Why does my dog scratch

Why does my dog scratch

2018-10-03T07:47:47+10:00 October 3rd, 2018|Itchy dog|

Itchy dogs are a common condition and can be very frustrating for both pets and their owners.  Itch has a medical name, Pruritus.  Its one of the major reasons people seek Veterinary treatment.  There is a lot of information online about itchy dogs and unfortunately a lot of it is not true or misleading.  Home remedies such as apple cidar vinegar or using collodial silver are very worriying and plane dangerous at times.

Itch or Pruritus is caused by 4 main reasons and they can all appear the same when looking at a dog

1- external parasites

-fleas, mites, dermatophytes

2- food allergies

-quite rare and they dogs are allergic to protein in meats and NOT grains

3-Contact with grasses

– emerging more now in  the pateints I see

4- Atopy

– the equivalent to human hayfever- very very common disease that I treat every week.


These conditions can appear similar and may take time for your Vet to work through with you and your dog.  People are very impatient these days and expect Vets to give a diagnosis, treatment and cure all on the same day of the first visit.   People are also wanting to do it cheaply and often ask other lay people online what the problem is with their dog and what the best treatment could be.  After 15 years of medical experience and 7 years at University I cant tell what is wrong with your dog by looking at a photo, how would someone with no medical training on Facebook know the answer?  I have to follow a series of well know steps to eliminate one thing at a time to come up with a diagnosis, I may also take skin scrape, swabs or tape preps on the day of the visit to determine what is occuring at the level of the skin

Please if your dog is itchy seek Veterinary attention and work with them for the few months it can take to get a result and treatment.  We cannot cure some of the above diseases such as grass contact and Atopy, instead they need lifelong management.  Addressing any flare ups as they occur and reducing things that cause flare ups during the year.


So what can I do at home if I have an ithcy dog?

If your dog has a mild itch 4/10 and less (see itch score below).  Then you can do the following

-wash their skin and feet off when they come inside each night with a wet face washer or wet wipe

-put them on flax seed oil 1ml/7kgs body weight (human flaxseed oil avaliable from the chemist)

-wash the ithcy areas of skin twice a week with aloveen shampoo, leave for 10 mins then rinse well) and dry

-avoid grasses that make their skin itchy

-put them onto Royal Canin or Hills Skin diets


If your dog is a 5 or more out of 10 then you need to take your dog to see your Vet as soon as possible, would you like to be in such discomfort?  I hear people say, ‘they didn’t cry or yelp so they must be ok’ dogs rarely vocalise if they are in discomfort and will show signs in other ways,

Signs of itchy skin


-scratching or biting an ares

-comando crawling across grass or floors

-self trauma

-licking at an area such as feet

-chewing feet

-redness, scale or lesions on the skin

-off food, not themselves

-hair loss,

-skin odour

-ear infection


Signs of ear infections

-shaking head

-head held to one side

-pain or discomfort when ear touched

-hot ear

-ear discharging material- red, brown, white or yellow

-rubbing ears on walls or floors

-smell coming from the ears

-not their usual happy self, off food


In summary 

Pruritus is a tricky and extensive area of medicine, we have specialist Vets that deal with just this disease on a full time basis.  Diagnosing via google is just not possible, I urge you to seek Veterinary attention if your dog has been itcy for more than a week or if it gets regular flare ups or anytime you think your dog has an ear infection.  Dont give up after going to your Vet once or twice with no results, work with them to get an answer and if your not happy in general practice ask your Vet for a referral to your local Veterinary Dermatologist, if unsure please see the list of reccommended skin specialists below.



Dr. Sam Crothers


Essendon Airport, Main Terminal, Hargrave Ave, Essendon Fields VIC 3041

(03) 9374 3644


John H C Hutt BVSc(Hons) CertVD MANZCVS DipACVD

Registered Specialist – Veterinary Dermatology

Dermatology for Animals, 263 Appleby Road, Stafford Heights, Queensland 4053.

(07) 3359 0777


Itch score