Why is my Dog Itching and Scratching?

Here are a few reasons why your dog might be itching, scratching, and chewing his paws..

The skin is the largest organ in the body and so it is not entirely surprising that skin diseases account for a significant proportion of dogs with allergies and visits to both the doctors and the vets. 

Skin Allergies

There are many conditions that affect the skin of dogs, ranging from flea bites to skin cancer, but what is almost certainly the most important canine skin disease is a topic dermatitis.

Are incredibly common in dogs, and whilst most cases are relatively mild and cause only minor irritation, dogs with allergies and dermatitis can cause significant long term suffering to affected animals.

The most common symptoms of dog allergies in the skin are:

  • Itching (or Pruritus as it is known to vets)
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Fur loss and saliva staining
  • Paw chewing
  • And in long-standing cases, secondary symptoms such as the blackening and the thickening of skin.

The main causes of skin allergies in dogs are:

  • Atopy (allergies to things that are breathed in - dust, mites, pollen etc.)
  • Food allergies and intolerance
  • Contact allergies, including flea, tick and mite allergies, especially house dust mites.

Atopic Allergies

Are the most common (in my experience they account for at least 70% of cases of allergic dermatitis in dogs) and are caused by allergic reactions to inhaled allergens such as pollen from trees and grass, which tend to occur in spring when trees start to bud, and spring and summer when the grasses are pollinating.

Other inhaled allergens can be a problem all year round such as mould spores, household dust mites, chemicals on furniture and carpets, indoor air fresheners, washing powder and fabric conditioner, and fabrics like wool and nylon.

The symptoms of dog allergies tend to be expressed in the skin, licking paws and generalised itching are the classic symptoms of a case of atopic allergy


Atopy is more common in certain breeds, with small breed dogs such as West Highland Terriers being most commonly affected - although all breeds can suffer from this kind of allergy.


The next common cause of skin problems is dog allergies to food. Although these are much less common than many people think and there is much debate over their true prevalence.

There is a general consensus that dog allergies to food and ingredients such as wheat, beef and soya are responsible for a significant number of cases of skin allergies in dogs, but true skin allergies directly caused by food are actually quite uncommon.

If you think your dog having allergies to food could be the problem then your first port of call is an elimination diet to find out which food it could be.

Contact Allergies

Such as those caused by washing powders, house dust mites, harvest mites, grass and so on, are far more common than food allergies. Consider a contact allergy in dogs which have unusual patterns of allergies, such as redness only on the belly that has appeared just after their bed has been washed for example.

The good news is that in most cases, the solution to itchy dog skin is simply a matter of ensuring your pet is getting the right nutritional balance, that includes treats too (not always easy with modern complete diets) coupled with effective parasite control.

Over at My Itchy Dog we offer several nutritional supplements and remedies for dogs with allergies to help combat itching and scratching.
Here's what we recommend:

For all over improved skin and coat condition YuMEGA Itchy Dog is good for soothing itchy and sensitive skin caused by atopy (pollens and grasses), or Proflax Skin & Coat which also revives a dull coat and helps to detox your dog's whole system. 

For treating specific parts of the body like paw chewing or sore underarms Ekoneem Organic Neem Oil is your best bet, simply rub onto the afflicted areas and let the oil work its magic. Also use Ekoneem Organic Neem Oil Shampoo Bar while bathing your dog for continued results.

For repelling unwelcome visitors namely: fleas, ticks and mites CSJ's Billy No Mates flea repellent for dogs is highly recommended by both us and our customers or if you prefer a liquid version, especially if you want to treat the cat too there's Billy No Mates Tincture.

To get rid of fleas and mites already present wash your dog with CSJ's Skinny Shampoo, then spray daily with CSJ's Skinny Spray. Leave the shampoo on for ten minutes then rinse. One application will see off any fleas or mites your dog might have lodging in her fur, and the spray will make sure they stay gone.