With bones to chew, things to explore and holes to dig, your dog has little time for scratching, licking and biting himself to relieve an annoying itch. But skin disorders, insects and allergies can turn your dog into a scratching fiend. A trip to the vet or medication usually helps.
When Old Man Winter arrives, he often brings with him a nasty case of dry skin for both humans and canines alike. Your pup will likely scratch all over and may rub up against your couch or other objects to relieve the itching. His skin will appear inflamed and usually scaly or flaky, and he'll have plenty of dandruff to spread around. Winter isn't the only time dry skin can happen, but it's the most common time. Shampoos, moisturizers and oils targeted to improve a dog's coat and skin can help your pup stop spending his days and nights scratching away.
Humans aren't the only ones to have their immune systems overreact to something harmless. Dogs that suffer from allergies usually experience symptoms that mimic dry skin. As the condition progresses, lesions and scabs may appear on your pup's skin, which can cause your dog discomfort and pain when you brush him. Although allergy tests are not 100 percent effective, they're still the most efficient way to tell what's causing problems for your furry friend. Your vet will either perform the allergy test or refer you to another vet that does.
Fleas have long been the bane of dog owners and dogs themselves. Up to 1/8 inch long, fleas feed on your dog and take refuge in your home. Flipping your dog over and parting his stomach hairs will often reveal the presence of fleas, but you need a quick eye, because the little parasites will scurry away. If an infestation is especially bad, the fleas will hide in your carpet, under baseboards and will even feed on you. After you're bit, a bump appears, which has only one hole courtesy of the bite, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Fleas can also bring about tapeworms, so treating your dog with flea medicine -- either oral or spot treatments -- is the best practice. If your pup is already infested, your vet can give your dog a pill that will kill the fleas within 24 hours, but you'll still need to treat your house for existing fleas by vacuuming and spraying insecticides.
Fleas are a nuisance and allergies and dry skin can be annoying for your pup, but mange is downright awful. Mange occurs when mites begin digging into your dog's skin and laying eggs, which hatch and turn out more mites that repeat the process all over again. Your dog will scratch, lick and bite himself because of the insects, often until he bleeds. His elbows and ears often appear scaly and crusty, and he may lose large patches of hair. If you suspect your little guy has a case of mange, make an appointment with your vet right away.
Other Skin Disorders
Dogs certainly have no shortage of skin disorders. Some are caused by fungi, such as yeast infections that occur near your pup's ears or paws. Others are caused by insects and parasites, such as lice, ticks and maggots. Grooming your dog regularly helps keep many insects at bay, while medications, such as flea and tick medicine, control others. Skin disorders are difficult to identify unless you're a trained professional, so if your dog can't stop scratching, a trip to the vet is the best option.
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.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.