All dogs scratch periodically (and often follow with a good shake) to clean themselves and stimulate their skin glands. But dogs also scratch in response to an itch – an irritating, localized skin sensation transmitted to the brain. “Excessive scratching or licking is a sign that your dog’s itch has pathological (disease-related) origins,” says Dr. Laurie Stewart, a dermatologist at Veterinary Dermatology of New England in Westford, Massachusetts.
Itchiness often increases at night as stimulation of the other physical senses wanes. Experts also suspect that boredom and anxiety can amplify itch. And the simple truth is that some dogs itch more than others. “Two breeds or individuals with the same skin problem may have different degrees of itch,” observes Dr. Richard Anderson, a retired dermatologist at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
Secondary Skin Ailments
“A lot of dogs that have allergic disorders also develop secondary skin problems such as bacterial infections,” says Dr. Richard Anderson, a retired dermatologist at Boston’s Angell Memorial Animal Hospital. A furiously scratching paw can break the skin, allowing bacteria and other organisms to invade and resulting in inflamed, moist lesions called “hot spots” (acute moist dermatitis).
Secondary infections can transform the challenge of diagnosis and treatment into a chicken-or-egg dilemma. “It’s important to know whether we’re looking at an itch that rashes or a rash that itches,” Dr. Anderson says. “If the itch comes first, it’s probably an allergy; if the rash comes first, it may be something else.”
Good canine grooming can go a long way to help keep your dog’s skin in top form. To learn more on the best way to prevent and fight skin problems for your dog, purchase Canine Medicine from Tufts Good Dog Library of Your Dog today.