Why is My Dog Itching and Scratching?

18 CommentsTuesday, 16 April 2013  |  Kate

Some Causes of Itchy Skin in Dogs

The skin is the largest organ in the body and so it is not surprising that skin diseases account for a significant proportion of visits to both doctors and vets. There are many conditions that affect the skin of dogs, ranging from flea bites to skin cancer, but what is almost certainly the most important canine skin disease is atopic dermatitis. Skin allergies are incredibly common in dogs, and whilst most cases are relatively mild and cause only minor irritation, dermatitis can cause significant long term suffering to affected animals.

The most common manifestations of skin allergies are:

  • Itching (or pruritus as it is known to vets)
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Fur loss and saliva staining
  • Foot chewing
  • And in long-standing cases, secondary symptoms such as the blackening and the thickening of skin

The main causes of skin allergies in dogs are:

  • Atopy (allergies to things that are breathed in)
  • Food allergies
  • Contact allergies, including flea allergies

Atopic allergies are the most common (in my experience they account for at least 70% of cases of allergic dermatitis in dogs) and are caused by allergic reactions to inhaled allergens such as pollen from trees and grass, which tends to be around for a few weeks at a particular time of year. Other inhaled allergens can be a problem all year round such as mould spores, house dust mites, chemicals on furniture and carpets, indoor air fresheners and fabrics like wool and nylon.

In dogs the symptoms tend to be expressed in the skin, and licking feet and generalised itching are the classic symptoms of a case of atopic allergy. Atopy is more common in certain breeds, with small breed dogs such as Westies being most commonly affected - although all breeds can suffer from this kind of allergy.

The next cause of skin allergies is food allergies, although these are much less common than many people think and there is much debate over their true prevalence. Some vets are convinced that certain food ingredients such as wheat, beef and soya are responsible for a significant number of cases of skin allergies in dogs, but I think nowadays the consensus is that true skin allergies directly caused by food are actually quite uncommon.

Contact allergies, such as those caused by washing powders, grass and so on, are even less common than food allergies, but do need to be considered in dogs which have unusual patterns of allergies, such as redness only on the belly that has appeared just after their bed has been washed for example.

The good news is that in most cases, the solution to itchy dog skin is simply a matter of ensuring your pet is getting the right nutritional balance, that includes treats too (not always easy with modern complete diets) coupled with effective parasite control. Over at the Itchy Dog Shop we offer several nutritional supplements and remedies for dogs to help combat itching and scratching.

Here's what we recommend:

For all over improved skin and coat condition use Yumega Plus, it's good for soothing itchy and sensitive skin and Resist! also works well to aid your dog's recovery back to health.

For treating specific parts of the body like paw chewing or sore underarms Ekoneem Oil is your best bet, simply rub onto the afflicted areas and let the cream work its magic. Also use Ekoneem Organic Neem Oil Shampoo Bar while bathing your dog for continued results.

For getting rid of those unwelcome visitors namely: fleas, ticks and mites Billy No Mates Herbal Treatment is highly recommended by both us and our customers or if you prefer a liquid version there's Billy No Mates Tincture.

Margaret Alman
Monday, 24 February 2014  |  16:59

Poppies our Labrador was badly attacked 4 yrs ago she started to pull out her fur after the bites had healed. We are convinced where scars are were annoying her. She has quitened down since changing food with your herbs has helped ..Also use veg chicken and fish cooked with brown rice with less dry food for both our dogs now.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015  |  19:46

I've 2yr old staffy boy who bites &chew his feet he's biting his thighs &making bald bits he's not got flees so I'm thinking maybe mites he loves rolling on the grass,he&my other dog have been on same food for over a yr old&get liver also ,help plz I'm at my wits Ibe shampoo and sprayed him with special stuff that's meant for fleas ticks &mites.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015  |  14:45

Hi Louise

Skinny Dip shampoo and spray will sort mites right out. It's the neem that does it. Also vary their food. That makes the world of difference too.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017  |  20:09

Trudy, my 2 YO jack russel/ shih tzu cross and her brother Otto both have the main symptoms of allergies described above. the two dogs are fed a raw meat diet as we thought the cause was a grain allergy yet the flair-ups keep occurring. I don't know what could be causing the itching as the two dogs do not eat anything other than what is given to them. also no mites, ticks or parasites. Do you have any suggestions?

Wednesday, 26 July 2017  |  11:53

Hi Alisha

It can be a number of things: Stress, environmental (cleaning products, air fresheners), or pollen/grass allergies.

They are on a good diet but you may be lacking a decent omega oil blend in there. Please email us at contact@myitchydog.co.uk to discuss further.

Sunday, 9 July 2017  |  9:23

My 5 year old cocker spaniel is constantly chewing her paws - obsessively at times. She does itch in other parts of her body - but mainly it's her paws. She did have a bad reaction to harvest mites a few years ago and was put on Apoquel which cured the itching and reaction. The vets want her to have allergy testing which could cost £300+. She already has Billy No Mates every day and has been raw feed for 4 years - any other ideas what I could try? She is constantly rolling and playing in the grass - don't know if it's grass related or food related.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017  |  11:55

Hi Chris

Sounds like a grass allergy or a yeast problem. As she's raw fed I'd try treating the former first. Use our Skinny Cream twice a day on paws, in between the toes and everything. That should take the itch out. Also wipe down paws and your dog after a walk to remove any allergens which could be causing the itch.

Email us if you need any more help.


Saturday, 7 October 2017  |  3:16

About 2 months ago on the advice of a behaviourist we switched our dogís food (he is a four year old cockerpoo) from James Wellbeloved kibble to a more expensive food with a higher meat content - we chose Eden original/fish cuisine kibble as his brother is on this. Over the past few weeks he has been so itchy, I feel so sorry for him, he canít settle without his rest being interrupted by the need to scratch - all over his body -- evenings and night seem to be worse, he is even taking some fur off with it. He never had a problem with scratching before we changed his food so I am blaming this!- I am wondering is it a food allergy, or is Eden too rich for him, should I change him back or on to something else, and if so what? Hope you can help...thank you

Monday, 9 October 2017  |  10:25

Hi Gail

The only way to find out is to change his food again. Why did the behaviourist suggest the change in the first place?

If it doesn't solve the problem give us a call on 01903 256373 for a chat and we'll try to get to the bottom of it.


Saturday, 3 February 2018  |  20:19

I have an awkward one - I hope someone can help!
My 8yo neutered GSD has had itchy arms pits and groins for the last six weeks. He is either scratching his pits, or chewing his groins, the latter now having saliva staining. We have ruled out food alergies, and cannot find any lodgers!
As he occasionally suffers with Anal Furunculosis, he was prescribed Atopica, originally at a rate of 4 x daily (400gms). Once the fistulas were no longer a problem (October 2017), I gradually cut his Atopica down from 2 @ 100gms x daily, to one every other day. About four weeks later the scratching started - coincidence? Maybe!
He now takes 3 x Piriton and 1 x Atopica (100mgs) daily as prescribed by his Vet.
I would like to remove drugs from his regime, until such time as Atopica is required for the AF again. Apart from not agreeing with constantly putting toxins into him, I need to know the Atopica will have the full effect when really needed for the AF.
I have tried rubbing coconut oil into the areas ....... but he thinks it tastes wonderful, and licks it off! As he also suffers from EPI, providing him with oil to ingest is not a clever idea!
Any ideas at all would be gratefully received, and likely tried!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018  |  11:16

Hi Freddie

We can help with all that. For the EPI add Dorwest Tree Barks Powder to food every day. For the itching add Dorwest Mixed Veg and Garlic & Fenugreek tablets daily. All that should really help both problems. Get them from us at www.myitchydog.co.uk
Thanks Kate

Laurence Wilkinson
Monday, 23 July 2018  |  22:32

Left my shih Tzu with a minder. Got back of holls found 1 flee. But scabs around base of tail. He was due fleeing so did it one week ago. Used frontline. He is still chewing and scratching all over. No fleas to be seen. He was groomed approx. 4wks ago. Could it possibly regrowth?. Irritation, as I get that growing a beard. Plus the weather is very hot at the moment. Regards Laurence...

Tuesday, 24 July 2018  |  8:24

Hi Laurence

Could be flea allergic dermatitis, allergy to flea bites which is very itchy. Get some Skinny Cream from us at My Itchy Dog here and apply twice a day. It will be gone in a couple of days.


Lynda Doolan
Sunday, 14 April 2019  |  17:01

I am desperately trying to help my dog. He is a four year old cockapoo who has been itching now for over a year. The vet said it was probably allergies and prescribed Apoquel. I did not give this to my dog after reading reviews on it. He licks his paws a lot. He has ear infections a lot and we have used thornit which has helped but infection always come back. He also has a itchy red area on his neck area. I just went out for a few hours and came back and he had scratched himself raw between his ear and mouth area. I think he does have yeast problems also as he gets quite smelly. We use a good shampoo that is for dogs with itchiness, I have changed his diet to raw and donít feed him any vegetables, chicken lamb or beef. His diet consists of duck, fish and rabbit. Please can you help thank you.

Monday, 15 April 2019  |  13:26

Hi Lynda

Thanks for your comment,

I have sent you an email regarding this enquiry.

Sharon Frost
Monday, 24 June 2019  |  13:15

My 3 yr old chi is itching all the time on his body his feet,and I've just noticed some dandruff

Lynn Curson
Wednesday, 24 July 2019  |  16:23

My bearded collie seemes to have flea allergy even though I was using a spot on avoiding frontline as been told itís bad for collies.Grooming her every day
She was chewing herself and hot spots were appearing no matter what I have tried like oatmeal based shampoo to calm her skin one flea bite she would be scratching and biting herself for days
I came across your website and ordered your BNM Flea repellent product and the shampoo and spray I have only been using it just over a week on my Collies but I shampooed Beardie in your recommend shampoo and itís a miracle she has not scratched all week oh the peace!
It was such a worry so I guess it could be a combination of the shampoo and flea treatment although too early yet to tell but all I can say is thanks letís hope it continues.
My Collies come from a breeder who use to work for your company and I spotted a tub of BNM she said it does work and it has to build up in your dogs system and what a good company you are so it has given me faith that I am doing the best for my dogs and to keep on buying your products.
Itís a huge relief for me to find a natural solution instead of having to use chemicals on my girls fingers crossed Beardie keeps from scratching no hot spots for over a week her skin looks calm ..happy dog happy owner!😀 🐶

Friday, 26 July 2019  |  0:09

I have a 5 month old cooapoo puppy and my cocapoo puppy is scratching at the sofa and on her 2 beds that I have recently got my girl
Also when we come to bed my girls sleeps on the bed with me and she does the same her scratching the bed clothes before going to bed? Any I sears where I could be going wrong?
Before o had a cocapoo puppy I have had a yellow lab how sadly I had to let go of. So this is my first time with a cocapoo puppy so I am now to all of this but Iím learning as I go along
Also I have a 1 year old cat and every time my cat come in my cocapoo puppy is chasing my cat any advice is much appreciated? Many thanks
M . L . Anderson