Furry friends can feel like members of your family, and when you see them suffer, you can feel anxious and eager to help. One indicator that a dog is feeling bad is when they are scratching a lot, and scratching can actually be the indicator of many different issues in dogs—from anxiety to allergies to more serious internal pain. If you have a dog that is incessantly scratching, there are some things that you can try at home to help curb the behavior and alleviate the discomfort. Below are five strategies that often help dogs feel less itchy, uncomfortable, or restless, which can naturally help them stop using their paws to itch.
Understanding Why Your Pup is Scratching
You may think that your dog is scratching because he is simply itchy. In reality, however, a dog’s scratching is usually more complicated than a simple itch, and it can be helpful to understand the potential causes if you want to help stop the itch and alleviate whatever is causing discomfort in your dog. Here are some of the most common causes of scratching in a pup:
Skin allergic reaction
A dog’s skin alerg sometimes called atopy or atopy (or, if chronic, can be diagnosed as eczema or atopic dermatitis). Atopy can be an allergy to an environmental allergen, like pollen, grass, leaves, and more, or another irritant they are encountering in their daily life. One important indicator that your dog is suffering from an external skin allergy is that his feet are itchy in particular. Your dog may try to scratch his feet, but more likely, we will lick or chew them.
An allergy to food
Food allergies also manifest in dogs with itching. It is hard to know what a dog is going to be allergic to in-terms of their diet, because all dogs differ. However, ingredients that may be perfectly palatable, safe, and healthy for one pup may cause an allergic reaction in another pup. Some of these ingredients include chicken, beef, corn, or rice. When your dog appears to be itching but there’s no external allergen you can determine, it may be time to change up their food. Consult the vet about what to change to, and try an elimination diet to see if you can figure out what thing they’re eating that’s actually causing the scratching (treats, regular food, human food, etc.)
Like humans, dogs can get bacterial infections on their skin. Usually, this infection is called Pyoderma. In addition to itchy skin, dogs will experience hair loss, discharge, crusty skin, lesions, redness, and pustules. Bacterial infections become clear quickly because they are visible and can also get more severe without treatment.
Yeast infections can also affect dog’s skin and coat and cause itching. Yeast is a fungus that lives on dogs normally, however, a yeast infection happens when there is an overgrowth of yeast. An overgrowth yeast makes dogs uncomfortable, and these types of yeast infections usually happen in warm months (good conditions for yeast to multiply), and also when dogs are wet and cooling down in water. The particular signs of a yeast infection in dogs include a bad smell and irritated, inflamed skin.
A parasite (or fleas)
Skin parasites live on dog’s skin and feed on their skin cells, blood, and other things that a dog’s body produces. The most common type of dog parasite that most people know about is fleas. Others include mites and scabies. Many dog parasites cause severe itching on a dog’s lower back, just above the tail. You may also notice small bugs in your home if your dog has a bad parasite infestation. Luckily, parasites are curable with treatment (your home may need to be treated as well).
Anxiety or stress
In some cases, extreme scratching in dogs can be behavioral instead of physical. When some dogs are stressed out or anxious, they may scratch a part of their body incessantly. This is kind of like a nervous tic in humans. Dogs can also compulsively lick, which is a similar sign of stress in dogs that indicates their may be something bothering them psychologically or emotionally, and that the problem is not actually physiological.
Healing Wounds or Medical Procedures
If your dog has had to have hair removed for a medical procedure, or they have a procedure with a wound that is healing, it will be their natural inclination to itch it. Topical applications and physical barriers that stop a dog from reaching the spot can be a good way to stop them from scratching it.
How to Distinguish Regular Scratching from Scratching that May Need Treatment
All dogs scratch themselves from time to time, just as humans do. However, it can help to know how much scratching is normal in your dog, and how much is incessant, compulsive, or indicative of a problem.
One first step to this is learning your dog’s behaviors closely. All dogs’ “normals” look different from one another. Once you know how much your dog itches normally, you can start to recognize when the amount that they are itching is increasing to a level that seems problematic.
Also, one thing to do look out for is other physical signs that may accompany the scratching. If you see bugs, pustules, crusting, and more at the site of the scratching, it may be an indicator that the scratching is caused by something that needs treatment. Also, the site of scratching may always be red and inflamed on a dog. However, if that site grows, becomes redder or more swollen, or looks more severe over time, it is definitely worth checking out the condition with your vet.
Finally, if your dog’s normal level of scratching seems like he may be suffering too much on a regular basis, or it is a habit you would like to decrease, you can also consider discovering and treating the causes of it, so you can reduce the behavior that may be bothersome both to you and to your pet.
Top 5 Ways to Help Your Pup Stop Scratching
If you want to help your pup stop scratching, the following five strategies may help. They are tried, true, safe and tested for alleviating itching and scratching at home, and they may be able to help you give your pup some relief before you can make it to the vet (or without having to have any more serious products or medicines prescribed).
1. An Oatmeal Bath
Kids with chicken pox aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a colloidal oatmeal bath. Itchy dogs can find relief from one too. Buy colloidal oatmeal that has been ground into a powder, then fill a tub with the oatmeal and warm water. Rub your dogs coat with the mixture in the tub. This treatment is known to ease pain and itching that is caused by dog scratching. Once you’ve eased the discomfort, it may allow your dog to stop the behavior of the scratching, which had been bringing him relief. Luckily, colloidal oatmeal is totally safe for dogs to eat. So, if your pup has a bite or a lick, it probably will taste great, and it won’t cause them any harm.
2. A Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner
Some shampoos and conditioners—even those specially formulated for dogs—can end up irritating your dog and causing them to be itchier and dryer after a bath than before. This will do nothing to help with scratching! If you are going to give a dog who is scratching a bath, make sure you use a shampoo and a conditioner with ingredients called humectants in them. Humectants create add moisture, flexibility, and softness to your dog’s skin, and they allow your pup to retain the moisture from the bath instead of drying out. Drying out can create itching, which simply causes a dog to scratch more. Also, make sure you avoid using a blowdryer post dog bath. The heat and the dryness will only up the itch factor your pup is experiencing.
3. More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Consider adding Omega-3 Fatty Acids to your pup’s diet if you want to help improve a chronic problem with scratching, and one that seems to affect multiple parts of his body. Omega-3 fatty acids help pets’ skin health (they also help humans with their skin health!) and they can help create healthier, clearer, more elastic and moisturized skin from the inside out. There are lots of foods that can add Omega 3 Fatty Acids into your pet’s system. Some of the most popular include fish ingredients, like salmon and trout. Flax seeds also another way to increase the Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Be sure to consult your vet before you give your pup any new food or human food, to make sure that it is safe for them to eat.
4. Coconut Oil
If you want to apply a topical treatment to your dog’s itch, but you don’t want to put something on them with tons of chemicals in it, try using coconut oil. Coconut oil is a safe moisturizer that also has antifungal and cooling properties. This means that coconut oil is a good remedy for all itching, but can be particularly good for yeast infections. Keep coconut oil somewhere cool, and then when you add it to your dog’s skin, it will be naturally healing and feel like relief. You can also keep coconut oil on hand to apply to an insect sting or bite, if your dog experiences one.
5. T-Shirts and the Cone of Shame
If your dog has a wound or a particular spot that he won’t stop scratching, a t-shirt can be a great trick. Not only will it make your dog look cute and fashionable, but it can also serve as a physical barrier so that your pup cannot actually reach what he is trying to scratch. If the place your pup is scratching is on their head or face, a cone of shame (a cone worn around his neck) can help stop his paws from reaching and scratching the tender area.
Heal Your Pup with the Help of Your Vet
Watching a pup scratch incessantly can not only be annoying and frustrating, it can also make you feel worried about the wellbeing of your dog. You can try the above following strategies to get your dog to stop scratching, but you should also be sure to take your beloved pet into the vet. The vet can give your dog a thorough check up and check out the place where your dog is scratching. He can also listen to a description of your dog’s scratching behavior, how long it has lasted, if he has any other strange symptoms, or if anything that you have tried at home has helped alleviate your dog’s discomfort. By taking a look at your pooch and assessing the entire situation, your vet will be able to determine whether the scratching could be an indicator of a more serious health problem, or if it is simply something you can handle at home. If your vet thinks that scratching could be a sign of something more serious, he can run tests in the office to determine what the problem is or rule anything out. Then he can provide proper treatment. The vet may also be able to provide you with over-the-counter or prescription products to help decrease scratching in your dog, which can help your at-home efforts to make your dog feel better.
If you care about keeping your dog well and making sure they feel good, consider investing in pet insurance. Pet health insurance can help you cover the cost of any unexpected medical procedures or treatments your dog might need from your vet in case of an accident, injury, or unanticipated illness. By investing in pet health insurance, you can ensure that you are not overwhelmed by any unforeseen cost of veterinary care, ensuring that your beloved furry friend can get the treatment he needs to help him feel better (whether that’s help to stop scratching or anything more serious). To find out more about pet health insurance and plans that can cover your dog, visit PetInsuranceQuotes.com. This resource can help you understand the benefits of pet health insurance, as well as read testimonials from other pet owners who have purchase insurance. You can then use the site’s tool to find the pet insurance plan that makes the most sense for your pup, as well as one that fits within your budget.