Your dog's constant scratching is driving you bonkers? Well be sure, she is not too happy, either. You may not know why she is itching and scratching, but in many cases you can help stop the discomfort and ease her symptoms at home.
Start with a brushing and bath. When your dog gets to roam, foxtails, grass seed and other matter work into ears, paws, tail and fanny. She lives in a world of chemicals, pollen, dust and other contaminants. They cling to her coat and irritate her tender skin. Comb them out. Brush her to loosen dead, flaky skin and matted, shedding hair. Wash her with a gentle or hypoallergenic shampoo, massaging the shampoo into itchy areas and rinsing thoroughly. Pat her dry. Because the bath loosens dead hair and skin cells, brush or comb her again within a day or two.
When your dog scratches her ears or armpits, it's a clue that parasites are on the prowl. Use a flea comb around her ears, at the base of her tail or wherever she is scratching. Check for fleas and small black spots of flea waste that turn rust-color when smeared on a white surface. When fleas or other parasites hitch a ride, your vet can recommend topical or oral preventives for parasites. Your vet may take a skin scraping to identify tiny parasites too small to be seen. If your dog is sensitive to fleas, it takes only one flea to set off her frantic itching and scratching. Even the presence of flea waste can cause allergic reactions.
When your dog is susceptible to allergies, it does not matter whether she inhaled pollen, rubbed against a bush or gobbled a bowl of irritant food. Her skin may break into hives, her ears may turn red and infected or her eyes may itch like crazy. She'll likely scratch, rub and even bite to relieve the itching. When your vet knows you have an allergic dog, he will suggest medication such as over-the-counter antihistamines to stop the allergic response. Keep these medications on hand and use them as directed. Your vet may suggest oral steroids for short-term use until you figure out your dog's allergy triggers and begin to avoid them.
When your dog gets short-term relief from a bath or flea control but the itching returns, look for a pattern. Maybe the allergy triggers during a walk on a pollen-laden trail or during a loll in the grass. She could be allergic to home landscaping such as oleander or other dog-irritating shrubs. Morning scratching and belly rashes suggest her bed is the culprit due to dust, mites or cedar filling. Dog shampoo or home cleaners with perfumes, chemicals or dyes can be itch offenders. Everything from food allergies to dust mites and even people can affect a dog.
When you and your vet do not find the itch factor, you can still ease the symptoms. For your dog's itchy skin, use a smooth cotton bed cover in place of polyester or satin. Wash it often in hot water with hypoallergenic detergent. After walks or outdoor trips, remove pollen, dust and chemicals by running a damp washcloth over her face and paws. Try a medicated shampoo to treat itchy skin conditions. Ask her vet about supplements such as omega-3 or omega-6, fatty acids or a daily fish oil capsule to boost her skin health. In the sleeping quarters, a HEPA air purifier filters irritants as well as trapping her dander and skin cells that may affect other allergy sufferers.
Phyllis Benson is a professional writer and creative artist. Her 25-year background includes work as an editor, syndicated reporter and feature writer for publications including "Journal Plus," "McClatchy Newspapers" and "Sacramento Union." Benson earned her Bachelor of Science degree at California Polytechnic University.