Constant scratching or licking – signs of an allergy in dogs

Vet Listening to dog heart

According to WebMD, your pet’s constant gnawing, licking or scratching could definitely point to one of the most common canine skin conditions.

Allergic Dermatitis is an usually the reaction to grooming products, food and environmental irritants (pollen or insect bites.) This could become an ugly rash, but cortisone and newer, more natural medicines, would get rid of this. However, the most effective treatment is to identify and avoid exposure to the allergens.


Yeast Infection

Symptoms include irritated, itchy, or discoloured skin. The infection usually manifests within the paws or inside or behind the ears, where yeast have a nice, warm area to grow. Yeast infections are easy to diagnose and often respond well to a topical cream. In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe oral drugs, medicated sprays, or medicated baths.



Superficial bacterial folliculitis causes sores, bumps and scabs on the skin. Easier to spot in shorthaired dogs, a dull coat and shedding in longhaired dogs, could also be an indication of this irritating infection. Folliculitis often occurs in conjunction with other skin problems, such as mange, allergies, or injury. Treatment may include oral antibiotics and antibacterial ointments or shampoos.



This is most common in puppies, causing pus-filled blisters which could break open and crust over. The blisters usually develop on the hairless portion of the abdomen. This bacterial infection is rarely serious and can be treated with a topical solution. In a small number of cases, the infection may spread or persist.



Seborrhoea causes a dog's skin to become greasy and develop scales, resembling human dandruff. In some cases, it's a genetic disease beginning at puppy stage and lasting a lifetime. Most dogs with seborrhoea develop scaling as a complication of another medical problem such as allergies or hormonal abnormalities. In these cases, it is vital to treat the underlying cause to stop symptoms from recurring. The seborrhoea itself can be successfully treated with certain medicated shampoos.



It is in fact not a worm, but a fungus inflammation. The tell-tale circular patches could form anywhere, but are mostly found on a dog's head, paws, ears and forelegs. Scaly sections and hair loss often surround these lesions. Puppies less than a year old are the most susceptible. This infection could spread quickly between dogs in a kennel or to pet owners at home. Various anti-fungal treatments are available.


Shedding and Hair Loss (Alopecia)

How much shedding is normal depends on breed, time of year and environment. But sometimes stress, poor nutrition, or illness could cause a dog to lose more hair than usual. If abnormal or excessive shedding persists for more than a week or there are patches of missing fur, check with your veterinarian.

Mange (Mites)

Mange is caused by minute mite parasites. Sarcoptic mange (canine scabies) spreads easily among dogs and can also be transmitted to people, but the parasites don't survive on humans. The symptoms are intense itching, red skin, sores and hair loss. A dog's ears, face and legs are most commonly affected. Demodectic mange causes bald spots, scabbing and sores, but it is not contagious between animals or people. Treatment depends on the type of mange.


Fleas and ticks

Fleas and ticks are the biggest annoyance of any pet owner. As the tiny insects may be not be visible to the naked eye, flea droppings or eggs are usually visible in a dog's coat. Other symptoms include excessive licking or scratching, scabs and hot spots. Severe flea infestations can cause blood loss and anaemia and even expose your dog to other parasites, such as tapeworms. Treatment may include a topical and/or oral flea killer and a thorough cleaning of the pet's home and yard.

Ticks, just as fleas, are external parasites feeding on its hosts. You can spot a tick feeding on your dog with the naked eye. To remove a tick, grasp it with tweezers close to the dog’s skin and gently pull it straight out. Twisting or pulling too hard may cause the head to remain lodged in your dog’s skin, which can lead to infection. Place the tick in a jar with some alcohol for a couple of days. If your pet gets ill, your vet may need it to analyse what's wrong. In addition to causing blood loss and anaemia, ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other potentially serious bacterial infections. In an area where ticks are common, your veterinarian could advise you about tick control products.


Colour or other changes in skin texture

Changes in a dog's skin colour or coat texture could be a warning sign of several common metabolic or hormone problems. It could result from an infection or other skin disorder. Usually a simple blood test would identify the underlying cause. Be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian if you notice any of these.


Dry, flaky skin

Dry, flaky skin is a red flag for a number of problems. A common symptom of allergies, mange and a variety of other skin diseases, it is not serious. Feed your dog high quality food. Just as with humans, some dogs simply get dry skin in winter. If this causes your pet discomfort, consult your veterinarian. A fatty acid supplement or a humidifier might also help.


Acral Lick Granuloma

Acral Lick Granuloma is a skin condition leading to compulsive licking of a single area, most often on the front of the lower leg. The area is unable to heal and the ensuing pain, discomfort and itching would keep your dog licking the same spot. Treatment includes discouraging the dog from licking, either by using a bad-tasting topical solution or an Elizabethan collar. Speak to your vet about other treatment options as there are excellent natural remedies on the market.


Skin Tumours

A lump on your dog's skin should be pointed out to your vet as soon as possible. Dogs do develop cancerous tumours in their skin. If the lump is relatively small, your veterinarian may recommend removing it entirely, ensure a diagnosis and treatment with a single procedure. For tumours which have not spread, this may be the only treatment needed. For bigger tumours, a biopsy may be needed.


Hot spots

Hot Spots are also known as acute moist dermatitis - small red, irritated or inflamed areas. Commonly found on a dog's head, hips, or chest, it often feels hot to the touch. This could result from a range of conditions, including infections, allergies, insect bites, or excessive licking and chewing. Treatment consists of cleansing the hot spot and addressing the underlying condition.


Immune Disorders

In rare cases, skin lesions or infections which do not heal could be a symptom of an immune disorder. One of the best known is lupus, a disease affecting humans and dogs. Symptoms include skin abnormalities and kidney problems, which could be fatal if left untreated.

Anal Sac Disease

Dogs release a foul-smelling substance when pooping. It comes from small anal sacs, which can become impacted if they don't empty properly. If a dog is scooting its bottom along the ground or biting or licking the anal area, it is usually impacted. A vet can manually express full anal sacs, but in severe cases, surgically remove these sacs.


When to See the Vet

Most skin problems are not emergencies, but it is important to get an accurate diagnosis so the condition could be properly treated. Most skin conditions respond well to treatment

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