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why does my dog scratch

Itching and Scratching in Dogs

When a dog is scratching itself constantly, the source of the itch, rash, etc. may be the result of:  An infestation of fleas;  A reaction to another type of bug bite or even insect eggs that have been laid by a bug just under the first layer of skin; Allergies to food or pesticides present in food stuffs;

Seasonal or year round environmental allergies to plants, air born pollen, fungus, molds, etc.;

An allergic reaction to solvents and cleaners (i.e spray application – miniscule droplets/particles becoming airborne in the home or outdoor environment);

Dry skin; 

Bacteria, fungus or yeast infection;

Scratching can also be an outlet for unspent energy or anxiety.
Once in a while my Chihuahua will come into contact with a plant that he is allergic to – a dose of Benedryl resolves the rash and the itching for him.  

My Boxer is allergic to some vegetables (but not to fruit). He also has some environmental allergies – seasonal. I find adding two tablespoons of 100% pure aloe juice to his daily food helps a lot with his allergies. If your dog has pollen related environmental allergies you can read here for DIY natural herbal treatments and remedies. He is about 65 pounds. Remember what works for one dog may not work for another – just like with people. When my Australian Shepherd and my Alsatian x Alaskan Malamute get stung by bees or bitten by deer-fly they can get some really nasty swelling and irritation. Just like with us humans, some dogs are more sensitive to bug bites than others are.

Abby, Zoey, Stevie and Tasha on the trails

As I have a lot of experience with dogs I am often able to diagnose these things myself. Without this kind of experience you would likely have to see a Veterinarian to have the cause diagnosed. But, you can try to draw conclusions yourself if you wish to start the process yourself…

Think back to when your dog’s scratching started:

See if you recall introducing any new food to his diet at the time;

Try to remember if something in his environment changed or a new item was introduced (new cleaning product, new plant in the house, etc.);

Is his scratching seasonal?

Did you start walking him somewhere different? Somewhere he may come into contact with a plant, fungus that he did not before (i.e. wooded trails, meadows as opposed to sidewalks or pavement).

I also make sure my dogs get good fats – omega fatty acids 3 and 6 in the right balance from quality food sources, on a daily basis to support healthy fur, skin and immune system health. A lack of enough and good quality omega fatty acids can trigger allergies and a whole host of other health issues. If you would like to learn more about how to make sure your dog is getting the right kind of fats in the proper ratio from the best food sources you can read this article ‘Fatty Acids for Dogs – Omega 3, Omega 6, Health Benefits, Best Sources, Dosage’ 

The following provides a little more in-depth information on allergies…

Foods: The common symptoms of food allergies consist of skin irritation, excessive itching, hair loss, and hot spots. In addition, they can cause the dog to have loose bowel movements and even cause them to throw up from time to time. There are a number of causes for food allergies including a built-up intolerance to beef, dairy products, chicken, corn and soy. Food allergies can develop over time making it all the more important to be aware of these symptoms. 

Fleas: Much like food allergies, a dog may develop redness to the skin, become itchy, and may begin chewing in spots. The primary instigator of discomfort is the saliva of fleas that irritates the dog’s skin. Similar to mosquitoes, fleas suck blood from the dog.  If the dog has chewed his own skin, antibiotics will be sometimes needed, depending on the severity of the problem. I recommend going to your veterinarian to obtain the required flea treatment products. Do not buy off-the-shelf products from pet supply stores – these are not affective. You can also look into holistic treatments. Some dogs do have a reaction to the chemical based flea treatment products. 

Bacteria: Bacterial allergies can be identified by red blotches, pus pockets, hair loss and skin formation that looks like ringworm. Typically, bacteria allergies are secondary to other problems the dog may have such as parasitism or hormonal disorders. It is vital to get a blood test to see what the actual problem is.

Contact: The symptoms of contact allergies are very similar to flea and bacteria allergy symptoms. The cause of contact allergies is the dog coming into contact with allergens. Anything from materials used for bedding, chemicals, plants, or household cleaning products can bring on contact allergies. There are several different treatment methods including using a specially formulated  shampoo (available from your Veterinarian), a prescribed oral form of steroids, or any natural treatments like omega-3 and aloe vera juice.

Atopical: Atopical allergies start with itching, biting, hair loss and face rubbing. Other symptoms may be papules, which are small red bumps, or pustules, which are small pimple-like lesions. Atopical allergies are typically caused by fleas, but can also be caused by airborne, chemicals, and by many of the common products found in your home.
I would just add, that it is important to remember that scratching can also be an outlet for unspent energy leading to anxious behaviors such as repeated scratching. It can also be an outlet for anxiety resulting from a state of insecurity. Make sure that your dog is getting the exercise and Leadership it requires. Remember – energy must out!

My Boxer has seasonal allergies. I find that adding two tablespoons of 100% aloe vera juice as well as coconut oil, herbs and alternative medicines, homemade dog food and and fresh whole foods to his daily diet makes a big difference – his scratching and discomfort is greatly reduced! 

If your dog is suffering from skin irritations you can add rooibos tea to his/her diet as well as use the tea to topically treat the irritated spots. If your dog is suffering from candida you can use these herbal soaks to sooth itchiness and irritation. Many commercially manufactured dog shampoos contain chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions and help create a toxic burden in your dog.  Chemical based household cleaners are best replaced with natural, non-toxic household cleaners.

Robbie, my Boxer enjoying off-leash time on my trail

 Quercetin is a better alternative to Benedryl…

I recommend using Quercetin rather than Benedryl. Quercetin is called ‘Nature’s Benedryl’. It is a natural alternative without the side effects of Benedryl. You can read about Quercetin, its many health benefits and daily recommended dosage here.

The following provides the dosages for Benedryl (below) but be careful – if the scratching persists you need to find a real solution – please remember Benedryl is not a cure it is only a band aid approach – it is better to find the cause and cure! If the allergies are environmental you can use these natural herbal interventions and some of these herbs and alternative medicines in-place of the chemical based anti-allergens such as Benedryl. 

Here are the standard dosages for dogs – for Benadryl, based on body weight, & using a 25 mg tablet/capsule. The dosages are based on the dogs weight in kilograms – to convert to pounds…there are 2.5kg in a pound: <10 kg 1 tablet; 10-25 kg 1-2 tablets; > 25 kg 2 tablets. Frequency of dosage: every 8 hours.

Additional Assistance

If you require additional support and guidance I would be pleased to assist you via my In-Person or On-Line Services…

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About Karen Rosenfeld

My name is Karen Rosenfeld. I am an holistic diet nutrition health and wellness practitioner for dogs and cats. I am an holistic behaviorist for dogs. I offer a wealth of real-time, real-life experience. 30 years working and living with dogs and cats. Companion animals are my life, my work, my passion. Maintenance of Health Health Issues and Conditions Custom designed whole food diets, raw and cooked. Recommendations for commercial whole food diets. Consultations available worldwide via FaceTime, FaceBook video and voice, Skype, Phone and email Recommendation and specification of... Species Appropriate: Whole foods Treats Herbs Alternative medicines Supplemental foods Treatment and Remedy Holistic Behaviorist Services for Dogs Include: Obedience Training Behavior Modification Psychological Rehabilitation In-person Sessions Sessions available worldwide via FaceTime, FaceBook video and voice, Skype, Phone Affiliations to Companies None. I don’t sell food or supplements. I am NOT aligned with any companies. I prefer to select best solutions for my individual clients’ situation. My client services are available around the world. 🇺🇸USA 🇨🇦Canada 🇬🇧UK 🇦🇺Australia 🇪🇺Europe 🇨🇷Costa Rica and other Central American Countries 🇦🇪United Arab Emirates 🇸🇪Sweden and other Scandinavian Countries 🇸🇬Singapore and other Countries in Asia etc. Consultations and Sessions 📧Email: karen@ottawavalleydogwhispererer.ca 📞Phone: 1-613-293-3707 📱FaceTime 📱FaceBook video or voice 💻Skype 📖Holistic Wellness eBooks custom designed to suit 🚶In-person Sessions only available in Ontario, Canada.

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  1. Hi I hope you can help me. My dog is 12, ive had her since she was a puppy. A couple of months ago she started scratching a lot!! Around that time I had to start working a couple of days a week. I had worked evenings before and my husband days. The scratching is getting worse and her skin is fine. She has had no other changes in her life, same food, same home etc.. ive tried antihistamines prescribed by her vet, no change. Is there something I can do to help her? I dont want to keep going to the vets constantly but obviously I will if I have to. I hate seeing her so uncomfortable all the time. Thank you in anticipation, Katherin x

    • Hi Katherine, yes there are things that you can do to help your dog overcome this. Your veterinarian is like many allopathic veterinarians quick to prescribe drugs without first gaining an understanding of the root cause of the condition and understanding the impacts of the drugs that they prescribe on both a one time and on a continual basis. I would be happy to assist you. The root cause of your dog’s discomfort may be psychological or it may be physical (environmental, ingested, etc. ). If you are serious about getting assistance to resolve this I would be pleased to consult with you. To identify the cause and appropriate remedy I would need to know what you are currently feeding your dog, any current medications (including flea, tick meds, etc.) health conditions and to speak with you regarding the behavourial side of things. YOu would require at minimum 1.5 to 2 hours of my time.

  2. HI I have just rescued a few puppies from Jamaica and brought them back home to Canada. I am finding now that the Male is scratching constantly. Could it be weather change air. I am not sure. Any help would be appreciated Thanks,

  3. HI< I love your blog!!! So my dog has horrible skin allergies and I feed him the diet you post on your blog to a T. But I cant find 100% aloe vera JUICE anywhere. What brand do you recommend?


  4. My dog has a yeast infection, nothing in her ears but around her vulva.

    Her whole body is also itchy. This poor dog, it has taken 5 vet visits to figure this out. She’s on Acana but thinking of switching her to Orijen (less carbs).

    Going to start treating her with flowers of sulphur, coconut oil, probiotics and ACV. REALLY hope this works 🙁

  5. poultry and fish have been a main source of allergies to three of my four dogs. I home cook and I find feeding med. rare red meat mixed with steamed vegetables and either couscous or quinoa which have more good things in them than just rice, keeps them from breaking out in itchy bumps.
    I also do a foot wash on them, once in the morning after their morning outing, and the last potty break before bed. If I don’t do the wash, they chew at their feet.

  6. Hi Karen. Corn is real culprit as food allergy. I remember how much Sparkie suffered. He was born with ear allergies and I didnt realise until after two years that corn was making it worse. In Jamaica, most dogs enjoy home-cooked meals with cornmeal being used as the foundation of the meal. Sparkie is having rice now. His ear allergy is with him for life but the change to rice from cornmeal has lifted some of his troubles.

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