Is your dog itching? While the occasional scratch or nibble at the skin is normal for most dogs, a dog chronically scratching indicates something more serious. Intense itching is an indicator that your pet may have skin allergies or other medical conditions that affect the skin. Skin conditions can also become inflamed or infected. 

Oakland Veterinary Referral Services sees many chronic and complex cases of skin disorders. We can explain reasons behind them and help you get to the bottom of this uncomfortable problem.

Reasons for Itching in Dogs

Dog scratching is one of the more common reasons for veterinary visits when it comes to our canine companions. Understanding the reason for your dog itching is key to addressing the issue and starting treatment. Chronic scratching can be problematic for your pet, as well as the whole family, when the itchiness is severe.

What are the reasons behind this? Here are the most frequently diagnosed reasons for dog itching.

Flea Bite Dermatitis

Flea bites are one of the top reasons for allergic reaction in dogs and the most commonly diagnosed skin condition. Flea bite dermatitis is an allergic reaction or overreaction of the immune system to the flea’s saliva. The proteins or antigens in the saliva are the reason behind the itchiness and other skin conditions. 

An allergy to flea bites is diagnosed through intradermal allergy testing and other specialized blood tests to isolate the specific allergen. There are several methods we suggest in treating this allergy. First, we make sure your itchy dog is on the right flea and tick preventative. Removing the source of the problem should improve your pet’s condition, but there are times when we also use desensitization through allergen injections. 

Yeast Infection

Yeast infection or yeast dermatitis is due to the fungus Malassezia pachydermatis. Yeast naturally lives on the skin and, in low numbers, is nothing to worry about. When the fungus flourishes, though, symptoms arise, such as itching, musty odor, crusty or flaky skin, thickened skin, and ear infections.

To diagnose yeast infection, we may choose to perform any of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Skin scraping to collect yeast organisms
  • Cotton swab sample
  • Tape sample using a type of sticky tape that acts as a sample slide
  • Slide impression smear using a microscope slide 
  • Biopsy

Treating yeast dermatitis relies on topical treatments like medicated shampoos, along with oral antifungal medications coupled with antibiotics, if infection is present.

Canine Atopic Dermatitis and Food Allergies

Atopy is an allergic reaction to things in the environment, which can include pollen, grasses, dust, mold, and other substances. Canine atopic dermatitis is an inherited condition, or one that is triggered by environmental allergens. It produces itching and “hot spots” or infections of the skin. Like flea bite allergies, atopy is an overreaction of the immune system to a substance or substances. Most dogs begin to show signs of the allergy between 1-3 years of age. 

In treating canine atopic dermatitis, we approach this condition using multiple therapies, some of which include immunotherapy, oral medications and injections, among others. Topical and oral medications can be used to treat dermatitis and skin problems associated with atopy.

Food allergy is another frequent diagnosis in pets that can result in skin issues, along with diarrhea, flatulence, vomiting, weight loss, and secondary skin infections. We help isolate the food or foods that your pet is allergic to by following a strict elimination diet. It is a longer process to carefully diagnose, but the results of our findings are more effective than relying on medications alone.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections are a secondary condition resulting from an untreated medical issue or injury. Bacterial infections of the skin arise from a chronic injury or an unhealed lesion of the skin, which is common in dogs who persistently scratch and bite at themselves. Signs of a bacterial infection are wounds that do not heal, oozy skin, foul smell, and hair loss. 

Treating bacterial infections relies on antibiotics, both oral and topical, and directly treating the underlying condition that triggered the infection.

Is Your Dog Itching or Scratching?

Your allergy and skin experts at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services are here to diagnose and treat your pet. We can provide itch relief for dogs. Our knowledge and experience in treating acute and chronic conditions of the skin enable us to use a range of treatments that are safe and effective.

For more information on dog itching and skin disorders, please contact us