Determining If Canine Scratching Is Caused by Dog Allergies

Dog allergies may cause a number of reactions in dogs, the most common being itchiness and scratching. However, scratching may also be caused by other factors such as stress, nutrition or parasites, so it is important to determine if the scratching is caused by allergies.

Scratching Caused by Allergies

When the scratching is caused by allergies, the dog will typically display a number of other symptoms including dermatitis or skin rashes, sneezing, coughing, nasal and ocular discharges.

If you detect the allergen and reduce your dog’s exposure to this allergen, he will no longer display allergy symptoms. However, detecting the allergen may be a long process, especially if the allergen is a food. Skin (intradermal) or blood tests (RAST or ELISA tests) may determine if the dog is allergic to a substance.

The allergen may be an inhaled substance such as cigarette smoke or pollens, but may also be a food ingredient or a material the dog is constantly in contact with (i.e. bedding). The vet may perform a few tests to determine the exact source of allergies, but you may also test you dog through eliminating one possible allergen at a time.

Administering medication containing steroids or antihistamines will bring immediate relief if the scratching is caused by allergies, so this may also be a way to detect if the scratching is caused by allergies.

Other Causes of Scratching

Even if dog allergies are often the cause of scratching and itchy skin, there are also other causes that may lead to extreme scratching.

Knowing about these other possible causes of scratching can help you detect your dog’s problem and apply suitable treatment:

  • Poor nutrition may cause dry skin and this will be itchy; evaluate your dog’s diet and see if there are essential nutrients missing. If the diet is deficient, the dog will also have a dull coat and the skin will be flaky.
  • An unsuitable shampoo may also cause dry skin and itchiness; replace the shampoo with a hypoallergenic shampoo
  • Parasites may cause extreme itchiness and scratching; parasites such as fleas or ticks may be easily identified, as they are visible on the surface of the dog’s skin. Fortunately, there are a lot of treatment options for fleas and ticks including sprays, shampoos and medication. However, you need to get rid of all larvae or eggs from your home as well.
  • Infections caused by fungi and bacteria may also cause scratching; these infections may be signaled by a foul odor in the affected areas and sometimes a creamy white discharge (especially in the case of fungal infections or yeast infections).
  • Hormonal problems may also cause an excessively dry skin, itchiness and scratching behavior; typically, thyroid problems are only suspected after other possible diseases have been ruled out. Blood testing can show if there are any thyroid problems.
  • Stress may also cause scratching and chewing of the skin; however, stress is difficult to detect and typically is suspected after all other possible causes have been eliminated.