Dog Itching: 6 Possible Causes and How to Provide Relief

Does your dog seem to be itchy more often than not? Are you concerned that their itchiness is leading to a pattern of obsessive scratching? What should you do for a dog who is itching so much that it interferes with their normal life?

In the article below, we’ll help you learn more about six of the most common causes of itchiness in dogs. From there, we’ll walk you through the basics you need to know about treating and managing these underlying causes of itching. As always, talk to your veterinarian for more information about your specific pet’s needs.

dog itching

Causes of Itching in Dogs

There are many different things that would cause a dog to be itchy. Here are six of the most common. 

1. Parasites

Parasites are the most common cause of itching in dogs. Parasites may include fleas or ticks, but fleas are more likely to cause whole body itching. If your dog has not been treated for fleas or if you live in a flea-prone area, this could be the cause of itchiness.

2. Allergies

Allergies can cause itchiness in dogs as well. Although it is possible for contact allergies and seasonal allergies to contribute to itching, it is much more common for food allergies to cause this problem. Dogs with food allergies tend to have dry, flaky skin and dandruff as well as whole body itchiness.

3. Dry Skin

Dry skin may sometimes be caused by other problems aside from just food allergies. Dogs who live in dry climates are more likely to experience dry skin, but any dog can suffer from this symptom at any time. Dry skin may be tied to illness, but not always.

4. Anxiety

Anxiety may cause a dog to compulsively lick, chew, or scratch even if they are not itchy. If your dog’s scratching behavior tends to worsen when no one is at home with them or when something has recently startled them, then your dog may not be itchy at all. They could just be anxious.

5. Boredom

Boredom in dogs may have similar results as anxiety. If your dog has nothing to do all day, they may turn to licking, chewing, and scratching to occupy the time. This habit may become compulsive the longer it is allowed to continue.

6. Skin Infection

Dogs who suffer from skin infections may be prone to itchiness as well. Skin infections may range from bacterial to fungal sources and can be mild to severe. If you think your dog may have a skin infection, it is important to take them to the vet for proper medication.

Treatments for Itching in Dogs

When talking to your veterinarian they will recommend the best treatment for your dog’s needs. Here are some recommendations they may have for your pet.

Parasite Control

If your dog’s itching is caused by fleas or ticks, parasite control is the best solution. You can purchase medication that is placed on the dog’s body monthly, or you can give them an oral pill instead. You may also choose to use a flea collar, depending on your preferences and your dog’s needs.

Medicated Creams and Ointments

Medicated creams and ointments may be antibiotic, antibacterial, or antifungal. They are intended to resolve any surface-level skin issues your dog may be experiencing while helping to soothe the symptoms of the underlying problem at the same time. Your vet will need to prescribe this type of treatment.

Changing Food

Dogs with food allergies may see almost immediate improvement with a change of food. If you think your dog’s itching is caused by a food allergy, consider upgrading them to a higher-quality food with fewer filler ingredients. Additionally, try changing the protein type, as some dogs may be allergic to specific types of protein in food.

Training and Mental Stimulation

Dogs who chew and scratch out of boredom and anxiety can get some relief through regular training. Other types of mental stimulation, such as treat toys and interactive playtime, may also help your dog alleviate their boredom and cut down on the anxious behaviors, too.


If your dog has a severe skin reaction that breaks out in hives, they may need to be given a round of steroids to help resolve the problem. Some vets may prefer to give a steroid injection instead, which can work faster and may be easier for some dogs to handle.


Finally, dogs who scratch because they are bored or anxious may be able to recover from this nervous habit by getting regular daily exercise. If your dog is not getting a daily walk or lots of time to run around in the backyard every day, consider increasing their physical activity levels.

Provide Your Dog Relief from their Itching

Based on this information, it’s easy to see just how many different underlying causes of itchiness exist for dogs. This list only covers a few, but these are the most common potential problems that may cause your dog to become excessively itchy.

If you cannot determine the cause of your dog’s itchiness or are unsure how to treat the problem, talk to your Heart + Paw veterinarian for more information and guidance. Use the online form to book an appointment at any of our locations!

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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