Why is my dog itching? — Identifying and Preventing Pet Allergies

Your dog is scratching constantly, rolling around in the dirt more than usual, licking its paws, and biting himself like he’s his own vicious enemy.

It’s clear he’s uncomfortable and itchy, but why? It’s probably dog allergies. But is it due to pollen, food, dust mites … or your other pets? There are nearly endless possibilities.

We help you narrow it down to the likeliest ones. Once you know what’s causing your dog to itch, you can take action to provide your dog with some much-needed relief.

First, does your dog itch all year-round, or just in certain seasons?

Seasonal dog allergies. Seasonal environmental triggers are the most common cause of dog itching and scratching. Allergies usually develop after a couple of years of exposure, if they’re going to develop at all. It’s still unknown as to why one individual will develop allergies, while the next one won’t.  Just like in humans, genetics are thought to play a part, since allergies often run in families. Repeated exposure is important, too.

If you’re desperate to pinpoint the specific cause of seasonal allergies in your dog, your vet can do a “scratch test” (again, similar to the kind of test you’d take yourself to find out what you’re allergic to). Extracts of different pollens and allergens are injected just under a shaved area of skin, and reactions are noted a few minutes later.

Treatments:

You should consult your vet to determine the exact reason your dog may be itching, and for specific prescribed treatment of any identified allergies or problems like hot spots. However, using earthbath wipes frequently: after every outside excursion, before you notice your dog starting to try to clean himself, and before bed each night, can really reduce the pollen that clings to your dog’s fur, reducing the likelihood that allergies will develop.

Frequent baths are important, especially in the summer, when everyone is outside playing more. If you’ve never bathed your dog yourself, check our DIY how-to guide in which we take you through it, step-by-step! Using earthbath shampoos with itch-soothing ingredients like Oatmeal and Aloe, Tea Tree and Aloe, or Eucalyptus and Peppermint (great for soothing bug bites and general dermatitis) can really help calm the itchies.

Chances are, the itchies will disappear as fast as the summer sun does, but if not, note that there are only a few causes of year-round canine allergies:

Food: This is the first thing many people think of as causing canine allergies, but it’s actually one of the least likely. True food allergies are uncommon in dogs, with only about 15% of allergic dogs being allergic to certain ingredients. That said, there are some ingredients that some dogs are more sensitive to than others: like humans who are sensitive or downright intolerant of wheat, many dogs are allergic to wheat gluten. Sensitivity to corn and soy can also crop up fairly frequently:  If you have an itchy dog, start eliminating foods containing soy, corn, and wheat.

Try switching to a food with a different protein source or with a different grain content. Test this food for 6 weeks and see if there’s any difference in your dog’s itchiness.

Also, to prevent food allergies, one of the best things you can do is give your dog some variety in his diet. The more exposure to an ingredient, the more likely an allergy will develop — so change it up — not only will his tastebuds thank you (wouldn’t you get bored of eating the same thing day after day? Thought so. So does your dog.), but so will his state of health.

Mold. If you live somewhere humid, or if your kitchen and bathroom are unventilated, mold spores may be causing dog allergies (if they aren’t already causing allergies in you!)  Mold grows wherever and whenever there is moisture. Depending on where you live and what your drainage conditions are like, this can be seasonal or year-round.

What to do? If you live in a humid environment, or if summers get rather damp around your neck of the woods, keep the humidity low in your house by using a dehumidifier and/or air conditioner. Fix leaks when you notice them Use the exhaust fan in the bathroom after showering, and, when cooking, use your stove air vent.

Other animals. You may not be the only one who’s allergic to your cat!  Dogs can become allergic to the potent and persistent allergen known as FelD1, found in cat saliva. When the cat licks himself, the saliva dries and flakes off, then floats away.  It’s no wonder there are so many people (and dogs) with allergies to cats: FelD1 is very lightweight and very sticky. It sticks to walls, furniture, carpet and drapes. It also can stay active in a home environment for at least 10 years (yikes!).

As with cats, even people, other dogs, birds, and any other furry critters (rabbits, hamsters, weasels, ferrets, etc.) are possible allergy-inducers. Again, keeping everybody clean makes a difference: no skimping on earthbaths! Also keep in mind that long-haired or fluffy dogs can easily track pollen in on their fur. Even short-haired dogs aren’t immune: pollen clings to their coat easily, even if it may not look like it.  One good shake and it spreads throughout the house.

Treatments:

Wipe-down:  Keep a box of earthbath wipes by the door and in the car and wipe your dogs down before they come inside. Since earthbath makes four different varieties (Green Tea, Mango Tango, Cherry (Puppy), and Hypo-Allergenic), you’ll be able to keep a different flavor at every entry point! Make sure you get between their pads as well as a quick rub down all over their coat. This will greatly reduce the amount of pollen that clings to their fur.

earthbaths!: Bathe your animals regularly, including your cats, and use wipes to rub them down frequently, especially after they clean themselves. For a great “how-to” guide on bathing your cat yourself, check out our blog post which has a lot of great tips on corralling your kitty in the bath! Good thing earthbath has a great cat shampoo (with a delectable cherry scent) and cat wipes (in both Green Tea and Hypo-Allergenic varieties)!

Clean your house: Obviously “fluffy” surfaces like carpets, drapes, pillows, bedding, and fabric couches trap dander much easier and in greater volumes than wipeable surfaces (like wood floors, tile, stone, blinds, leather, etc.) but in both cases, consistent and thorough cleaning can help keep dander at bay.

Purify the air: HEPA air filters are really effective in trapping large amounts of allergens, including pollen, cat allergens, and other air pollutants. Invest in a great quality air purifier, and ensure your vacuum has a HEPA filter as well.

Have you noticed an increase in allergies this summer? How do you deal with them? Share your tips with us! If you leave a comment below and post it to Facebook, you may receive a little earthbath surprise from us!