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
Executive Director, CattleDog Publishing

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8 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?

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