What makes dogs itch?

Dogs are taken to veterinarians for itching more than for any other medical problem. But what makes dogs itch?  While there are many possible causes, most dogs that are itchy suffer from one of these six conditions:

  • Flea allergy dermatitis
FAD distribution
Flea allergy dermatitis distribution
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Food allergy dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Sarcoptic mange
  • Demodectic mange

To take a quick look at the body locations commonly affected, the symptoms, and the types of lesions associated with each of these conditions, check out www.itchology.com. Itchology is the app for dedicated pet parents to mange their itchy dogs.

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How itchy is your dog, really?

By Jon Plant, DVM, DACVD

Scratching, biting, chewing, rubbing, and excessive licking can all be signs of itch in dogs. A number of methods have been developed to try to quantify itching, but these are most useful in research settings.  One method is to take videos of kenneled dogs then track all itching behavior seen over a period of time.  Another idea that I have published research itchy-dogon is the use of sophisticated motion sensors attached to dogs’ collars. The most widely used method is to ask the dog’s guardian to rate the level of itch severity on a linear scale.

Why might measuring itch be important, you ask? I think of it like this: would you start a weight loss program without knowing how much you weigh? Excessive itching has a negative impact on dogs’ quality of life.  Surprisingly, most veterinary medical record standards do not require us to record itch severity. A meaningful measure of itch severity that you could share with your veterinarian would be a great step forward in helping pet owners help their itchy dogs.