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Decode the Itch: Common Reasons Why Dogs Scratch and How to Provide Relief

Watching your beloved dog scratching incessantly can be distressing for any pet owner. While occasional scratching is normal, persistent and excessive scratching can be a sign of an underlying issue that requires attention. In this blog, we'll delve into common reasons why dogs scratch and provide insights into how to treat each of these causes, ensuring your furry friend finds relief from discomfort.

Fleas and Parasites

One of the most common reasons for scratching is flea infestations. Fleas cause intense itching, leading to excessive scratching and biting. Ticks and other external parasites can also trigger similar reactions.

Regular use of veterinarian-approved flea and tick prevention products, combined with thorough cleaning of your dog's environment, can help eliminate these pests. Flea and tick preventatives are available both over the counter and by prescription.

Over-the-counter treatments include products such as:

  • Frontline Gold for Dogs: Monthly treatment that kills fleas, flea eggs, flea larvae, and ticks. Begins working within 30 minutes and will continue to protect your pet from new infections when used regularly. For dogs/cats 8 weeks and older.
  • Provecta Advanced for Dogs: Monthly treatment that kills and repels ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, biting flies and lice. Works within 12 hours. For dogs 7 weeks and older.
  • Advantage II for Dogs: Monthly treatment that kills fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae. Protects your pet from new infestations for 4 weeks following application. For dogs over 7 weeks old or cats over 8 weeks old.
  • Advantage Multi for Dogs: Monthly topical solution that provides broad spectrum parasite protection. Prevents heartworm disease, treats circulating heartworm microfilaria, kills adult fleas, treats flea infestations, and treats and controls sarcoptic mange and common intestinal parasites including roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. For dogs over 7 weeks old.
  • K9 Advantix for Dogs: Monthly treatment that kills and repels fleas, ticks, mosquitos, lice, biting fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae. For dogs over 7 weeks old. Note: This product contains ingredients that are highly toxic to cats.

Prescription-only treatments include products such as:

  • Bravecto Topical Solution for Dogs: This fast-acting topical treatment is the longest lasting topical on the market - it needs to be applied just once every 3 months! It is effective for both fleas and ticks and can be used on dogs/cats 6 months and older.
  • Revolution Topical Solution for Dogs: Monthly treatment to prevent heartworm disease and flea infestations. For dogs 6 weeks and older.
  • NexGard Soft Chews for Dogs: This beef-flavored tablet is given once a month to kill fleas and prevent new infestations. For dogs 8 weeks and older.
  • Bravecto Soft Chews for Dogs: This soft chew is exceptionally long-lasting; it only needs to be given once every 3 months and protects against both fleas and ticks! For dogs aged 6 months and older.
  • Simparica Trio Chewable Tablets for Dogs: These chewables are not only for killing and preventing fleas and ticks, but also for the prevention of heartworm disease and treatment of roundworms and hookworms. For dogs ages 8 weeks and older.
  • Comfortis Chewable Tablets for Dogs and Cats: These fast-acting beef-flavored chewables are given monthly to kill fleas and prevent new infestations in both cats and dogs aged 14 weeks and older.


Dogs can develop allergies to certain foods, environmental factors (like pollen), or substances they come into contact with (such as certain shampoos or detergents). Allergies can cause itching, redness, and skin irritation.

Identifying and eliminating the allergen is key. Your veterinarian may suggest allergy testing to pinpoint the allergen. Allergy medications, special diets, and hypoallergenic products may be recommended to manage the itching.

One popular medication used to treat allergic dog itch is Apoquel. These prescription tablets start relieving symptoms within 4 hours and can be used for long-term maintenance or short-term therapy in dogs 12 months of age and older.

Dry Skin

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from dry and itchy skin. This is often more prevalent in colder months when indoor heating can dry out the air.

Regular grooming and using a moisturizing shampoo, such as DermAllay Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats, & Horses, can help maintain your dog's skin health. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, like Derma-3 Liquid Omega Supplement for Dogs & Cats, can also promote healthy skin and coat.

Skin Infections

Bacterial or fungal infections can lead to itching and discomfort. These infections may result from allergies, external irritants, or underlying health conditions.

Your vet will diagnose the infection and prescribe appropriate medications, including antibiotics or antifungal treatments. Maintaining proper hygiene and keeping your dog's environment clean are crucial.

Yeast Infections

Yeast overgrowth can cause itching, especially in areas like the ears, paws, and skin folds.

Your vet will diagnose the yeast infection and recommend antifungal medications. Regular cleaning of ears and skin folds can help prevent future occurrences.

Mites and Mange

Demodectic and sarcoptic mange are caused by microscopic mites that lead to intense itching and hair loss.

Diagnosis and treatment should be carried out by a veterinarian. It usually involves medications like topical treatments or oral medications to kill the mites.

Anal Gland Issues

If your dog is dragging their bottom along the ground or excessively licking the anal area, it could be a sign of anal gland problems.

Your vet can express the anal glands manually or recommend a high-fiber diet to promote regular bowel movements.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions like hypothyroidism or Cushing's disease can cause itchiness in dogs.

In these cases, treating the underlying condition is essential. Consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and management.


Identifying the cause of your dog's scratching is the first step towards providing them with much-needed relief. Regular grooming, maintaining a clean environment, and ensuring your dog's overall health through a balanced diet and regular vet visits can all contribute to keeping scratching at bay. Remember, if your dog's scratching persists or worsens, seeking professional advice from a veterinarian is crucial to ensure their well-being and comfort.

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