It’s common for dogs to scratch themselves, but what causes the itch? There can be any number of culprits, from shedding to fleas to allergies. The itching can be quite uncomfortable, leading to obsessive licking and scratching which can then lead to further skin irritation and even infection.
Determine the Cause of the Itch
If it seems that a dog might have an allergy, there are a number of factors to consider. Seasonal allergies manifest in the dog’s skin, as opposed to the respiratory symptoms humans usually experience. Think about the time of year – if it seems that many people are being affected by traditionally seasonal allergies, there is a good chance a dog might be experiencing the same thing.
Local weather forecasts often include pollen activity, and can be a helpful resource in tracking and predicting the intensity of allergies. Most can also show what kind of pollen is particularly active – tree pollen tends to develop in the spring first, followed by grass.
Veterinarians can pinpoint causes of allergies by running various tests, which can be costly but potentially faster than trial-and-error.
Treating the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
If the cause of a dog’s allergies is known, limit the exposure to the allergen. In most cases, it might not be possible to determine the exact cause. Treating the symptoms can relieve discomfort and lessen the likelihood that the dog will scratch the skin raw and develop an infection.
Pet stores may carry a variety of remedies, some containing fish oils and other ingredients to increase moisture in the skin and coat, others containing antihistamines. Chewable tablets, topical ointments and sprays, and pills provide many options for finding the easiest way for the dog to take the treatment.
For severe symptoms, consult a vet. A vet can prescribe medication to treat the allergy as well as an infection if one is present. They can also suggest giving a dog an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benedryl. The general rule is one milligram per pound of the dog’s weight, but be sure to consult a veterinarian before giving a dog Benedryl.
Being Supportive of a Dog with Allergies
A dog will attempt to hide its discomfort, and the owner must pay close attention to any behavior changes beyond scratching a licking – lower levels of playfulness, increased sleepiness, and decreased appetite can all be indicative that something is wrong with the dog. It’s important for the owner to be in tune with the dog to determine how to help and prevent further discomfort or potential infections.
Allergies can be heightened while a dog is shedding, and regular brushing can help by providing itch relief and removing excess fur. The ears are often prone to the most itchiness as well as moisture, so careful attention must be paid to the ears especially.
If possible, try to keep the dog from scratching too often. An e-collar can be effective, but can put the dog into a depressed mood and should therefore be used sparingly if needed.
Above all, be patient. Allergies can be annoying for humans and dogs alike, and take awhile to get over. A dog will look for comfort from its owner – be patient and the allergy symptoms will pass.