Why do dogs, and puppies in particular, scratch themselves? If dogs are itching all the time, it doesn't necessarily mean they have a problem. But when is scratching a symptom of an illness? Today we inform you about possible causes and how you can help your dog.
The cause: why do dogs scratch themselves?
Before talking about disease, let’s first distinguish between primary and secondary causes. The primary cause of itching is if the itch occurs first and later on the dog shows other symptoms such as skin changes. Examples are parasites, feed intolerance or stress. The secondary cause is when changes on the skin occur first, followed by itching. Examples here are an insect bite, bacterial or fungal attack or an environmental allergy.
Many different causes and conditions can cause the dog to scratch constantly. We would like to introduce the most important ones here:
Ectoparasites (fleas, mites)
Fleas and mites can cause severe itching. You can very easily find out if your dog has fleas by examining his fur with a flea comb. Simply comb the dog and wipe the hair that is stuck in the comb with a tissue. If there are small, blackish-brown crumbs on the handkerchief, they may be flea droppings. Next, you can drip some water on the tissue. If the crumbs turn red, your dog is sure to have a flea infestation. In this case, we recommend using our Flea-EX powder or Flea-EX spray. Please note that fleas don't lay their eggs directly onto the pet, so you will need to treat the surrounding area (dog beds, upholstered furniture, rugs etc.) very thoroughly!
A mite infestation is also not uncommon. Puppies with a weak immune system are particularly affected. The Demodex mite is typical in puppies who constantly scratch themselves and have hair loss (often in the face and eye region). Our Mite-STOP powder or Mite-STOP spray support mite control.
Not only us humans are stung by insects. Dogs are also affected, and they try to remedy the situation by scratching the itchy area. And just like us, dogs can also be allergic to an insect bite. Carefully observe your dog's mucous membranes (they should still be pink and not pale), his general condition and the puncture site. If it swells up, the dog is in pain and seems very tired, see the vet immediately.
Dogs with an ear infection are constantly scratching their ears, shaking their heads more often, and have their heads tilted. There are several reasons why the dog could have an ear infection. The most common cause are ear mites, which in turn are often a symptom of a feed intolerance. It is very important to clarify the cause before using medication, as not all medications or natural remedies are suitable for every problem. If the vet has detected ear mites, you can help your dog by cleaning his ears (use ear cleaner) and applying our ear mite oil.
Dogs scratch when they are excited or stressed. This is only problematic if the dog does this so often that it becomes routine and he injures himself in the process.
If you have a very stressed dog who is constantly scratching or even biting himself, you should seek out a competent dog trainer or behavioral advisor who is well versed in the problem.
Inflamed anal glands
The anal glands are located to the right and left of the anus and produce a secretion, which in healthy dogs is excreted with the faeces. This secretion serves as a marker of the dog’s territory. You could say that the dog communicates through the anal glands. If the faeces are too soft or the dog has an illness, this secretion is not excreted and the anal glands become blocked. If they are then not emptied manually by the vet or owner, they can get infected. With inflamed anal glands, dogs understandably feel uncomfortable and want to remedy the situation. But they usually can’t reach the area, so that they then nibble and scratch their backs. If the dog's faeces are too soft and there is no other illness, Heilmoor can be a good support as it optimises the excrement consistency.
Food intolerance or allergy
If the dog scratches himself, especially around the ears, and has even had an ear infection, it is important to adjust the diet. Many dogs have an intolerance or allergy to certain foods. The dogs often react with gastrointestinal symptoms, followed by ear infections, itching on the body and paws. In order to determine exactly whether the dog has a food intolerance or not, follow an exclusion diet.
With an exclusion diet, the dog should only be given one source of meat and one vegetable source for 8-10 weeks. Varieties that the dog has never eaten before are also best. That is why we recommend our pure wet food varieties: beef or horse.
An environmental allergy can easily be overlooked or mistaken for a feed intolerance. The symptoms are similar, except that if the dog is allergic to the environment, they often have reddened eyes and skin.
To differentiate, carefully observe when the symptoms appear. All year round or every year in spring, for example? Unlike with feed intolerance, blood can be drawn and tested for various environmental allergens.
Bacteria or fungi
Bacteria and yeasts are natural inhabitants of the skin, but if there are changes in the skin environment or the immune system is weakened (for example due to a feed intolerance), these bacteria multiply and an infection can occur. Hot spots (a weeping and superficial inflammation of the skin) are very typical here.
You will notice very quickly whether your dog is infected with fungi, because the fungi cause limited hair loss and the dog does not even have to scratch himself often!
In order to treat a disease or parasite infestation quickly, you should consult a veterinarian or animal health practitioner as soon as you notice changes in the fur or skin or the dog shows abnormal behaviour such as scratching or licking. There are several methods of making a diagnosis, such as skin swabs, taking tissue and hair samples, and blood tests. Parasites can be diagnosed immediately.
There are various therapy options. The most commonly used anti-itch agents in dogs are, shampoos, creams, sprays and even tablets. In the event of a parasite infestation, please ensure that the dog and the surrounding area are treated as quickly as possible.
If you find that the dog scratches himself due to stress, we recommend that you consult a competent dog trainer or behavioral advisor, because it is important to find the stress-causing factors and eliminate them.
Natural remedies for itching in dogs
Natural remedies can also be used for itching in dogs. It is particularly important to support the skin during the fur change. In addition, dogs can become nutritionally deficient even if they are properly fed, and the skin becomes very dry and flaky.
We have developed two products that support and care for the skin. Our Fur Harmony vital powder contains brewer's yeast, spirulina, rose hip peel and milk thistle seeds, with valuable B and C vitamins, ideal for fur, skin and the immune system. As valuable omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are also important, consider our Fur Harmony Feed Oil with salmon, hemp and evening primrose oil.
There are several reasons dogs scratch themselves. From parasites, stress, food intolerance to a bacterial disease, everything is possible. But it is always important to find the cause first instead of just treating symptomatically.
Apart from treating the symptoms, make sure that your dog receives a good and balanced diet, because a strong immune system is less susceptible to diseases and parasites.