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San Bruno Pet Hospital 1111 El Camino Real
San Bruno, CA 94066
Phone: (650) 583-5039
Fax: (650) 763-8620

Hospital Hours
M-F: 7:30a-6p
Sat: 8a-5p
Appointment Hours
M-F 8:30a-5:30p
Sat: 8:30a-4:30p

After Hours Emergency
Emergency Clinic


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NOTE: These are offered
as general information
only and NOT a substitute
for a visit to your
veterinarian. If you feel
that your pet has a
problem that may require
urgent attention
call us at (650) 583-5039
immediately. If after hours,
contact the emergency
clinic (650) 348-2575.
Why Is My Dog So Itchy?

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call San Bruno Pet -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Sick Dog Is your dog constantly licking and scratching? If so, you’re not alone. Many dogs lick and scratch as result of itching (also called pruritis). The itching may be minimal or extreme, and can even cause injury.  

Itching is a characteristic of many possible skin conditions and, treating an itch effectively requires determining the underlying cause. This is not a road you want to go down alone. Finding the cause of an itch requires testing, and help from your veterinarian.

What might make my dog itchy?
It is important to remember that itching is not a disease, or a cause of disease, but rather the result of a disease process. Effectively treating itching requires treating its cause. If your dog is frequently itchy, you may first suspect a problem with fleas. It’s a common assumption, but fleas are far from the only cause of skin irritations and itches. That said, your dog should absolutely be on year-round flea and tick medication. The most common broad causes of itching are:
  • Parasites
  • Infections
  • Allergies
  • Skin disease
  • Skin cancer (less common)
Some diseases only start to itch when a dog develops secondary bacterial or yeast infections. Whatever the cause, it’s understandable that intense itching is a serious source of distress for your dog.

Dog allergies
Exposure to allergens may occur any number of ways:
  • Inhalation
  • Topical exposure
  • Ingestion
All may result in a cascade of inflammatory chemicals from cells in the skin. A dog may show allergic signs like itching when his immune systems begins to recognize everyday substances (allergens) as dangerous. Allergic conditions will also be considered by your veterinarian and efforts made to identify the causative agent, as well as attempt to block the allergic reactions.

Atopic or allergic dermatitis is associated with inhaled or even topical materials that enter the body and trigger an excessive release of inflammatory secretions that result in itch.

Interpreting allergy tests requires experience and you may even need a specialist.

There are recent developments in the treatment of allergies and allergic reaction. Ask your veterinarian what can be done.

Diagnosing an itchy dog
Determining the cause begins with your veterinarian taking a detailed medical and chronological history:
  • What have you seen and when did you first see it?
  • How has it progressed?
  • Are other pets affected, are you?
  • Next is a thorough physical examination, focusing on— but not limited to— the skin. Parasites and infectious conditions should be considered. They are relatively common, and generally respond to appropriate treatments very well. They may or may not be the main cause of itching.
Dry skin can also be a cause of itching, or can be a result of other conditions. In either case, dryness makes itching worse and needs to be addressed.

Because some metabolic and systemic illnesses can cause itching, blood tests may be advised to evaluate the health of organ systems other than the skin.

One important thing to remember is that while you may be annoyed by your dog’s itch, they are genuinely suffering and need to be diagnosed and treated without delay. If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

By Dr. Mike Paul, DVM