What can I do to stop my dog itching?
Before searching for solutions to your dog’s itching and scratching, it is important to understand the possible underlying cause of their itching behaviour.
Did you know that as many as 40% of dogs suffer from allergies of some type?
Your dog’s skin is its single largest organ, so keeping it healthy is very important to their overall health and wellbeing.
There are two major types of skin reactions that your dog can suffer with – allergic dermatitis and parasitic dermatitis.
Allergic dermatitis is a result of a dog’s allergy or sensitivity to certain environmental or topical elements and conditions or sensitivity or allergy to certain foods or ingredients
Parasitic dermatitis is caused by a bite, infestation or saliva of an external parasite like fleas, ticks, various types of mites and lice (not the lice we generally find in our children’s hair!). The symptoms of skin reaction due to parasites in dogs are quite similar to allergic skin reactions and for most of us distinguishing between these two types of skin reactions can be difficult.
Your vet or vet nurse will probably need to help identify the cause of your dog’s reaction. This would be the perfect instance where free access to VidiVet would be not only useful but also cost saving.
The following are some of the symptoms commonly found with skin reactions of either type:
- Severe itching and scratching
- Skin redness
- Pimples or bumps
- Crusting, bleeding or oozing lesions
- Hair loss
- Excessive licking or scratching
Causes of Pruritis (Itchy Skin)
Parasitic Reaction and Allergies:
Dermatitis caused by parasites can lead to the disruption of your dog’s natural skin barrier, their first line of defence against more pathogens and secondary infections.
External parasites, such as mange (mites), fleas, ticks and lice can be transferred to your dog from other pets and objects, such as their beds, other surfaces like rugs and carpets, sofas and soft, fluffy or hairy toys.
The two most common causes of parasitic reaction are fleas and mites.
Fleas can be found anywhere where other dogs (and cats) go, either seasonally or year-round as they thrive in warm and humid conditions. Female fleas can produce up to 50 eggs per day and can do so within a day of inhabiting your dog. These eggs can fall off your dog in their normal day to day routine – infesting their bedding, the sofa, rugs and carpets, beds, their soft toys (or your children’s!) – in truth anywhere they visit, either inside or outside your home.
The life cycle of a flea ranges from 12 days to 6 months and, when they reach adulthood, the cycle begins all over again. The potential health issues for your dog are the skin irritations, skin infections, anaemia and intestinal tapeworms of various types.
If your dog is scratching and itching more than usual, particularly from the lower part of their back and down to their tail, they may be suffering from flea allergy dermatitis.
There are various species of mites, for example ear mites, sarcoptic mange mites, and demodectic mange mites. Some are more contagious than others, but they can all cause severe skin reactions which are very unsightly, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous to the health of your pog, as the constant irritation and scratching of their first barrier, their skin, has the potential to create skin infections, some of which can be very serious and difficult to treat successfully.
If your dog is suffering from mange, they may show signs of itching and scratching their ears, tummy and joints.
Ticks are another, less common, parasite which finds its way onto your dog, burying its head into their skin to feed on its blood. They can spread serious infectious diseases like Lyme Disease.
Environmental and Seasonal Allergies
Environmental allergies, also known as atopic allergies in dogs, are generally seasonal and caused by exposure to certain elements both indoors and outdoors.
The most common triggers for environmental allergic reaction in dogs are tree, grass and weed pollens, mould and dust.
Some dogs may be more prone to developing environmental allergies than others. This is due to their skin barrier function not working as well as it should, with allergens breaking through the outer layer of their skin. If this happens, your dog’s immune system responds to the environmental allergen, causing inflammation of the skin and a resulting allergic reaction.
Ten percent of all dog allergies are food related.
Food allergy is an adverse reaction to their food that can become a serious condition for your dog if not properly managed.
A food allergy occurs when your dog’s immune system mistakes the molecules in food for something harmful. Allergies to proteins in dog food are more common than allergies to carbohydrates or other ingredients.
The most common food allergens are beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit, and fish – the most common protein sources found in the majority of dog food (1). Most dogs are also usually allergic to more than one ingredient or food type.
The symptoms of food allergies are often the same as for the seasonal/environmental allergies outlined previously. There may also be gastrointestinal signs, such as diarrhoea, vomiting, or an increased number of daily bowel movements.
How Do You Prevent and Treat Your Dog’s Parasitic Allergies?
The sooner you identify that your dog may be suffering from an adverse reaction to external parasites like fleas and mange (mites) the more effective, and less invasive, their treatment will be.
- Look for fleas, ticks, and coat abnormalities any time you groom your dog or when you return home from areas that are likely to have higher numbers of these parasites.
- Thoroughly cleaning your dog’s sleeping area and vacuuming floors and furniture that they come into contact with frequently helps to remove and kill flea eggs, larvae, and pupae.
Treatments range from topical flea treatments, either chemical or natural, oral treatments or wearable treatments like flea collars.
It is best to discuss the safest option with your Vet as many of the chemical solutions can have side effects you may be minded to avoid.
There are also natural remedies that can be used for both prevention and treatment of external parasites to manage any reaction your dog may suffer from. You may choose to start with these to see if they manage and control both the infestation and your dog’s itching and scratching before attempting a chemical solution should these not be successful.
How Do You Prevent and Treat Your Dog’s Environmental Allergies?
The best way to protect your dog is to keep them away from the source of the irritation. But that’s not practical with environmental allergies. If your dog is allergic to tree pollen, you can’t keep them indoors until the season is over.
Your vet may suggest steroids, or an anti-allergy drug. These drugs work by suppressing part of your dog’s immune response however this can make your dog more vulnerable to other diseases as their immune system is compromised.
Your vet may also recommend an over-the-counter allergy drug … but these can also have side effects for your dog.
You may wish to try natural solutions that have shown to be effective in managing environmental stressors before using drugs or chemical solutions to manage your dog’s reaction. The first step to take is strengthening your dog’s skin and coat health to allow its largest organ to combat any external allergy triggers more effectively.
The most important nutrients to support your dog’s skin and coat health are essential fatty acids, particularly Omega-3, and Linoleic acid (Omega 6), Zinc and Biotin and B Vitamins. Research has shown that adding omega-3 fatty acids, linoleic acid, and zinc in combination increases coat gloss and decreases dry, flaky skin (2).
Herbs and botanicals known to benefit dog’s skin and coat condition include Ashwagandha, Ginseng, Reishi Mushrooms, Turmeric and Chamomile, Basil, Chamomile, Dandelion, Mint, Dill, Oregano, Sage, Parsley, Thyme and Burdock.
Quercetin acts as a natural antihistamine for dogs. Found in apples, onions, parsley, sage, berries, including cranberries, ginger, olive oil and dark leafy vegetables, quercetin can provide support for relief from your dog’s allergic response to environmental stressors.
How Do You Prevent and Treat Your Dog’s Food Allergies?
As with any allergic response the most important contribution you can make to providing your dog with relief is to remove the cause or trigger of the response.
As outlined above the ingredients that most commonly cause food allergy in dogs are the most common protein sources used in dog food – beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit, and fish. Many vets and canine nutritionists recommend switching dogs to a plant-based food as a treatment once food allergy or enteropathy have been diagnosed.
Another option is to feed dogs a food using hydrolysed protein as the protein source. One of the potential problems with hydrolysed proteins is that during the chemical breakdown of hydrolysation, protein releases glutamic acid, which combines with sodium to form MSG (monosodium glutamate). (3)
Research has shown MSG to have many potential effects on health including CNS disorder, obesity, disruptions in adipose tissue physiology, hepatic damage, CRS and reproductive malfunctions. In addition, there are questions around its effect on cardiovascular disorders, headache, and hypertension in human models which may be equally true for dogs (4)
Bonza is an hypoallergenic, plant-based dog food that does not include any of the most common allergens for dogs. The ingredients in our food contain many nutrients known to support skin and coat health including Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) fatty acids, chelated Zinc and B Vitamins. Bonza also contains many of the herbs and adaptogens known to provide support for your dog’s healthy skin and a reduction of the symptoms of hot-spots and inflammation associated with those allergic responses.
Bonza – Nose to Tail Good Health.