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Ask Dr. Aziza: Why Your Dog Can't Stop Itching and How to Relieve it

written by Ellie Walker

An itchy dog is a common occurrence in the vet clinic, but several things could be causing this discomfort. Let’s take a closer look at the top causes of itching and how we treat it to provide your dog with some itch relief.

Reason #1: Fleas

Fleas are a type of parasite that can cause severe itchiness and it’s the most common cause of non-stop itching. Some dogs are more sensitive to fleas than others, but all are affected to some degree. Flea preventatives are the best way to protect your pup from fleas and avoid the need for dog itch relief products.

Once a flea infestation has been diagnosed, it is also recommended to treat your house and yard for fleas to further exterminate the flea population. Your veterinarian will determine which flea product is best for your dogs based on its medical history, lifestyle, and ease of administration.

Reason #2: Food allergies

Like people, dogs can be allergic to food. Contrary to popular belief, most dogs are allergic to the protein source in food, not grain. To determine which food ingredient(s) to avoid, it is recommended to perform a food diet trial. This can be conducted in a couple of ways:

  • Novel protein diet trial: Pet parents compile a list of all food products their pet has ever received to the best of their knowledge, and feed a protein their pet has never received. Usually, pet parents will use uncommon protein diets like rabbit, bison, or whitefish. Thankfully, there are non-prescription, natural dog food options, like Freshpet’s Vital Salmon & Ocean Whitefish recipe, that are readily available.

  • Hypoallergenic diet trial: A hypoallergenic food diet trial requires a pet to receive a prescription hypoallergenic diet. In both instances, pets can only receive the diets approved for the food trial, including treats, for about 4-12 weeks.

Reason #3: Environmental allergies

Dogs can also be affected by environmental allergens. This includes both seasonal and non-seasonal allergens. If you suspect that your dog’s itching is caused by allergies, there are tests that help determine what specific allergens your dog is allergic to as well as the severity of their allergy. Ideally, these tests are performed by a veterinary dermatologist so your veterinarian may refer you to another clinic if there isn’t one available at the practice.

To help provide your dog with some itch relief, there are medications that are very effective in minimizing the symptoms of these allergies and are designed for long-term use.

Reason #4: Mange

In addition to fleas, there are other parasites, namely mites, that cause itchiness in dogs and lead to a host of secondary issues including:

  • Bacterial skin infections

  • Hair loss

This results in a common disease known as mange. To diagnose mange, your dog will undergo a skin scrape test which can be performed at most veterinary clinics. Thankfully, there are medications that treat mites and provide your dog with itch relief.

Reason #5: Toxin exposure

There are toxins that can cause itching and irritation to your dog’s skin. It can be caused by:

  • Common household cleaning products

  • Plants, such as poison ivy

  • Heavily scented products, such as candles or air fresheners

Usually, contact allergies resolve when the source of exposure is removed from the pet’s environment. Medications may be indicated to heal any skin lesions or provide your dog with itch relief, but generally are not needed long term.

In addition to these five reasons, some dogs just naturally have more sensitive skin that is prone to itchiness. If your dog falls into this category, it can be a good idea to switch them to a diet that is designed specifically for sensitive skin, such as Freshpet® Select Sensitive Stomach & Skin recipe.

In general, choosing a diet that includes fresh animal proteins will provide your dog with more fatty acids, which will in turn keep their coats healthy and help prevent dry skin! Take a look at all our best dog food options here!

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A person holding a black and white dog reaching for a Freshpet recipe.

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