Why is my Dog Itching and Scratching? – The Basics

Here are a few reasons why your dog might be scratching at its backside and chewing its paws.

The skin is the largest organ in the body and so it is not entirely surprising that skin diseases account for a significant proportion of visits to both the doctors and the vets.

There are many conditions that affect the skin of dogs, ranging from flea bites to skin cancer, but what is almost certainly the most important canine skin disease is atopic dermatitis.

Skin allergies are incredibly common in dogs, and whilst most cases are relatively mild and cause only minor irritation, dermatitis can cause significant long term suffering to affected animals.

dog itching scratching

Must Scratch!

The most common manifestations of skin allergies are:

  • Itching (or Pruritus as it is known to vets)
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Fur loss and saliva staining
  • Foot chewing
  • And in long-standing cases, secondary symptoms such as the blackening and the thickening of skin.

The main causes of skin allergies in dogs are:

  • Atopy (allergies to things that are breathed in)
  • Food allergies
  • and Contact allergies, including flea allergies.

Atopic allergies are the most common (in my experience they account for at least 70% of cases of allergic dermatitis in dogs) and are caused by allergic reactions to inhaled allergens such as pollen from trees and grass, which tends to be around for a few weeks at a particular time of year.

Other inhaled allergens can be a problem all year round such as mould spores, household dust mites, chemicals on furniture and carpets, indoor air fresheners and fabrics like wool and nylon.

In dogs the symptoms tend to be expressed in the skin, and licking feet and generalised itching are the classic symptoms of a case of atopic allergy.

Atopy is more common in certain breeds, with small breed dogs such as Westies being most commonly affected – although all breeds can suffer from this kind of allergy.

The next cause of skin allergies is food allergies, although these are much less common than many people think and there is much debate over their true prevalence.

Some vets are convinced that certain food ingredients such as wheat, beef and soya are responsible for a significant number of cases of skin allergies in dogs, but I think nowadays the consensus is that true skin allergies directly caused by food are actually quite uncommon.

Contact allergies, such as those caused by washing powders, grass and so on, are even less common than food allergies, but do need to be considered in dogs which have unusual patterns of allergies, such as redness only on the belly that has appeared just after their bed has been washed for example.

The good news is that in most cases, the solution to itchy dog skin is simply a matter of ensuring your pet is getting the right nutritional balance, that includes treats too (not always easy with modern complete diets) coupled with effective parasite control.

Over at the Itchy Dog Shop we offer several nutritional supplements and remedies for dogs to help combat itching and scratching.

Here’s what we recommend:

For all over improved skin and coat condition Yumega Plus is good for soothing itchy and sensitive skin and Resist! works well to aid your dog’s recovery back to health.

For treating specific parts of the body like paw chewing or sore underarms Ekoneem Oil is your best bet, simply rub onto the afflicted areas and let the cream work its magic. Also use Ekoneem Organic Neem Oil Shampoo Bar while bathing your dog for continued results.

For getting rid of those unwelcome visitors namely: fleas, ticks and mites Billy No Mates Herbal Treatment is highly recommended by both us and our customers or if you prefer a liquid version there’s Billy No Mates Tincture.


  1. I have been using the skin Salveation and soap since we got Cara a rescue dog which we collected in a very sad state with terrible mange.
    I use the products for my own acute eczema,and it works a treat on Cara,she is completly clear and her coat is fantasic.Worth a look.It has a higher than normal success rate in skin condtions for humans,and seems equally effective with Cara.Also interesting history and its made in The Home of Harry Potter!!

    • Going to have a look at this. We stock neem oil shampoo bars and are about to add Happytails organic oats shampoo. Always on the look out for stuff that works and results speak for themselves!

      Do you have any photos of Cara before and after? Equally a photo I could add to our gallery would be lovely, with a little history.


  2. The most effective way to keep fleas out your front door is to reduce them via getting right now there in the first place.

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