Common Dog Skin Problems: Scratching, Itching & Other Skin Conditions

Has your dog been excessively itching, scratching, or licking their skin? They could be suffering from a condition called dermatitis. Today, our West Chester vets discuss some common causes of dermatitis and how to help your pup feel better.

Why is my dog scratching?

Most dogs will inevitably encounter itching at some point. In most cases, it will be annoying for your pet but not serious. However, some conditions do need to be seen by a vet and will require treatment to prevent them from becoming worse and potentially leading to infection. 

    Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

    There are several reasons your dog may start to scratch, lick or bite at their fur. Some of the more common ones include:

    Parasitic Bites

    Bites from fleas and mites are one of the most common sources of itching in dogs, and one of the easiest to treat. Your vet can prescribe medication to resolve the parasite issue and you can do a thorough cleaning of your living space, particularly areas your dog frequents (such as their bed) to ensure there are no lingering parasites. 

    You can also proactively give your dog parasite preventives 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. 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, it is possible that your dog's itching is being caused by 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.

    Hives

    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 causes the dog's fur to stick out.

    Occasionally, hives will present with swelling near the eyes. Using a hypoallergenic shampoo for dogs will usually alleviate the condition. A hydrating leave-in conditioner may also help. Ask your vet what they recommend for your pet.

    Emergency 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 biting at the areas that itch which could lead to infection and severe discomfort for your pup. 

    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 problems in dogs, or to seek treatment options, contact our West Chester vets today to book an appointment.

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    West Chester Veterinary Medical Center accepts new clients to our specialty and emergency service hospital.

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