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Itchy Dog?

The key to solving your dog’s itchy problem is figuring out why she is scratching or licking, then treating for specific causes. Cortisone shots or tablets will cover up the cause of many types of itch, but they are not always best for your pet and usually do not cure the problem. Most dogs itch because of allergies, skin infections, fleas or mange mites.

Pet parents can help a veterinarian determine the reason for the itch by observing where on her body the dog is itchy and what the skin looks like in those areas. When the reason is an allergy, the triggers are atopic, such as pollen or grass, food allergy and flea allergy.

Atopic allergies cause dogs to lick their paws, with the front feet affected most. They often have itchy ears and rub their faces on the carpet or furniture.  Food allergies cause itchy ears 80 percent of the time and often cause an itch around the anus. Sometimes an upset tummy can occur; many have more than three bowel movements per day.

A flea allergy causes an itch on the tail root and above the tail area. The hind legs are also often affected, but the paws are not itchy.  Often, owners do not see the fleas. Many flea products work well enough to kill the fleas and, thus, the itch.

Mange mites, also called scabies in advanced cases, cause crusty lesions on the edges of ear margins and elbows. Eighty percent of dogs with scabies will scratch their sides with the hind leg when their ear pinnae (flap) is folded and rubbed together.

Often, dogs have a mild itch because of an allergic disease that suddenly becomes itchier, as the skin gets infected by the dog breaking the skin with her scratching.

Staph infections cause crusts, especially ring-like crusts on the skin. Yeast infections are mostly present in the ear fold areas and paws. If your dog has black bands on the base of her nails, she likely has yeast in the nail beds. Yeast infections are especially itchy.

When you notice excessive scratching and licking, get your dog to the veterinarian right away. The sooner the cause is diagnosed and treated, the sooner your dog will be comfortable, happy and itch-free.


The Veterinarian Team at Bright Cross Animal Clinic contributed to this article. Bright Cross is located at 4165 S. Tamiami Trail in Venice. Call 941-408-9696 or visit for more information.

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