion to our team. With a heart full of love for our four-legged friends, Aapt is dedicated to sharing insights on dog care, behavior, and training to make every pup's life happier and healthier at

Know More

Recommended For You