Your pooch is scratching his ears, neck and belly. He scratches constantly, but you can't figure out why. A number of culprits can make your pooch itch -- food allergies, environmental allergens, fleas and even dog shampoo.
Regardless of breed or age, any dog at anytime can have an allergic reaction to his dog food. Lower-quality dog foods contain corn, wheat and soy products that can cause itchy skin. Synthetic preservatives such as BHA and BHT found in dog foods can also cause a skin reaction. Feed your dog a good quality dog food that lists lean meats as the first three ingredients, and avoid foods that contain meat meal or meat byproducts (organs, feet, feathers, blood and crushed bone. You may want to consider a good quality dog food designed for sensitive skin.
Pollen, dust mites and surface contacts can cause itchy skin. If your dog has specific areas on his skin that itch, it could be from contact with wool or laundry detergent. Change his bedding and wash with a different detergent. If your dog is allergic to pollen or dust mites, your veterinarian will do blood tests and skin scrapings to determine the culprit. Vacuum twice a week, keep windows closed and wipe your dog's paws after he has been outside. Treatment for environmental allergies includes steroids, topical creams and antihistamines.
Some dogs are allergic to a single fleabite. They can scratch an area until they break the skin, allowing bacteria to grow. Preventive measures include products such as flea collars, flea powders, flea baths, flea spot treatments and flea medication. Your veterinarian can suggest the best product for your dog. In the meantime, he may prescribe a steroid or antihistamine to relieve the itching. You can eliminate fleas from your home with vacuuming, spray insecticides and flea bombs. Use a spray insecticide outside your home as well.
Some dog shampoos can cause an allergic reaction on your dog's skin. Avoid human shampoo because the pH is not right for a dog. Any shampoos that have coloring, preservatives and fragrances may affect your pup's skin. If you bathe your dog too often, it can cause dry skin. Not completely rinsing out the shampoo can cause itchy skin. Look for shampoo that contains oatmeal or aloe to sooth his skin. Brush your dog before shampooing to loosen dirt and distribute his natural oils. Shampoo, rinse and let him air dry instead of using a blow dryer that can dry the skin.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.