If you keep asking yourself Why is my dog so itchy?? and wondering if anything can be done to relieve your furry friend, it’s important to take a look at some of the root causes. There are many reasons for a dog to be itchy. The most common are:
1. Fleas and flea allergy. The flea population is at its peak in August and September. If a few fleas jumped on to your pet in the spring and laid eggs, your pet’s skin and surrounding environs could have millions of fleas, eggs, and larva by the time August rolls around.
How do you know if your dog or cat has fleas?
You may or may not see the fleas, but it’s easy to see flea dirt — that’s the feces from the fleas, and it’s usually found on your pet’s back just above the tail. If you find flea dirt, put some of it on a wet paper towel and in a minute or two it will start to dissolve and create a reddish-brownish stain.
Oh no, my dog has fleas! But my cat lives indoors so she’s OK, right?
Wrong! Don’t underestimate those little bugs! Here’s what to do: apply a topical product that kills the fleas when they bite. There are many on the market now, one of the best because of its proven effectiveness and safety (as well as its price) is Parastar. Revolution is another excellent topical that is also a heart worm preventive. There are also some excellent oral products, although they are more expensive. All pets in the household should be treated. Next, because there are 99 eggs and larva for every 1 flea in the environment, vacuum every day, wash your floors frequently, and wash your pets’ bedding. Your pets will still get bitten, but the fleas won’t live to lay eggs.
2. Pollen and dust mites. Also known as environmental allergens, dust mites are highly allergenic. They are found wherever people and pets live because they feed on the skin cells that are shed by all of us. Pillows, bedding, mattresses, pet beds, and carpets are places that have high numbers of dust mites. They don’t bite but they and their feces are inhaled by your pets and they touch your pet’s skin. They create year-round itchiness.
An allergy to pollen begins as seasonal itchiness in young dogs, then remains throughout the year as your pet becomes more sensitive with age and exposure.
What can be done about environmental allergies?
Once other causes of itchiness have been ruled out and the carpets and bedding are cleaned, if your pet is still itchy there are some effective options. Allergy testing tests the blood or skin to determine which things are causing the allergies, and a custom-made immunotherapy product is created and given via injections or the mouth. Another effective option is Atopica, a capsule that suppresses the pet’s immune response to the allergens, thus taking away the itch. Both of these options will be long term. Short term options include steroids (taken for a few weeks) and prescription shampoos.
3. Food allergies. This is a big problem in dogs and some cats. When our pets eat highly processed grains and by-products twice every day, they can develop food sensitivities. A food trial is the only way to test for food allergies. Fortunately this is easy, and we can guide you through the process. Beware of some foods labeled as “hypoallergenic.” Independent lab tests have found them to contain highly allergenic contaminants such as soy, and other allergens.