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Why is your dog itching?

We’re exploring four common reasons why your dog may have itchy skin. Many of our dogs love a good scratch behind the ears – but what can cause your dog to itch, and how can you tell if they start to scratch excessively? In this blog we take a closer look at what’s happening when your dog has itchy skin – and how you can soothe the urge and help to reduce excessive scratching.

Spotting the signs of an itchy dog

Cartoon dog with classic signs of dog itchiness.

Spotting an itching dog sounds simple – but sometimes it's a bit more complicated than you think. As well as the typical scratch-with-the-hind-leg, dogs respond to itches in other ways. Have a think about the below questions:

  • Do they nibble at their skin?
  • Do they lick their paws?
  • Maybe they rub their face or body on furniture?
  • Have they got bald patches?

So, what’s happening when your dog gets the urge to itch? And how can you help?

Why is your dog itching?

There are many reasons why your dog has itchy skin, so let’s take a closer look at some of the more common ones, to help you spot what might be going on. Of course, your vet can help with this too - we always recommend speaking to your vet if you are concerned with your pet.

  1. Fleas, ticks, and mites

Even the cleanest dogs can pick up fleas and ticks if you forget to regularly apply the appropriate treatment. In the case of pests, prevention is the best approach. We recommend keeping track of how often you need to reapply, by setting a calendar reminder.
If fleas have already entered your home, there’s a guide to beating the pesky biters here.
Other itchy pests to watch out for include harvest mites, dust mites, and ear mites. Harvest mites can often be spotted and avoided – though, when it comes to ear mites or a dust mite problem, you’ll need to pop to the vets for expert help.

Fleas and ticks under a magnifying glass.


There are two kinds of mange: sarcoptic mange (or ‘canine scabies’), and demodectic mange. Symptoms can include intense itchiness accompanied by scratching, restlessness, hair loss and reddened skin.

Both are caused by mites and call for a trip to the vet for treatment – usually this will take the form of medication given orally or applied topically, or using a shampoo or dip.

Cartoon dog with symptoms of itchiness and mange.

  1. Environmental allergies or sensitive skin

One of the most common causes of dog itching is environmental factors. Just like people, dogs can have sensitive skin. And these dogs are more likely to react to ‘triggers’ – that’s things in their environment like:

  • Pollen – yes, dogs can get hay fever too!
  • Plants and grasses
  • Cleaning products like laundry detergent

Contact with these irritants can cause your dog’s skin to feel itchy, which leads to scratching and nibbling. If this is prolonged, it can cause skin damage and hair loss – some dogs scratch themselves excessively – which makes them uncomfortable and damages their coats.

One of the most common sensitivities is pollen. And as no-one wants to skip walks due to the pollen count, we’ve written a guide on how to identify and help with canine hay fever.

Cartoon dog with hay fever looking at flowers.

  1. Dietary sensitivities and allergies

Diet is another factor that could give your dog itchy skin. As well as an upset stomach, dietary sensitivities can lead to itchy skin, a dull coat, paw nibbling, and even hot spots. Dogs can be sensitive to lots of different ingredients, including:

  • Meats like lamb and beef
  • Soy
  • Colourings and flavourings

If you suspect your dog might have a dietary sensitivity or food allergy, consult with your vet for advice.

Cartoon dog eating and wagging his tail.

More ways to help your dog’s itchy skin

Of course, there are many reasons why dogs itch and scratch, and we haven’t covered everything here. If you’re concerned about your itching dog, we’d always recommend a trip to the vet.

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