It is not uncommon for your dog to have the itches; and we see them manifest in many ways. Often, we see dogs licking their paws. In other cases, they may roll on the ground, crawl on their bellies, or do the booty scoot. However they presents themselves, this guide will help you manage the pain and discomfort in your itchy dog.
Causes of Itch in Dogs
It is important for pet owners to know that itching is not a disease nor a symptom of a disease. Instead, it is a result of the process of disease in dogs. This knowledge helps in understanding how to approach the treatment—as treatment has to be directed to the cause of the potential disease instead of relieving the dog of its pain.
If you notice that your dog is obsessively scratching its body, you may suspect issues with fleas. Even though this is a common assumption, fleas are only one of the many possible causes of skin irritation and itches. Nevertheless, dogs should be on a regular tick and flea preventative plans.
The most common causes of itching in dogs include:
- Skin disease
- External parasites
- Skin cancer (less common)
Even though many skin diseases only start to itch when the dog develops serious yeast or bacterial infections, itching is always a source of great discomfort to dogs.
Dogs are exposed to allergens through one of the following ways:
- Topical exposure
These may result in inflammation of the cells carrying chemicals in the skin of the dog. A dog may show signs of allergies, like itching, when the immune system begins to recognize everyday substances (allergens) as dangerous. The veterinarian identifies the causative agent of the allergies, and make an effort to block the allergic reactions.
Diagnosing an Itchy Dog
It requires experience and expertise to effectively and accurately diagnose an itchy dog. A veterinarian begins by taking a detailed medical and chronological history of the dog:
- What have you noticed?
- When was the first time you noticed it?
- How has it progressed?
- Are other pets visibly affected?
- Are you affected?
After that, the veterinarian performs a thorough physical examination on the dog by focusing on— but not limited to— the skin. This examination may uncover several illnesses that may be affecting your dog.
Natural Remedies for Itchy Dogs
Before spending your money on drugs, you may want to consider the following natural remedies for your dog’s itchy skin:
CBD Oil: CBD, or Cannabidiol, is a natural substance found in the hemp plant. It’s becoming more commonly used as a treatment in dogs for things like anxiety, pain, loss of appetite, even skin and coat health. You can get more information on our CBD blog post here.
Olive Oil: Beyond many people’s delight as good cooking oil, olive oil is a great source of antioxidants and vitamins E & K. These vitamins replenish the dog’s skin and fur coat. A teaspoon per 20 pounds per body weight is sufficient in treating the itches.
Apple Cider Vinegar: This has many benefits for humans, as well as for dogs. If your dog has itchy paws, by soaking the paws in a 50/50 solution of apple cider vinegar, the itch can be relieved in less than 10 minutes. To prepare the 50/50 solution, mix the apple cider vinegar with the same quantity of water. You can put it in a spray bottle and use it on your dog’s skin. Check out more ways to use apple cider vinegar to help your dog.
Yogurt: You can also try giving your dog plain yogurt, free from any added sweeteners. This contains active bacteria that can have probiotic benefits that are good for your dog’s digestive system. As a result, the immune system of the dog is boosted which helps in stopping skin infections.
You can find even more natural remedies, as well as other food and medical options in this post on our blog page.
Prescription Medication for Itchy Dogs
These medications can be quite effective in the battle against the itch. You will need a prescription from your vet, and you should talk to them about the dosage and potential side effects. None of these medications eliminate your dog’s allergies. Instead, they basically trick the dog’s body into thinking they don’t need to itch.
I know some people are strictly against certain medications, but I feel like they have all have their place. Especially if you can only use them for short periods when your dog’s allergies are at their most severe. Once they are manageable again, then maybe you can back off the medication.
I won’t go into great detail but here is a list of the most common allergy-fighting medications for your itchy dog.
Atopica, or cyclosporine, has been around for a while. In short, it prevents the release of histamines that would cause your dog to itch. It is an immunosuppressant and it does have side effects. Namely digestive issues like vomiting or diarrhea. You should not give Atopica to puppies under 6 months of age.
This drug is a mix of antihistamine and corticosteroid. One reduces the itch, the other reduces inflammation. Some of the side effects are the same as with Atopica. In addition to those, your dog could experience drowsiness, weakness, or tremors. Once you start this medication, be sure to follow the direction of your vet. It can be harmful to suddenly stop taking it. The dosage should be decreased gradually.
Apoquel is a bit newer, gaining FDA approval in 2013. I have mentioned it numerous times on this site. This one might be the most controversial of the bunch. It is definitely effective against the itch that is accompanied with atopic dermatitis. However, longer-term use can suppress the immune system and it can make your dog more susceptible to other types of infections. If you type Apoquel into the search bar at the top corner of this site, you will find many articles that discuss it in one way or another.
The newest option (approval in 2016) is a little bit different and may have the most potential. It’s a biologic treatment that contains engineered antibodies that block the itch signaling proteins from reaching the brain. Cytopoint is given as an injection by your vet. It usually starts working within a day and can last about 4-6 weeks. Some may even see it last up to 8 weeks. It’s probably the safest option at this point, as there is no evidence yet of it suppressing the immune system. So that’s encouraging. Although we won’t really know about any long term effects for some time.
I hope this guide provides you some direction and comfort. You should know that there are many of us dealing with a variety of situations that affect our dogs. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you and hopefully share your itchy dog success stories!