Why's My Dog Scratching? Part 1

Itchy skin irritations are one of the top reasons dogs are seen by veterinarians. Seeing our canine friends scratching non-stop doesn’t only drive us crazy, but it can’t feel pleasant for them either! There are quite a few different types of dermatitis (skin conditions that cause redness, itching, soreness and occasional blistering) that can cause severe pruritus (the veterinary term for itching) – each with varying causes. In these series of articles I’ll touch on each type and the steps that may be taken to diagnose and treat your prickly pooch.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis:

While it is common to think that your dog has fleas when you find him scratching excessively, this may or may not be the case. In truth, a dog that has fleas usually doesn’t scratch a great deal. However some dogs have an extreme sensitivity to flea saliva and even one chomp from these pesky parasites can send them into an itching frenzy. Dogs with FAD will scratch fleabites until hair loss occurs and red welts begin to form.


Diagnosing FAD can be difficult as it mimics other types of allergies. Veterinarians will often try and rule out food allergies as well as other parasitic infestations. It only takes one flea to set a dog with FAD into an itching fit, and sometimes that flea isn’t present at the time of examination! Expect your vet to possibly try an elimination diet and skin scrapings before coming to the conclusion that your dog has Flea Allergy Dermatitis.


Treatment of Flea Allergy Dermatitis mainly consists of keeping fleas away from the allergic dog. Using effective topical flea prevention products such as Frontline, Advantage or Revolution, can do this. All animals in the household (as well as bedding) must be treated for fleas to prevent reinfestation. Soothing medicated shampoos may be prescribed to calm inflammation as well. If the dog has created a pyoderma (skin infection) due to scratching, an antibiotic such as Cephalexin (Keflex) may be prescribed


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