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02 Oct Why do dogs scratch?

Just like humans, when dogs have an itch, they will scratch it. But why is your dog scratching? How much scratching is normal? How can you stop them scratching so much? We’ve explored the main causes of scratching and what you need to do to ensure your dog is comfortable, happy, and healthy.

Fleas

It’s the big one that strikes dread into the hearts of dog owners. Fleas are tiny parasites that live and breed in your dog’s coat, causing your dog itchiness and discomfort. If your dog is scratching more than usual, then it’s time to check for fleas.

Look for small dark flecks of dirt when grooming your dog and put them onto a piece of damp kitchen roll. If they come out red the flecks are probably flea dirt and your dog will need treatment.

Most dogs will come into contact with fleas at some point in their lives, which is why vets recommend regular, effective treatments. There are lots of options that you can discuss with your vet, such as spot-on treatments, tablets and medicated washes. Most treatments will kill your dog’s fleas and eggs and prevent further infestations for weeks afterwards. Then simply repeat on a regular basis, as recommended by your vet.

Ticks, mites, and other parasites

Just like with fleas, ticks and mites are parasites that live in your dog’s fur or on their skin. 

Ticks are easily visible and should be carefully removed with a special tool that you can pick up in most pet shops or vets. Many of the commonly available treatments for fleas also deter ticks, but dogs can still pick them up in long grass. Make sure you check your pooch daily for ticks, remove any you find, squash them in a tissue to kill them, then flush it down the loo.

Mites are tiny, almost microscopic creatures that burrow under your dog’s skin, resulting in a condition called mange. If you suspect your dog has mites, visit your vet as soon as possible. They will prescribe medication such as an anti-parasitic wash to help tackle the problem.

Brown dog with open mouth in field

Allergies

Scratching is a common symptom of allergies. Many dogs suffer from them, and these can be triggered by their environment, such as pollen or mould or ingredients in their food. 

If you notice your dog scratching more than usual, and you’ve eliminated fleas as the reason, head over to your vet. They’ll be able to discuss your dog’s symptoms and give you advice for diagnosing allergies, such as by changing to a hypoallergenic food, or reducing your dog’s exposure to certain environmental triggers.

For the most part, allergies are best treated by removing the trigger, but in some more severe cases your vet may prescribe medication such as antihistamines.

Skin irritation

Skin irritation can be caused by a number of things, including chemical substances, like pesticides and certain soaps. To prevent this, avoid using strong chemicals in your home and garden, including for laundry, and use a very gentle soap (if any) when bathing your dog. 

Remember not to bathe your dog too often as doing so can strip out the natural oils in their coat and dry their skin, and always use a dog specific shampoo.

If your dog has severe dermatitis, resulting in hair loss, soreness, or scabbing, you should always visit your vet. They may prescribe medication including creams and shampoos that will help ease the dermatitis.

Most of the time, scratching is a normal behaviour that isn’t a cause for concern, but as we’ve seen, it can be an indicator of a medical issue. If you decide to visit your vet, it’s always useful to come armed with as much information as possible – and this is where PitPat steps in. PitPat monitors your dog’s exercise and weight so you’ll be able to see whether your dog’s routine and health has changed, both of which could be symptoms of a medical issue. 

Make sure you keep your dog happy and healthy with a PitPat dog activity monitor for just £39.

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