The sound of a dog constantly scratching or licking can be as irritating as nails on a chalkboard. But don’t blame your pooch for these bad habits — a skin condition is probably the culprit. Possible causes range from parasites to allergies to underlying illness.
Dogs can have allergic reactions to grooming products, food, and environmental irritants, such as pollen or insect bites. A dog with allergies may scratch relentlessly, and a peek at the skin often reveals an ugly rash. Corticosteroids can help with itchy rashes, but the most effective treatment is to identify and avoid exposure to the allergens.
If your dog can’t seem to stop scratching an ear or licking and chewing her toes, ask your veterinarian to check for a yeast infection. Symptoms include irritated, itchy, or discolored skin. The infection usually strikes the paws or ears, where yeast has a cozy space to grow. Yeast infections are easy to diagnose and often respond well to a topical cream. In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe oral drugs or medicated baths.
Dog’s belly irritated by folliculitis
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Superficial bacterial folliculitis is an infection that causes sores, bumps, and scabs on the skin. These skin abnormalities are easier to see in shorthaired dogs. In longhaired dogs, the most obvious symptoms may be a dull coat and shedding with scaly skin underneath. Folliculitis often occurs in conjunction with other skin problems, such as mange, allergies, or injury. Treatment may include oral antibiotics and antibacterial ointments or shampoos.
Another type of bacterial infection, impetigo is most common in puppies. It causes pus-filled blisters that may break and crust over. The blisters usually develop on the hairless portion of the abdomen. Impetigo is rarely serious and can be treated with a topical solution. In a small number of cases, the infection may spread or persist.
Seborrhea causes a dog’s skin to become greasy and develop scales (dandruff). In some cases, it’s a genetic disease that begins when a dog is young and lasts a lifetime. But most dogs with seborrhea develop the scaling as a complication of another medical problem, such as allergies or hormonal abnormalities. In these cases, it is vital to treat the underlying cause so symptoms do not recur.
Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by a worm, but by a fungus. The term “ring” comes from the circular patches that can form anywhere, but are often found on a dog’s head, paws, ears, and forelegs. Inflammation, scaly patches, and hair loss often surround the lesions. Puppies less than a year old are the most susceptible, and the infection can spread quickly between dogs in a kennel or to pet owners at home. Various anti-fungal treatments are available.
Shedding and Hair Loss (Alopecia)
Anyone who shares their home with dogs knows that they shed. How much shedding is normal depends on breed, time of year, and environment. But sometimes stress, poor nutrition, or illness can cause a dog to lose more hair than usual. If abnormal or excessive shedding persists for more than a week, or you notice patches of missing fur, check with your veterinarian.
5 Natural remedies to soothe your dog’s itchy skin
Feeding your dog plain, low-fat yogurt keeps the good bacteria in your dog’s intestines in balance and helps keep yeast infections at bay. A little bit of yogurt in your pet’s diet is not only a healthy treat, but can boost the immune system so that skin and ear yeast infections can’t take hold. When my itchy dog was a puppy, I would give her a teaspoon of yogurt daily to help build immunity and prevent diarrhea.
Chamomile tea & Herbal Tea soaks
Chilled in the refrigerator, can alleviate any minor skin irritations when sprayed on sensitive, itchy spots. The chilled tea kills yeast and bacteria on the skin and relieves inflammation. When my itchy dog starts gnawing on her paws, I like to either spray them with the chamomile or just have her soak her paws in a small tub of the cold tea. Warm chamomile tea bags can soothe itchy, irritated eyes for both you and your dog. You can also try green tea and calendula.
If your pooch hates getting into the water, an all-natural dry shampoo can keep her skin healthy and coat smelling good. Spread ½-cup to 1-cup of whole bran, uncooked oatmeal, or cornmeal on a cookie sheet and warm in the oven on low heat for 5 minutes to bring out the natural oils in the grain. Grab a handful of the grain (leaving the rest in the oven to stay warm) and rub it into your dog’s fur and skin with a towel, concentrating on the greasy, dirty areas. Then thoroughly brush the areas to remove all the grain. This dry shampoo exfoliates the skin while removing any nasty residue from your dog’s coat.
Essential Oil Shampoo
Add a few drops of eucalyptus or pennyroyal essential oil to natural shampoo or castile soap. Rinse your dog with clear water. Rinse again with vinegar-water (1 tbsp. to 1 pint warm water). This easy-to-make shampoo and rinse removes soap residue and prevents the dandruff that can result in itchy skin. Alternative: Buy a an all natural eucalyptus shampoo that’s already mixed and ready to go. Hint- make sure that it’s real eucalyptus essential oil, and not a fragrance.
Herbal Flea Powder
Combine one part each of as many of these dried and powdered herbs as you can find: rosemary, fennel, eucalyptus, rue, yellow dock, and wormwood. Put this mixture in a clean, dry shaker-type jar, like one used for parsley flakes or Parmesan cheese. Apply the flea powder sparingly to the base of your dog’s coat by brushing back the hair first, then sprinkling in small amounts around the neck, belly, and back. You’ll need to use the powder several times a week for a severe flea infestation, and place your pooch outside in they yard so the repelled fleas don’t end up in your home.