It is common to see dogs scratch behind their ear or neck once in a while. But if you see your pet doing this often day and night and it seems to be happening more and more frequently, then chances are your canine friend is suffering from excessive itching or pruritus.
Causes of Pruritus
There are various possible causes behind your dog’s severe itching. These include:
- Dry skin
- Food allergies
- Seasonal allergies or atopy
- Bacterial infection
- Yeast infection
- The presence of parasites
For many dogs with this condition, Dry Skin is often the main culprit. Dogs can develop dry skin when you use the wrong shampoo when bathing them. Under-grooming, exposure to dry climate or excessive forced air heating, and a poor diet can also cause your canine friend to suffer from dry skin and severe itching.
Helping Your Itchy Dog Find Relief
To find the exact cause (or causes) of your dog’s pruritus, it is best to bring your pet to your vet. But you can help your canine friend get temporary (and maybe even permanent) relief from itching by following these useful tips:
1. Modify your pet’s diet
Once you start giving your pet well-balanced and more nutritious meals and treats, you will ensure he gets the nutrients he needs to stay healthy. This, in turn, will reduce itching and scratching.
If the vet finds out that your dog has food allergies, you will be advised to give your pet a hypoallergenic diet. This usually means eliminating the below items from your pup’s diet:
- Wheat and soy
This also entails buying specifically formulated dog foods that the vet prescribes.
2. Add yogurt to your pet’s daily diet
If a yeast infection is the main reason behind your dog’s discomfort, your pet will be given an oral or topical antibiotic or antifungal medication. But you can also help your pet become more comfortable by giving him a tablespoon of yogurt every day.
The probiotics in yogurt can help fight the harmful bacteria in your dog’s body. These healthy substances will help balance your pet’s digestive system and keep yeast infections away.
You can add the tablespoon of yogurt to your pup’s meal or let him eat directly from the spoon.
3. Groom your dog properly and regularly
You can reduce minor itching in your pet by using a special dermatological shampoo at each washing or as advised by your vet.
Aside from using a prescribed shampoo, you can use these products or items when giving your pet a bath to give him temporary relief:
- Ground oatmeal – Oatmeal can soothe and moisturize your pet’s itchy and dry skin. To make an oatmeal bath, simply fill your pet’s tub with warm water and add some oats. Let your dog soak in this bath for at least five minutes. Make sure to rinse all the oatmeal out of the dog’s coat when he’s finished with his bath.
- Epsom salt – This type of salt can also soothe your canine friend’s itchy skin. Add a cup of Epsom salt to your dog’s warm bath. Allow your pet to soak in the bath for a minimum of five minutes. Rinse your pet thoroughly once the five minutes is up.
- Chamomile combined with other herbal teas – Chamomile and other types of herbal teas such as calendula and peppermint can also calm your dog’s itchy sensations. Just add the herbal teas to your dog’s warm bath. Leave the tea bags in the water for three minutes then remove them.
Again, allow your dog to soak for five minutes in the bath. You don’t have to rinse your pet afterwrds but make sure you dry him properly.
There will be instances, though, when frequent shampooing will not be advised by the veterinarian. This is especially true if your dog’s skin is particularly dry.
In such cases, the vet will recommend regular gentle brushing with a medium strength bristle brush to remove debris from the coat. Remember to take special care when brushing your dog to avoid scratching his damaged, unhealthy skin.
4. Get rid of parasites
If ticks, fleas and other parasites are causing your dog to itch, ask your vet for a suitable and safe parasitic treatment. There are various flea control products and miticides available today. These include collars, liquid treatments such as shampoos, and injections.
Your vet will also advise you on whether there are any specific areas of your dog’s body that requires some particular type of parasitic treatment.
5. Hold an ice pack wrapped in a towel against the dog’s itchy area
This is another effective technique that will help alleviate itching in your dog. However, make sure you cover the ice pack with a towel and that you move or remove the pack after a few minutes to avoid injuring or damaging your pup’s skin.
Don’t let your beloved canine suffer too long from pruritus. If you see your pet scratching all the time, take him to the vet and follow the veterinarian’s recommendations completely.
Dr. Max Spicer is the Managing Partner and Senior Veterinary Surgeon at The Veterinary Hospital in Dubai. He has taken strides towards providing comprehensive service by hiring veterinarians that are flexible, approachable, and highly specialised in their respective fields.