There are many reasons why your dog might be scratching, licking or chewing themselves ranging from allergies to boredom to parasites. While scratching the occasional itch can be normal for dogs, when it happens more frequently it could indicate a medical condition that can get worse over time.
Below are possible causes as to why your dog might be scratching:
Fleas - The most common reasons why your poor pooch might be scratching are flea bites which can create extremely itchy spots for your poor dog. Flea bites can be found anywhere on the body and look like tiny red bumps with a red circle around them. They are most commonly found where it is warm and protected such as the armpits or groin areas. You will have to part the dog’s fur in order to see the skin and find the fleas or their bites. Dog fleas are brown or reddish in colour and approximately 1-2 mm long and because they jump you may also spot them in your carpet rather than seeing them on your dog. Remember that if you do not see any fleas this doesn’t mean they are not there and you should treat your dog for fleas on a regular basis particularly in a hot and humid climate. Mosquitoes also bite dogs and (like on us) a red, raised welt will appear which is extremely itchy.
Allergies – scratching can be caused by an allergic reaction which may be a seasonal environmental trigger like pollens, mould spores, grass, or dust mites. If your dog gets itchy outdoors it might be due to an allergen in their environment
Food - certain dog food ingredients can cause itchy skin, feet, face or belly. Your dog’s itching might be a sign that their diet needs an adjustment.
Skin Infections – might be caused by bacterial and fungal infections which can have your dog feeling itchy with skin that appears flaky, crusty or moist and can be extremely uncomfortable. Your vet might carry out a skin test using a swab to determine whether the inflammation is caused by immune-related issues or an allergic reaction and which antibiotic should be used to treat the condition.
Ear scratching – if you notice your dog shaking their head excessively or scratching at their ears with their paws it might be caused by an ear mite and the ear may be red and inflamed. However, irritation in a dog’s ear is more often than not caused by allergies so it’s crucial that you take your dog to the vet for a proper diagnosis
Floor scratching – It is a natural instinct for dogs to scratch the floor before lying down. Their ancestors in the wild did this to create a small den in which to curl up to feel comfortable and secure. Dogs sweat through their paws and they use this scent to claim their territory. Funnily enough scratching on a floor or digging a hole can be a form of entertainment particularly if they are bored.
Carpet or bedding scratching – Just as they do when scratching the floor they will do this same behaviour on carpeting or bedding to create a comfortable sleeping area. A nervous dog will instinctively try to burrow to get away from something scaring them like fireworks, thunderstorms, or other loud noises. It may also be for mental stimulation to amuse themselves.
There is always a reason for the scratching behaviour and if you are not sure as to the source always consult your veterinarian as they will help you figure out what is causing the behaviour and determine the best treatment plan.