Itching, scratching, chewing and licking can be normal behaviors for a dog, but there’s a point when it can become compulsive. If you want to determine the underlying cause of the itchiness, or if you notice any of these signs below, it’s time to see your veterinarian:
- When the behavior is excessive and prolonged
- When the itchiness is a recurring symptom (i.e. bouts of excessive itchiness)
- When you see signs of self-inflicted mutilation, such as hair loss, scabs, raw or bleeding skin, or “hot spots” (red, wet inflamed sores that’s caused by from persistent chewing, licking, scratching or rubbing)
If you’re pretty certain that your dog’s itching is caused by allergies, you’ll also need to consult with your vet to determine between seasonal / environmental allergies or food-related allergies.
Your vet will perform a physical exam and likely test your dog’s skin to check for bacterial, fungal or parasite infections. If no infections are present, your vet will discuss allergies and other systemic causes of itchy skin. They may recommend running bloodwork to check for those issues, and will prescribe treatment for the underlying cause.
While there are medications that reduce itching, they will likely return once medication is stopped (and may not be recommended to use long term), so it’s important to try to figure out what the cause is and address it directly.
It can be helpful to know when the pruritus (itching) first started and what (if any) medications have been tried, since some skin problems are more common in younger dogs, while others are more common in older dogs.
Pro Tip: Book an appointment with your veterinarian when your dog’s scratching becomes excessive or causes self-mutilation.