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Have you noticed your dog scratching a bit more than usual? This article covers the common reasons your dog might have itchy skin and some top tips for providing relief.

Common dog skin conditions

If your dog has started itching and scratching more than usual, it might be due to some of these common issues:

  • allergies;
  • parasites; or
  • infection

In some complex cases, all the above factors are present.

Infections

Bacterial infections typically look like spots or pimples. Yeast infections give an oily or greasy feel to your pet’s skin. Since the ear canal is lined with skin, ear infections are also common. Vets can use tools like an otoscope to look deep inside the ear. Our vets take a minor skin or blood sample to determine what type of infection is present and prescribe medication to treat the condition.

Allergies

Dogs (especially certain breeds) are very prone to environmental allergies. This is called atopic dermatitis and can be thought of as similar to human hay fever, except the reaction happens on the dog's skin rather than the respiratory system.

Common allergens that impact dogs include:

  • fleas;
  • pollens;
  • trees;
  • grasses;
  • moulds; or
  • dust mites.

Some of these allergies can be seasonal, for example, pollen allergy season is at its peak during warmer months of the year. Pollen stems from grass, weeds, flowers or trees. Bathing your dog during the pollen season can decrease the number of allergens in contact with the skin, but if the skin is damaged, please seek advice on which shampoo to use.

Dust mites are the most common allergy for humans and impact our canine friends as well. These mites thrive in carpets and furnishings, where they feed off shed skin cells. Diagnosis of a dust mite allergy can be complicated and requires examination.

Despite the many different things dogs can be allergic to, the skin can only react in a certain number of ways. Once itchy, most of the symptoms we see are caused by the dog scratching and damaging the skin, allowing microorganisms that typically live there to take hold. Your vet can help to both diagnose and treat allergies. An extensive array of treatments is available, including shampoos, supplements; tablets to stop the scratching; regular injections, and desensitising vaccines.

Parasites

Dogs can develop an allergic reaction to flea bites; an immune response to flea saliva causes this. The bites cause excessive itching, inflammation and hair loss. Tick bites can also trigger a similar reaction in dogs. If fleas or ticks aren't a problem, check with your vet to see if your dog has a mite infestation.

Some dogs can catch the fox mange mite, which burrows in the skin and is intensely itchy. There is also a mite called Demodex which can cause hair loss.

Ear mites are a common cause of ear disease and infection in dogs. They are the second most common external parasite found on pets; the top spot belongs to fleas. Infestation is common in puppies and kittens, but the signs of infestation can be seen at any age.

A variety of different treatment options are available to your dog to treat ear mites. Some are topical medications, while others may be spot-on treatments or tablets. Your vet can determine the most appropriate treatment for your dog. Prevention is a matter of monthly topical anti-parasite application and keeping your dog's ears clean. 

What should you do next?

Many skin disease symptoms are not obvious. It's important with speak to your vet sooner rather than later to begin a diagnosis and treatment plan promptly. 

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  • Alphington | 12 Lovelace Gardens,
    Alphington,
    Exeter, Devon,
    EX2 8XQ
    | T: 01392 493999 |
  • Heavitree | Rosary House,
    27 Fore Street,
    Heavitree, Exeter,
    EX1 2QJ
    | T: 01392 250066 |
  • St Thomas | 101 Buddle Lane,
    St Thomas,
    Exeter, Devon,
    EX4 1QS
    | T: 01392 250000 |
  • Whipton | 46 Whipton Village Road,
    Exeter,
    Devon,
    EX4 8AW
    | T: 01392 465553 |