Whilst itchy skin is sometimes a sign of an infestation of fleas, mites or ticks, it can also suggest an allergy. An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to certain things in the environment (known as ‘allergens’). The most common environmental allergens that can set off dog skin problems are fleabites (it’s the flea saliva they are allergic to). Itchy skin can also be caused by moulds, pollens (surprisingly, our dogs can suffer with hay fever too), house dust, and irritating chemicals such as those found in flea collars, detergents or cleaning sprays.
If the itching is persistent and present all year round, your dog may have a sensitive stomach or be allergic to their diet. Grains and certain protein sources such as beef, chicken, wheat, corn, milk and eggs have all been known to cause an allergic reaction in dogs. Some dogs are allergic to multiple ingredients so it isn’t always easy to pinpoint the culprit.
Other causes of itchy skin include boredom or anxiety, which can lead to compulsive scratching or nibbling of the skin. Scratching can also be brought on by dehydrated skin in the winter months when homes are artificially heated and humidity is low. Insufficient omega-3 and -6 fatty acids in the diet can also lead to loss of skin hydration and condition.
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.