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We all understand the discomfort of an itch. Luckily, you have soft manicured hands and opposable thumbs to scratch that itch without damaging your skin. Your furry friend doesn't have that luxury, or the control, to ignore the itch. Can you imagine how a dog with an unreachable itch feels? If you ever got a cast on your broken arm or leg, you understand the discomfort of having an itch beyond your reach.
Your dog cannot resist scratching that itch, which can escalate into obsessive licking and biting. It can do more damage than disrupting your sleep. Compulsive scratching in dogs can lead to the development of hot spots. These irritated areas can occur anywhere on your dog’s body. Hot spots can turn into large open sores if your dog incessantly chews, licks, rubs, and scratches irritated areas. To tackle compulsive licking, biting, and scratching in dogs, investigate and treat the underlying causes of the itch.
Underlying Causes of Itchy Skin in Dogs
While having an itch is natural for a healthy dog’s coat, excessive itching may indicate a more serious skin condition. An in-depth understanding of the possible causes of itchy skin in dogs can help you craft the best treatment plan. Here are the most common underlying causes of compulsive licking, biting, and scratching in dogs:
Parasitic Infestation. Can you imagine living with a parasite that bites up to 400 times a day? On average, a single flea can bite your dog over 400 times daily. Now, multiply that with the number of fleas colonizing your dog’s skin. Unbearable, right? Your furry friend will scratch, lick, and bite all day long to address each itch. Ticks and mites can also lead to compulsive licking, chewing, or scratching in dogs. Parasites can affect the health of your dog’s skin in different ways.
Allergies. Like humans, allergic reactions in dogs can lead to itchy skin. If your dog is scratching compulsively, allergies to food, mold, or pollen may be the underlying cause of pruritus (itchiness). Exposure to pesticides and harsh soaps or shampoos can also trigger skin irritations.
Infection. If your dog has a bacterial infection, it can experience itchiness and respond by licking or scratching the infected area. Yeast infection can occur on your dog's ear canals, paws, or skin folds, leading to localized or widespread itching. To tackle infection-related itching, address the root cause of the infection.
Dry skin. Feeding your dog healthy diets with low fatty acids can lead to deficiencies and dryness of the skin. The weather can also cause dry skin in dogs. Like humans, dry skin in dogs can lead to the accumulation of dandruff, which is itchy and uncomfortable. Your furry friend can scratch or lick their skin in response to the discomfort.
Anxiety. Do you bite your nails or twirl your hair when you’re anxious? In dogs, nail-biting experiences can lead to compulsive scratching, licking, rubbing, or chewing. Your dog can display physical responses and behaviors similar to OCD in humans. An obsessive response to boredom can also cause severe damage to your dog’s shiny coat.
Hormonal imbalances. Your dog’s body requires an optimal amount of thyroid and cortisol hormone to fight off skin infections. Insufficient thyroid hormone or too much of the hormone cortisol can lead to skin infections and itchiness. Your dog may respond by scratching or licking obsessively, leading to bald spots and hair loss. It threatens your dog’s healthy skin and coat.
Physical Discomfort or Pain. Your dog can try to scratch or lick away pain or discomfort. If your pal is licking or chewing their paw excessively, check whether they have a thorn or stone stuck in their footpad. Arthritis and hip dysplasia can also lead to compulsive biting or licking.
How to Treat Your Dog’s Compulsive Scratching, Licking, and Biting
You can visit your vet to identify the underlying cause of itchy skin and the best treatment to tackle the root cause rather than symptoms. Here are six treatments for compulsive licking, biting, and scratching in dogs:
Whether it is fleas, ticks, or mites, efficient parasite control can address itchy skin and help tackle compulsive scratching. Ensure to use all-natural parasite control products to avoid complications. If fleas are making your dog itchy, ask your vet to recommend the best product for flea control.
Schedule regular baths for your pal with all-natural disinfectants or medicated dog shampoos. You should also wash your dog’s bed, clean your carpets and furniture, and treat any other pets in the household. To reduce the risk of re-infestation, maintain the highest level of cleanliness. You can use a dog's supplement for a shiny coat to address the damage.
2.Change Your Dog’s Food
The best way to tackle itchy skin due to food allergies is to eliminate potential triggers in your dog’s diet. Dry processed foods are unhealthy and increase the risk of allergies. Some processed dog foods contain allergens not mentioned on the label. You can reduce dry foods and increase raw meat and plant-based proteins in your dog’s diet.
Your vet can recommend allergy desensitization injections to protect your dog against pollen, mold, and other environmental triggers. You can include fish oils in your dog’s diet to boost your dog’s immunity and add dog supplements for dry skin to protect their lustrous coat.
3.Complement with Supplementation
Like humans, dogs require nutrient-rich diets to moisturize, soften, and smoothen their skin. If dry skin is the underlying cause of scratching, you’ll need something more effective and targeted to address the itch permanently. Supplementation can help you meet your dog’s nutritional needs. The best dog supplements for skin and coat contain omega 3s, zinc, biotin, and essential vitamins. These ingredients can tackle dry skin issues and keep your dog’s coat shiny and healthy.
Apart from dry skin, supplementation can also address excessive shedding, dandruff, and recurring skin issues. You can rely on the best dog supplement for dry skin to protect and promote your pal’s beautiful coat.
4.Use Antibiotics and Anti-Itch Medication
Cuts and open wounds can result in bacterial infection and will require antibiotics to treat your dog. You’ll also need proper medication to treat yeast infections. If your dog has developed hot spots, your vet may prescribe topical or systemic antibiotics to treat and prevent skin infections.
You can also use anti-itch products and supplements to enhance the effectiveness of the treatment. They can soothe the itch and discourage your dog from licking and expanding existing hot spots. The best dog skin and coat supplement can relieve itchy skin and catalyze hair growth in the affected area.
5.More Love and Attention to Minimize their Anxiety.
Anxiety in dogs can spiral in response to unfounded fears, stress, or inadequate stimulation leading to compulsive scratching, biting, and licking. Pampering your furry friend with love and attention can relieve stress. Make sure your dog receives enough exercise, cuddles, and fun time.
Never underestimate the power of love. More fun time together can strengthen your bond, eliminate boredom, and help minimize your dog’s anxiety.
6.Discouraging Counterproductive Behaviors
Use different tactics to discourage counterproductive behaviors and protect your dog’s well-being. You can keep your dog by your side and stop them as soon as they start scratching. To discourage licking, use a special collar or bitter sprays.
New and shiny chew toys can grab the attention of any dog regardless of age and distract them from the itch. You can try different strategies to reduce licking and biting as much as possible.
At VetGen Pharmaceuticals, we are dedicated to enhancing the quality of your dog’s life to ensure your dog maintains an active lifestyle so you can enjoy each other’s company for many years to come! To this end, we offer the best dog supplements for dry skin and natural joint supplements for dogs. Each product offered by VetGen Pharmaceuticals is made from the best and safest ingredients.
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- Vetericyn (2020, Oct 14). Compulsive Licking, Biting and Scratching in Dogs: A Helpful Guide.
- American Kennel Club. Dry Skin On Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment. AKC
- Vet Street. (2014, April 4). My Pet Won't Stop Chewing, Scratching, and Licking His Skin. What's Going On?
- Tammy Hunter. Pruritus - Itching and Scratching in Dogs. VCA Hospitals