When Your Pup’s Got an Itch They Can’t Scratch…

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as single-payer pet healthcare.

And since they don’t have jobs, it’s up to you to decide when their ailments are serious enough to require vet visits…

Or when there may be a topical fix at home. 

The average price of a vet visit for a dog can range between $50 and $400. 

Staying informed as a pet owner is the best thing you can do to save yourself some money.

And guess what?

The most common reason for vet visits in America is… skin allergies.

Itchiness can be caused by environmental factors, allergies, pests, diet, and more.

It’s important that dog owners know what all of the options are so that they can effectively ease the suffering of the family members who can’t advocate for themselves.

In this post, we’re going to talk about some of the ways your dog’s skin can become irritated, and how to identify them.


The most common symptom which should alert dog owners to a problem is excessive itching.

Itching can be localized or generalized, but if you notice that your pup is giving themselves red patches and making their skin raw and sore from itching, there’s likely a problem. 

There may also be issues if you notice coughing or trouble breathing, resulting in wheezing noises. 

If their noses are too runny or there’s an uncommon amount of discharge coming from their eyes, they may be experiencing an allergy. 

Even feet-eating and paw-licking are signs of allergic reactions. 

But the first sign of obvious (and allergic) discomfort is usually persistent itching.

Most Common Allergens for Dogs and Their Tells

The top three most common allergens for dogs are: 

  • Flea dermatitis
  • Food 
  • Environment

Most pet owners know about the dangers of fleabites. It’s actually not the fleas themselves that dogs are allergic to — it’s flea saliva

Dogs itching at the tail-base, right near their doggy-tushies, is an indication that the itchiness is flea-related, as is red, inflamed, and scabbed skin. 

(Obviously, if you notice fleas themselves, you should have a clear-cut idea of what’s going on here. Fleas look like ¼ inch reddish brown bugs. They can jump up to six feet. They cannot fly, however.)

Now, when a dog has food allergies, you’ll likely see them chewing their paws, scratching behind their ears, and licking their paw beds. 

Of course, food allergies can also manifest in standard tummy issues — if they’re not eating their food, it’s likely that they’re experiencing an aversion to it for one reason or another. Inconsistent bowel movements and frequent vomit are also signs of food allergies.

Finally, when your dog is allergic to pollen, dust, mold, or other seasonal environmental contagions, you’ll be able to tell because:

  1. They are only affected during certain seasons and
  2. They’ll be scratching and biting at their paws and ears (like with food), but also at their wrists, ankles, muzzles, armpits, groin, and in between the toes.

How to Ease Your Dog’s Itches

If you can’t get to a vet right away when you notice an issue, there are ways you can mitigate their upset at home. Especially because breaking the skin can leave your dog vulnerable to secondary infections. 

For example, if you notice your dog itching and biting at the base of their tail, part their fur with your fingers and try to spot flat-bodied insects hopping away from your fingers. You could also brush their fur while they stand on a white towel or floor so that you can see fleas jumping off!

If fleas are the obvious culprit, give your dog a flea bath. You can find medicine at most pet stores and pharmacies.

If the symptoms are pointing to a food allergy, consider the type of protein you’re feeding your dog. Beef, gluten, chicken, chicken eggs, dairy products, soy, and lamb are all common food allergens. 

If your dog’s regular food contains any of those ingredients, it may be worth switching to another brand with different ingredients to see if you notice an easement in symptoms. 

If their allergies seem to be more respiratory in nature, or are causing itchiness in the groin, between the toes, wrists, or ankles, and you think the cause might be environmental, getting your dog tested at the vet is definitely advised so that you can tackle the right problem.

If you need immediate relief for your dog, it’s important to note they can take over-the-counter Benadryl! (Approval from your vet is recommended — just give them a call to confirm.)

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.