Is Your Dog Itching or Scratching? Here Are Common Causes and Treatments

June 1, 2023

Most pet parents have been there: the lights are out, the house is quiet, and just as you’re drifting off to sleep, you hear it — the unmistakable sound of your fur baby scratching away. Not only is it bothersome for you, but it’s extremely uncomfortable for your dog too! The relentless itch, the redness, the inflammation; these all a sign of underlying health issues that, if left untreated, could escalate into more severe problems.

If you're wondering "why does my dog have a rash?" or "why does my dog have red spots?" then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we're going to discuss some of the most common causes of itchy skin in dogs so that you can better care for your pup. Dealing with these issues can feel overwhelming, and that's where Barkbus can help. Our professional grooming team can help identify skin problems and ensure your dog's coat stays healthy and clean on a regular basis. Book a mobile grooming session with Barkbus and our grooming experts will come right to your door.

Common Causes of Itchy Skin in Dogs

Whether you're investigating how to treat a dog rash on the belly or dealing with a perplexing dog rash on the back, pinpointing the underlying cause is the crucial first step toward devising an effective treatment plan. We’re going to outline some of the most common culprits of irritated skin for dogs to help you determine the best way to treat it.

It's also important to note that there could be many possible reasons for your dog's skin issues. As a result, it's always a good idea to consult with your vet for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan.

  1. Parasites. Fleas and ticks are infamous freeloaders that can lead your dog to itch and scratch like there's no tomorrow. Not only do they cause redness and inflammation, but parasites can also lead to skin irritation, itchiness, and sometimes even fur loss. Mites, such as the ones causing sarcoptic and demodectic mange, can make your pup's life miserable with intense itching and skin irritation.
  2. Allergies. There are many common dog allergies that could be causing your pup to experience skin problems. When your dog's immune system decides to overreact to a particular ingredient in their food, then you've got a case of food allergies. Not only can these result in itchy skin, but they may also cause ear infections or gastrointestinal issues. There are also environmental allergies you should be aware of, where the culprits can be everyday things like pollen, dust mites, or mold. These can cause skin inflammation, hives, and itching that can disrupt your pup's peace. If you notice your dog biting or gnawing at multiple paws, this is a sign that allergies are the culprit. Please seek a vet's advice if this continues!
  3. Skin Infections. Sneaky bacteria such as staphylococcus and streptococcus can lead to skin infections in dogs, causing intense itching, redness, and pustules. Fungal infections like ringworm can be equally disruptive, causing circular lesions and severe itching. Dog grooming is one of the best ways to eliminate skin bacteria, so it’s important to take your pup for regular grooming sessions.
  4. Environmental Irritants. Everyday chemicals found in household cleaners can cause your dog's skin to feel irritated and itchy. Prolonged exposure to water from activities like swimming or frequent bathing can strip a dog's skin of its natural oils, leading to dry, itchy skin.

Signs and Symptoms of Itchy Skin in Dogs

Sometimes your dog may not have an obvious rash, but there may be other signs that your pup is suffering from an unpleasant skin condition. Let's delve into some other telltale signs and symptoms you should look out for.

  1. Scratching and Biting. Dogs may excessively scratch or bite their skin — especially in areas like the base of the tail, paws, and ears. This behavior can lead to hair loss, redness, and skin inflammation, which can become infected if left untreated.
  2. Redness and Inflammation. When your dog's skin appears red, swollen, or inflamed, that's a sign of skin irritation. Your dog may also develop hot spots — moist, painful patches of skin that can worsen quickly.
  3. Flaky or Dry Skin. Flaky or scaly skin and a dull coat may be signs of an underlying skin condition. You might also notice dandruff in your pup’s coat.
  4. Hair Loss. Excessive scratching can lead to hair loss and bald spots. In severe cases, this can pave the way for secondary infections and even more itching.
  5. Foul Odor. If your dog starts to develop an unpleasant smell, it could be a sign of a bacterial or fungal infection stemming from a skin condition. However, bad smells can also indicate other underlying health issues so it’s best to check with your vet for the root cause.

Treatment Options for Itchy Skin in Dogs

Treating itchy skin in dogs involves a combination of methods, depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Learning how to treat dog rash and skin irritations is essential for providing your pup with the relief they need, so consult with your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis beforehand. Your vet can advise you on what to put on dog rash and whether or not you should use medication to help them heal. 

Here are common treatment options for itchy irritated dog skin:

  1. Medicated Shampoos. Medicated dog shampoos are a great dog skin irritation treatment, offering relief from itchy skin caused by parasites, allergies, and infections. These shampoos contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur, which help soothe the skin and eliminate the underlying cause of the itchiness. Your vet may also prescribe a medicated shampoo to help your pup.
  2. Topical Ointments and Sprays. Topical ointments and sprays can be applied directly to the affected area to relieve itching and inflammation. These health and wellness products often contain ingredients such as hydrocortisone, lidocaine, and pramoxine, which provide fast and effective relief.
  3. Oral Medications. In severe cases, your veterinarian may prescribe oral medications such as antibiotics, antifungal drugs, or corticosteroids to tackle the underlying cause of the itchiness.
  4. Allergy Shots. Allergy shots — also known as immunotherapy — can help dogs with allergies causing itchy skin. These shots contain tiny amounts of the allergen, helping your dog's immune system build up a tolerance over time.
  5. Dietary Changes. Food allergies might necessitate a switch to a hypoallergenic diet to relieve itchy skin. Your vet can guide you on what to feed your dog if they are suffering from skin conditions.

How to Ensure the Best Care for Your Canine Companion

Keeping your dog's skin healthy and itch-free is about incorporating some key practices into your regular routine. Here are some of the important ones that all dog parents should stay on top of.

Regular Grooming

Consistent grooming is a must to keep your dog's skin healthy and coat shiny. Daily brushing eliminates dirt and dead skin cells, which can cause itching and irritation. Plus, adding professional grooming into your monthly routine is essential, as groomers can help spot any of the symptoms above.

Dog groomer from Barkbus holding a happy small dog.

Schedule regular grooming appointments with the experts at Barkbus to help you keep your dog's coat in tip-top condition!

Skin Checks

Regular skin checks for any signs of itching, redness, or inflammation can help you detect and address skin conditions early before they escalate. For dogs with longer coats, try using a hair dryer on a cold setting to part your pup's hair to see the condition of their skin.

Bathing and Drying Techniques

When it comes to bathing your dog, use a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo to clean your dog's skin and coat. These shampoos are typically formulated to avoid irritating the skin, making them a great choice for dogs with sensitive skin or allergies. Remember to thoroughly remove all traces of soap from your dog's coat and carefully dry them with a towel or hair dryer on low heat. 

Proper drying is important because any trapped moisture within your dog's coat can create a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. For dogs that enjoy swimming, proper drying is equally important. If your dog's coat remains wet for an extended period after swimming, it can lead to similar problems as not drying thoroughly after a bath.

Schedule a Professional Grooming for Worry-Free Check-Ups

A regular grooming schedule not only keeps your dog looking their best but also helps spot any potential skin issues early on. At Barkbus, our mobile grooming services come right to your doorstep, with expert groomers who know how to keep your pup's coat shining and tail wagging. With a combination of daily care, regular vet checks, and professional grooming services, your fur baby can enjoy the itch-free life they deserve. Book a grooming session today to keep your pup looking and feeling their best!


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