If you have to take your dog to the vet because his skin or ears are itchy, you're not alone. This factor is the most common reason for non-routine visits for dogs in the US. Resolving your dog's scratching problem can be difficult because many health issues cause itching. The best way to help your dog is to seek professional help as soon as possible. Early treatment is also usually easier and cheaper than treatment for a disease process at a later stage. Dogs are also protected from prolonged/unnecessary feelings of discomfort.
Part 1 of 3: Preventing and Controlling New or Mild Itching
Step 1. Get rid of fleas from your dog
Fleas are a major cause of itching in dogs, so make sure all pets in your household are treated accordingly. If your pet is not given monthly flea precautions, use a vet-approved flea remedy to kill adult fleas. Do the treatment even if you don't see any fleas. Ticks are very small and can be easily missed.
Dogs may have a flea allergy even when it doesn't appear to be fleas. Your dog may be allergic to flea spit and a serious skin disease that can appear after a bite or two
Step 2. Understand the benefits of bathing a dog
Bathing is an effective way to relieve itching in dogs with various skin problems. You don't have to worry about the skin getting dry after bathing. This will not happen as long as you use a gentle shampoo designed for dogs. The potential benefits of bathing a dog outweigh the risks. Some examples of the advantages of bathing an itchy dog are:
- Hair follicles are not clogged because dust, oil, and other impurities are cleaned.
- Fungus and bacteria on the surface of the dog's skin (which causes itching) will be reduced.
- Potential allergens will also be removed from the dog's coat.
- Your dog's skin will be moisturised.
- Dog skin will also be healthier.
You can bathe your dog as often as you like, but if he's itching, bathe him at least once or twice a week – unless your vet advises otherwise
Step 3. Bathe the dog properly
Comb or brush the bristles before bathing because wet hair will clump more easily. Use a dog shampoo designed to react to the pH of his skin. Look for a gentle product and complement it with an oatmeal-based conditioner to effectively moisturize the skin. Massage the shampoo into your skin for about 10 minutes and make sure the lather touches your skin. Rinse thoroughly with cold water and dry the dog with a towel.
If you apply a flea repellant or plan to do so, read the directions on the package before bathing your dog. Some products require dogs not to bathe for a period of 24 to 48 hours before applying the ointment, and most advise dogs not to bathe for a certain period after the ointment is applied
Step 4. Treat the dog
If the coat is long, consider trimming it. Experts recommend that dogs with hives should have hair less than 5 centimeters long. Hair can irritate itchy skin. Short-haired dogs are easier to clean and treat for skin ailments.
Step 5. Understand the risks of antihistamines
You may be tempted to give your dog an over-the-counter antihistamine, but these drugs may not be as effective. No antihistamines have been approved for use in small animals, so their application to dogs is not really recommended. These drugs are not always useful. In some studies, antihistamines only helped less than 30 percent of dogs whose itchy skin was caused by environmental allergies.
Antihistamines may not be very effective at treating other causes of itching. Antihistamines are best used as a preventative measure for dogs with allergies. Antihistamines should also be combined with other therapies
Step 6. Talk to your vet about taking antihistamines
If you want to try an antihistamine, check with your vet first, especially if you have a dog with a chronic illness or on other medications. If you decide to give one type of antihistamine, make sure the dosage and formula are right and safe for dogs. Do not use the drug long-term or in more than one dose without specific instructions from your veterinarian. Here's a suggested dose of an over-the-counter antihistamine:
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl): 1 mg, twice daily.
- Chlorpheniramine in dogs weighing less than 20 kg: 4 mg, three times daily.
- Chlorpheniramine in dogs weighing over 20 kg: 8 mg, three times daily.
- Fexofenadine (Allegra): 1 mg/half kg body weight, once or twice daily.
Step 7. Read the label on the medication
Read labels when buying over-the-counter antihistamines. Pay attention to the active and inactive ingredients because most of these drugs are combined with other drugs or flavors that can be harmful to dogs. Some common ingredients you should avoid include:
If you are in doubt about the safety of an ingredient for dogs, visit your veterinarian or animal poisoning treatment center before administering the medication
Part 2 of 3: Treating Severe and Chronic Itching
Step 1. Consider all sources of itching
Some potential causes of itching in dogs include:
- Parasites, such as mites, fleas, and small animals.
- Bacterial and parasitic infections. Both only occur when the skin is damaged or susceptible to certain diseases/allergies.
- Food allergies.
- Allergy to the environment.
- Hypersensitivity to insect or mite bites.
- Some of the less common causes include autoimmune diseases, endocrine diseases, some types of cancer, and others.
Step 2. Do some research on allergies in dog breeds
Although all races can be allergic to something, certain groups are more susceptible to allergy attacks. Do some research on allergies or health conditions that are more likely to occur in dog breeds. You might get a clue as to what's bothering him.
For example, if you keep a cocker spaniel, you may learn that it can develop food allergies in its lifetime. He may be itching in the ears and feet if the food allergy attacks him
Step 3. Know when it's a good time to take your dog to the vet
If you provide quality flea therapy and give your dog a thorough bath but he has been itching for more than seven days, he needs to see a vet. You should also take him to the vet if he's scratching so much that you can't distract him, or he's stopped eating/sleeping.
Itchy dog skin may be a symptom of various health problems. This means that you must diagnose and treat the specific problem your dog is having with a thoughtful approach. This way, you can select the cause of itching, starting from the most common and the rarer
Step 4. Understand what the vet will ask
Usually, the vet will start examining the itchy dog by looking at his medical record and doing a physical exam. To help him get an accurate picture of your dog's condition, consider preparing a medical history before your visit so you don't forget all the important facts. Some facts you should share include:
- How long the dog has lived with you.
- Where you got the dog.
- How long the dog has had itching and whether the problem has increased, got worse, remained constant, or is likely to decrease.
- Itchy areas on the dog's body.
- Current and past dog diet and food patterns, to the human/other food you give your dog.
- Where dogs spend their time (at home, yard, forest, swimming pool, or natural stream, etc.).
- Dog contact with other animals, including pets, wild animals in the yard or forest near your home, fellow dogs on farms, dog nurses, dog parks, or other places.
- Are there any other animals or people in the dog's place who also itch.
- Has the dog had hives in the past?
- Are the hives seasonal.
- Dog treatment, including flea and heartworm prevention measures, prescription medications, topical ointments and shampoos, over-the-counter medications, and supplements.
- All symptoms other than itching.
- Treatment steps, including bathing, taking supplements, diet, medications, topical therapies, haircuts and anything else you've been given to try to control the itching and the dog's response to it.
Step 5. Get ready for further testing
The vet may suggest additional tests, such as a hair pluck, peeling skin, earwax, blood tests, or other tests to select the most likely cause of the itching based on the dog's symptoms. These tests will help your veterinarian determine a treatment plan for your dog's skin problem.
While some vets don't recommend it, others will ask your dog to take an allergy test. Allergy testing is very expensive and may not be accurate because it is actually designed for humans. Therefore, an elimination diet is usually performed to determine the cause of the allergy
Step 6. Learn common treatment options
The treatment given depends on the severity of the symptoms and the cause of the itching. Common treatments include antiparasitic drugs, regular baths with medicated shampoos, antibiotics, oral or topical steroids, immunosuppressive drugs, dietary supplements, dietary changes, and other means.
When dealing with an itchy dog, you should be patient and follow the vet's plan, which includes providing all the treatments that have been prescribed. In the long run, your dog has the highest chance of recovery if you follow a well-thought-out plan and logically select the cause of the itch one by one
Part 3 of 3: Using Home Remedies
Step 1. Follow the elimination diet instructions to determine food allergies
If you think your dog is allergic to something in their diet, find out what's causing the allergy. Follow a hypoallergenic diet in dogs for at least 8 weeks. Your vet may recommend this diet. Make sure you don't give any food except the diet prescribed for that period of time – including your snacks and leftovers. After 8 weeks, see if there is any improvement in the dog's condition.
Be careful when re-feeding the allergenic food. Once you find the source of the allergy, give it the food and see if the symptoms reappear to confirm your diagnosis
Step 2. Treat the dog for allergies to environmental factors
Some dogs are allergic to grass, dust, or pollen. Once you or your veterinarian have identified the environmental conditions that are causing your dog's allergies, try moving your dog away from the source of the problem. For example, if your dog is allergic to grass, lock him in the house until the symptoms go away. When you take it out again, put on a t-shirt or something that keeps the skin off the grass.
- If your dog is allergic to dust, make sure you clean the rugs, curtains, and upholstery in your home at least twice a week. You should also wash dog bedding once a week.
- If your dog has a reaction to pollen or airborne substances, your vet may give you an allergy shot. This will help the dog develop resistance to allergens.
Step 3. Respond to a hypersensitivity state due to an insect bite
If your dog is allergic to fleas or insects, provide preventative care so that he doesn't get bitten again in the future. Begin a flea control regime. Talk to your vet about providing preventive treatment. You may have to do it once or twice a month.
While waiting, try to bathe and groom your dog at least once a week. Ask your vet if you should use an anti-flea shampoo
Step 4. Treat bacterial or fungal infections
Both infections of the skin are usually diagnosed by a veterinarian. He or she may prescribe a topical medication that must be applied. You will also have to give antibiotics to completely treat the infection.
Your vet may also prescribe medications to treat itching caused by the infection. These medications can include corticosteroids as well as antifungal medications
- Avoid bathing the dog in hot water. Hot water can irritate and dry out the skin.
- A hairdryer or wind can make your dog's itching worse. The process of evaporation of water from the skin causes itching in humans and dogs.
- Talk to other dog owners who are having similar problems. You may find effective alternative treatments for their dogs.
- Use a dye-free and fragrance-free detergent (eg Purex Fre & Clear). Dogs may react to chemicals used in regular detergents (to wash sheets or sofa covers). If you can't find a neutral formula, look for it in the baby clothes detergent section of the supermarket.
- When treatment ends, the dog may return to scratching his body. This process can be repeated, but is not recommended as steroid treatment usually results in liver and kidney conditions.
- All treatments can result in different levels of success. However, you should anticipate the possibility of recurrence of the syndrome.