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Why is my dog scratching?

Itching, scratching, or licking their skin are signs that your dog might have irritated skin. Today, our South Wilton vets explain some common causes of skin problems in dogs and how you can help your pet feel better. 

Skin Problems in Dogs

Most dogs will inevitably encounter itching at some point. Although it might be annoying for your dog, in most cases the itching is not serious and will resolve on its own or with minimal at-home treatment. However, sometimes the underlying cause of the itching will be more severe and will require veterinary treatment. 

Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

There are several reasons why your dog may start scratching, licking, or biting at their fur. Some of the more common dog skin problems include:

Parasitic Bites

Bites from fleas and mites are one of the most common sources of your dog's itching, and one of the easiest to treat. Your vet can prescribe medication to resolve the parasite issue. You can also proactively give your dog medication to avoid fleas, mites, or ticks in the first place.

Environmental Dermatitis

This is a skin irritation that develops due to contact with certain substances, such as grass, dirt, and plants. Symptoms include itchy/dry or cracked skin, rashes, blisters, redness, or swelling.

Suggested ways to alleviate this condition include antihistamines or oatmeal baths. If you can pinpoint a specific item or substance that is causing the itch, removing it from your dog's environment will help the problem. Your vet may recommend a cortisone cream or other alternative depending on the severity. 

Nutritional Dermatitis

This is a relatively uncommon issue for dogs, however, they may have an allergic reaction to something in their food. Typically, nutritional dermatitis results in skin irritations and scratching, but digestive issues may happen as well, such as diarrhea or vomiting. If your dog is displaying either type of symptom, it's best to make an appointment with your vet.

Skin Allergies

Some dogs are prone to allergies, making this a somewhat common reason to visit the vet. Allergens that cause itching can be found in pollen, dander, plants, or insects, among other things.

Some of the symptoms aside from itching include excessive grooming or licking, watery eyes and sneezing, rashes, and inflamed skin. Your vet may be able to diagnose what is causing the allergy and will recommend treatment as well as ways to prevent future allergic reactions.


Another type of allergic reaction is hives. Hives can be a reaction to many things, from bites or medications. Symptoms show as a raised bump that would cause the dog's fur to stick out.

Occasionally, hives will present with swelling near the eyes. A cool bath using a hypoallergenic shampoo for dogs can help alleviate some discomfort and may wash off the irritant that was causing the hives in the first place. A hydrating leave-in conditioner may also help. Ask your vet what they recommend for your pet.

Urgent Cases

If your dog's itching persists for more than a few days, you should make an appointment so your vet can diagnose the issue and treat it. Prolonged itching can cause excessive scratching and bite at the itch which can create a self-inflicted injury. This can become serious if left unchecked. 

Veterinary Dermatology in South Wilton

Our veterinary professionals know that chronic recurrent skin problems, ear infections, and allergies can be extremely irritating to your pet, and frustrating for pet parents.

With a range of tests available to us in-house, we can look for the root cause of your pet’s skin disorder and offer a customized treatment plan to help them feel better. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

To learn more about skin conditions in dogs, or to seek treatment options for your pooch, contact South Wilton Veterinary Group to book an examination for your pet. 

Pug puppy scratching behind head in the grassLooking for advice on how to help your dog with a skin condition South Wilton?

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