Dog itching: causes, treatment & prevention


Their regular health checks are up to date, their teeth are healthy and strong, and you’ve even got your pet emergency kit ready. Everything’s going well. So why is your dog itching and scratching like crazy?!

It could be because of a skin sensitivity related to an environmental allergy, emotional response, or more commonly, the result of a poor diet that lacks in essential nutrients.

Even the most well-cared-for dogs can have problems with itching now and then. But there are solutions. Below you'll find an overview of why your dog might be itching, plus steps you can take to treat the problem and prevent it coming back.

Handy tips and tricks to transition your pet

Signs & symptoms

If your dog is suffering from a skin issue, you’ll probably notice some heavy itching, scratching, biting and licking. Here are some other (less-obvious) signs to look out for:

  • Dry or flaky skin
  • Unusual smell
  • Red spots or rashes
  • Dull coat
  • Excessive shedding
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Ear infections
  • Poor appetite
  • Stress, anxiety and changes in mood

Now for the most challenging part: figuring out the cause of the issue.

Your dog’s skin could be irritated for a number of reasons - from food sensitivities (usually to grains or certain proteins) to environmental allergies (such as dust mites or pollen). Your vet will be able to help you pinpoint the problem through an allergy test, but it’s also worth doing your own research to see whether diet and lifestyle are contributing factors.

Why do dogs itch?

Like our human immune system naturally attacks what it deems to be an ‘invader’, your dog’s immune system is pretty good at protecting itself from ‘bad’ invaders (such as bacteria and viruses), but sometimes it reacts to normal things that shouldn't be seen as invaders at all - such as grasses or certain foods.

This overreaction (resulting in inflammation, itchy skin and other uncomfortable symptoms) is often a combination of your dog’s digestive system having to deal with toxins associated with processed foods and their bodies not getting the nutrients they need to thrive. Let’s break these causes down a little...

An overload of processed food

If you’ve been feeding your dog a commercial diet, they might have grown sensitive to some of the ‘filler’ ingredients used to bulk up the food.

Artificial colours and flavours, grains, potatoes, legumes, starches and added sugars are just some of the ‘filler’ culprits lurking in commercial dog foods that contribute to skin issues. These cheap ingredients help to keep the price of the product down, but they can’t be efficiently processed by your dog’s digestive system - which means they wreak havoc on your dog’s skin and overall health.

Commercial foods are often highly processed under extreme heat, which depletes essential nutrients. So, even if there are meats (which are usually low quality or meat by-products!), they don't offer much nutritional value after they’ve been processed.

Missing nutrients

Your dog needs certain nutrients to build and maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat, such as trace minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that deficiency of essential fatty acids is one of the main causes of canine dermatosis (inflammatory skin issues), and that incorporating these ingredients into your furry friend's diet is an effective form of prevention.

Dog itching remedies - what can you do?

If you’ve determined your dog may be suffering from a food-related allergy, then treating your dog’s itchy skin doesn't require specialised foods or medication - switching to an unprocessed, high-meat diet could be enough to do the trick!

The ideal diet for your dog is the one they’re biologically designed to eat - which is mostly meat, with very little grain or vegetables, plus organs, tripe and bone. If you don't like handling raw meat or prefer the convenience of dry foods, ZIWI Peak® is an easy alternative. It’s air-dried slowly and gently to preserve all the nutrients of the raw ingredients, but you don’t have to worry about freezing, refrigerating or prepping (just scoop and serve!).

To remedy your dog’s itching, choose a high-meat diet that includes the following:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids decrease inflammation and are an important supplement for allergies. The ZIWI Peak Mackerel & Lamb recipe contains whole, wild-caught blue mackerel (and the highest levels of omega 3 fatty acids out of all our recipes) to support skin health and coat condition.
  • Kelp is a great source of bio-available nutrients (including iodine and minerals) which not only maintain a healthy metabolism, but when used as a supplement can also help to eliminate fleas naturally and reduce skin itchiness. You’ll find kelp in all ZIWI Peak recipes.

If you think your dog may have a food allergy, it’s possible they’re allergic to a protein such as chicken or beef. To pinpoint the issue, you can try an elimination diet where you stick to a single source of protein (ideally a ‘novel’ protein source, which is one your dog hasn't eaten before, such as duck or venison) for 4-6 weeks. This diet gives their digestive system a break, and when you slowly introduce other foods, you’ll be able to uncover the source of the allergy and eliminate it from your dog’s diet.

Your key takeaways?

  1. Skin sensitivities are painful and irritating, so it pays to take a preventative approach.
  2. Good nutrition is one of the best preventative measures you can take - it can treat (and prevent) most body imbalances from the inside out.

You can learn more about our key ingredients here, or get in touch with our team if you have any questions.





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