You might find your dog scratching more often with warmer weather creeping in. There are many causes of a dog's itchy skin, but each one should require that you rule out other conditions before starting a particular treatment.

Nothing can be more frustrating than seeing your pet uncomfortable, so soothing your itchy dog takes priority. The two main things that give itchy skin in dogs are pests and allergies, both of which can be seasonal. Need help diagnosing them? Schedule an exam with your veterinarian. Even if your dog's itching seems minor, you'll want to ensure you're on the right track and using safe products to curb his discomfort. 

Fleas and Ticks

Once you notice your dog itching, check for fleas and ticks first. These blood-dependent pests use dogs as hosts all the time and can latch on anywhere. Ticks can go unnoticed for some time until they become fully engorged and large enough for you to spot and remove. Keep in mind these irritating insects can and do carry a variety of dangerous diseases, so it's important to check for them during tick season and any time your dog enters a potentially infested area (anywhere outside, mind you). If you find a tick on your canine and need help removing it contact your veterinarian.

Fleas are less dangerous but just as uncomfortable. Infestations of this kind can lead to itchy skin in dogs and other skin reactions, requiring veterinary care. Certain dogs can have allergic reactions to flea bites that cause very painful hot spots, hair loss, swelling, and even infection. Spotting them is sometimes easier than ticks if you check regularly, but in long-coated and dark-colored dogs you might need some extra help. Brush through your dog's coat with a clean flea comb to be sure you're dealing with a flea occupation. Flea dirt can be spotted on your dog or in his most common resting areas such as beds and crates. If you give your dog a bath and notice a reddish-brown color in the water, fleas are almost always the cause.

Food Allergies

Just like people, dogs can be allergic to just about anything. If you don't find any fleas or ticks but something is giving your dog itchy skin, you might be dealing with an allergy of some sort. Before you start any treatment, it's best to check with your veterinarian to rule out what your itchy dog might be allergic to. Food allergies, however, are one of the rarer allergies among dogs.

Finding the Culprit

Food allergies, while rare, do happen and elimination foods can prove necessary to find out what ingredient(s) your dog is allergic to. You can work with your veterinarian to do novel or hydrolyzed protein food trials to evaluate for food allergies so that your veterinarian can recommend a food that avoids the trigger protein while still providing your dog with proper nutrition. Over-the-counter limited-ingredient foods may not have the quality control to avoid cross-contamination of ingredients, so you and your veterinarian may want to choose a limited antigen therapeutic food that is consistent with the needs of your furry companion. 

Environmental Allergies

If your dog is still itching, but he doesn't have fleas or a food allergy, he may have some environmental allergies to things like pollen or dander. A nutrition change may not do much in the way of relief, but your veterinarian may recommend a therapeutic food to improve your dog's skin health. And your veterinarian will have the best suggestions when confronting environmental allergens.

Depending on the severity of your dog's itchiness, treatment can range from minor to extensive, often going beyond just one method. Simple oral medication might be ideal during the worst parts of the year, along with regular grooming. Desensitization "allergy injections" may help a percentage of dogs. Of course, steroid injections and stronger medications are suggested if your dog's itching persists. Regardless of the cause, you'll want to seek your veterinarian's assessment and recommendation before taking matters into your own hands.

Visit Your Veterinarian

There are many reasons for dogs that scratch a lot, but the two most common ailments are pests and allergies. Regardless of the reason, seek veterinary attention right when you notice your dog scratching. Don't give any medications prior to your veterinarian's examination and instruction. Although the treatment might be quick and simple, the last thing you want is to make a serious decision that causes its own adverse reaction. Whereas fleas and ticks are best treated with prevention (which can be purchased in a variety of forms), food allergies are treated with limited-ingredient foods to eradicate the offending ingredient. Environmental allergies are tougher to treat but can be easily managed with diligence and expert advice from your veterinarian.

At the end of the day, keeping your dog clean and limiting his exposure to outside allergens is essential in keeping your dog's itchy skin at bay. Even if your dog's condition has gotten extreme, there's nothing a little tender loving care and veterinary treatment can't fix. Soon enough, you'll find your dog back to normal. 

Katie Finlay Katie Finlay

Katie Finlay is a pet trainer who lives in Southern California. She has been working with dogs and their owners both in person and through her online content for over six years.