When Your Dog’s Itching is Driving You Crazy

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What’s with all the scratching? Is it heat?

Summertime can often trigger skin rashes and ear infections in dogs. You may be cleaning your dog’s ears, bathing them, or giving them anti-histamines, yet they continue scratching away. There may be relief for a day or two, but it continues to come back. The foot licking, scratching, and gnawing starts to drive both you and your dog crazy. You Google all the remedies and you still cannot sleep at night – nor can your dog. What is going on here???

Possible Causes

While I cannot say specifically what is bothering your dog, there are some common factors that happen during the summer that increase allergy, infection, or flea problems significantly. When the days become more humid, the number of mosquitoes, fleas, and other biting insects can show a marked increase within a 24-hour period. These insects bite your dog triggering an allergic reaction. A dog who could once tolerate a few bites may then become overloaded and develop a rash. For some dogs they will have a rash on the belly; for others the ears will flare up. Baths in a soothing shampoo can help, but if your dog is still scratching or chewing intensely, have them examined by a veterinarian. The bacteria, yeast, and mange that is normally present will take advantage of the inflamed skin and make things worse. Delaying care will not only make your pet miserable, but creates a bigger problem that will take more medication, time, and money to treat.

Another factor that increases skin and ear inflammation is the increase in inhalant allergens from growing plants. Often, animals have a list of things they are allergic to, and they can tolerate a number of them at low levels with minimal skin or ear problems. Following a rainstorm, the pollen and mold counts increase, triggering intense allergic reactions. This can increase the inflammation, resulting in a rash that is intensely irritating. Controlling the allergens – like a food or flea allergens – can help when the environment rears its ugly head. It is best to work with your veterinarian to develop a plan for the care of your pets during the summer months.

What’s the plan?

If you have taken your dog to the veterinarian, and everything is better, it is still extremely important to have a plan to prevent continued flare-ups throughout the summer. Take your dog back in for that recheck even if the skin looks good, and partner with your veterinarian to develop a management plan. This will prevent chronic flare-ups which is best for your pet’s health and your sanity. I cannot stress enough the importance of a regular bathing schedule in the proper medicated shampoo as a preventative. Which shampoo is best, and how often, is what your veterinarian will prescribe as part of this plan. If your pet is difficult to bathe, many groomers will use the veterinarian prescribed shampoo you bring with you. You can also make bath-time more fun through positive training. Watch this video from my YouTube channel (drsallyjfoote) – “Get in the Bathroom” – that demonstrates how to train your dog to like getting into the tub.

Irritated skin and ears can also cause dogs to be more agitated, or even aggressive. The chronic pain and irritation will tend to increase not only irritability, but also anxiety. Inflammation increases stress hormone release and decreases serotonin, an important brain chemical. This leads to guarding of the body – avoiding or reacting against touch. If your dog seems a little more “snarky” or “grumbling” (terms I hear clients use), it is likely a reaction directly related to the inflammation of the skin. When the skin improves, the behavior improves.

Find more articles about pet care and behavior at my website www.okawvetclinic.com and at drsophiayin.com.

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Have a great summer!

Dr. Sally J. Foote

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13 responses to “When Your Dog’s Itching is Driving You Crazy

  1. Hi I was wondering if I could also ask a question about my dogs. I just happened upon this blog. But I have a question about my female dog not eating as readily as she used to. Now she still plays and drinks water and eats treats so I know it’s not that. We’ve been having this is an ongoing issue. Sometimes we put yogurt in her food and she ate it other times she still want. Sometimes I think it’s something with our male dog he kind of hovers around her. I’m thinking maybe I should move her into another room to eat by herself. But I’m not sure because from the beginning she never had a problem eating around him do you have any advice if so thanks in advance

  2. feed your dogs in totally separate areas with a closed door to prevent the male dog from hovering. This is competition which is normal between dogs but adds anxiety
    Dr Foote

  3. One of my dogs suffers from that summer itch type issue. I usually have to take her to the vet for a steroid injection which last for about a week to give her relief from the itching. It usually returns and I have tried numerous creams, tablets and powders. The best thing I have found it to do reiki on her once or twice a week. It really seems to relieve her of the constant nibbling. She still does it a bit in the height of summer but it is much less.

  4. HI Dr Sally
    I was given a griffon
    And i feel so sorry for her all she does is continualy scratch, all day all night no matter the season. she is on a raw food diet, she is fleed regularly, been to the vet for thorough check and nothing works can you help please and i know this is why they gave her away to me, i feel so sorry for her.


  5. My dog cannot seem to sleep at night because of how much she itches. It is good to know that this itching could be caused by allergy, infection, or flea problems. I did not realize that these factors increased significantly in the summer. We will have to visit our local veterinarian to find a solution, thanks so much.

  6. Hi,
    I am very concerned with my dog. He is a Rescue dog, and has anxiety. He was attracted by a large dog in the neighborhood, and it Effective quite severely. We are both under a lot of stress at this time due to us having to move. I have complex regional pain syndrome and lupus, I was well when I rescued him, and now I am learning how to live with chronic pain. Norton has akin allergies, and is prescribed; Apoquil
    Is it possible that Norton and I are mirroring one another?

    My anxiety is up and so is his, including skin allergies. Please contact me. Norton is my boy and I’m concerned, that my illness is creating a stressed out pup.I massage and distract, Exercise’ socialize. It is difficult for me now because his scratching is keeping me awake, and my disease is upsetting him.
    Thanks you & !Best regards,


  7. I’ve tried so many different things on my dogs they are constantly chewing and scratching all day and night long!!! is there anything out there or do I just let them be?

  8. Hi, I thought I’d tell you my saga of the last 4 months. I live in a high altitude where we do not have fleas and ticks. I took my dog to the groomer in July to get a haircut for the hot wearher. After coming home , I noticed he Was itching a lot. I had changed his food to senior food and starting washing the sheets over his beds and throw rugs with borax. Could that have caused these problems,so I changed everything back and he was getting worse. My regular holistic vet could not see me for 2 weeks, so I went to another. He said my dog had allergies. So I bought &134.00 worth of pills ( twice) and $45.00 shampoo and the &100.00 for the visit. He wasn’t getting better. So I finally got into my regular vet and in 5 minutes she found he had lice! I didn’t even know it was a thing up here! I was horrified. So I tried the Frontline stuff and while they were dying, they made him even itchier. And I’ve been nit combing for hours every day. He is so sensitive to touch him, I can only do 15 minutes here and there with the nit comb. with ham treats handy.
    But the Frontline stuff does not kill the eggs which are starting to hatch and it’s awful. Tomorrow I am giving him a bath with flea and tick shampoo, works on lice too. Fingers crossed. I will clean 1/2 the house before I go to the pet station so he has a clean place to chill, while I wash all the sheets and throw rugs and towels AGAIN. And vacuum everything.
    The moral of this story is that if you live in high altitude and are complacent and think you are safe…. guess again. Everyone I know has dogs and no one had ever heard of this dog lice. So now he will be getting a flea and tick shampoo bath and in 2 weeks some Frontline again. Pray for me. I have been a basket case having to watch him be so miserable. Thank you

    1. There is an all-purpose soap called KD Gold, which i found to be incredibly effective as a flea shampoo for my dogs. It is non-toxic & safe for use on humans & animals. When you bath your dog w/ this, the fleas will leave very very very quickly. KDGold makes one just for lice. I hear that one is good, too. You can prchase from their website … kdgoldrtu.com. Hope this helps.

  9. My 1 and a half year old jindo/german shepherd mix, about a year ago she started getting itchy ears then paw biting. Vet has taken sample twice of her ears and given us medicated treatments for her ears and paws. Some days it helps, some days not so much. Here is the weird part and my question she had her first heat last month within a a week she stopped itching and biting, by the end of her cycle her feet and ears looked great. Now a week out and she is tearing herself up again. Any idea why it stop on her cycle and come back after?

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