Dogs love a good scratch, but what happens when your dog seems to grow a little too itchy? This suggests that your pet has a problem, potentially in the form of an allergy or a skin condition. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your dog is chasing its tail?
This could also stretch to your dog losing hair around their rail, which is going to be irritating to your pooch as well as aesthetically displeasing. We won’t even start on the issue of loose fur ending up all over your house.
Thankfully, you can usually reverse the engines when it comes to itchy skin and hair loss – it’s often a matter of making some changes to your dog’s diet and lifestyle.
Why Do Dogs Get Itchy Skin on the Tail?
There could be a plethora of reasons why your dog struggles with itchy skin – and none of them are particularly pleasant for Fido.
Some of the causes that you could investigate include:
- Allergies. The most common reason for itchy skin in dogs is an allergy – usually to something that your dog is eating. You’ll find a great deal more information on this in our guide to how to recognize and treat allergic reactions in dogs, though it also pays to know what causes hives on a dog’s skin in case the allergy kicks up several notches. It’s not just food that may be giving your dog a reaction, though; like humans, dogs have a whole laundry list of potential sensitivities that could leave them in discomfort. Consult a vet for testing if you can’t pinpoint just why your keeps scratching at their own skin.
- Fleas. Of course, it’s also possible that your dog is itching because they have a flea infestation. Don’t that it personally or start to curse yourself as a poor pooch parent – the sad fact is, most dogs live with this issue at various points of their life, especially during the summer. We’ll discuss what to do in the event of an infestation later in this guide, but always be sure to stay on top of your dog’s preventative treatments (whether that’s regular drops or wearing a flea collar), and regularly check them for any signs of infestation.
- Poor Diet. It isn’t just allergic reactions to particular ingredients that could cause your dog’s skin to itch – low-quality food that does not provide essential nutrients could be just as much to blame. Learn about what is important to include in your canine companion’s food, discussing this with a vet if necessary, and ensure that your pet is feasting upon the most suitable diet possible for their needs.
- Bacterial Infection. It’s not a very nice idea, but the fact is, dogs can be real carriers of unpleasant infections. It’s possible that your pet has inhaled something untoward from the floor in the park or street, maybe from bird droppings or another animal’s urine, and this has left them combatting a minor infection. If this is the case, your dog will need a course of antibiotics from a vet – though follow our advice below on home remedies before making an appointment with a professional.
- Anxiety. Sometimes, dogs scratch because they are stressed and anxious. If you are worried about your pet’s mental health, check out our advice on how to break a dog’s separation anxiety quickly and how to get a scared dog to trust you completely.
- Detoxing. If you have recently changed something about your dog’s lifestyle, most weaning them off one type of food and onto another, their skin may be flushing anything unwelcome before they start feeling considerably better. This could last as long as three weeks, though obviously, it won’t be fun for Fido during that time. Do whatever you can to ease any discomfort for your dog during this awkward and potentially painful period.
- Habit. In some very rare cases, your dog may be suffering canine OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans). This will mean that your dog continually scratches, having convinced themselves that it’s the only way they will be able to soothe their anxiety. A professional behaviorist will more than likely have to help out with this, but your vet will be able to advise on essential steps to get there.
There is no real way of knowing why a dog will be living with itchy skin based on sight alone – you’re going to need to observe and attempt to identify any potential triggers for excessive scratching.
Should I Call the Vet About My Dog’s Itchy Skin?
If your dog is in visible discomfort and you have exhausted the possible solutions that we are about to discuss, then yes. Your dog may have a health concern that requires medication to treat, or an animal healthcare professional will be able to run a variety of tests that pinpoint the potential cause of the itching.
Don’t rush Fido to the vet at the first sign of trouble, as you’ll just be spending money to receive the same information that you’ll read on this very page. However, if you reach a point when you think that enough is enough and something else needs to be done, then go ahead and make an appointment.
How to Treat Itchy Skin in Dogs
As we have just explained, there are many steps that you can take to ease the discomfort of itchy skin in your dog before calling the vet.
If your pet keeps scratching and you can’t quite tell why you should try some of the following remedies:
- Yogurt. Many dogs love lapping up yogurt, and if you pick one that’s packed with good bacteria and serve it up to Fido in his bowl, you may be able to minimize any infection.
- Oatmeal. Rather than feeding your dog, try grinding up some oatmeal and mixing it with water to make a paste. Cover your dog in this, and wash it off in the shower. You may be amazed at how impactful this can be when it comes to soothing itchy skin.
- Epsom Salts. If your dog is that rare breed that allows you to give them a good dunking in the bath, try adding some Epsom salts to the water. These will aid the itching, but obviously, you’ll have to ensure that your dog doesn’t ingest much of the water or they could suffer an upset stomach.
- Primrose Oil. This essential oil is safe for dogs to consume orally so that you could apply a couple of drops to their water and they’ll be none of the wiser. Alternatively, you could drop the oil straight onto your dog’s skin and massage it in. Either way, this product has a significant impact on itchiness.
Another alternative could be to take your dog’s mind off their skin by distracting them with long walks and playtimes! Naturally, this will not work as a permanent solution though. The “just ignore it and hope it goes away” approach is not advisable in the case of canine itchy skin – you’ll just be prolonging your dog’s discomfort.
How to Prevent Itchy Skin in Dogs
Of course, you may prefer to avoid allowing your dog’s skin to grow itchy in the first place.
This is primarily done by following the advice already laid out, but in summary, you can help your dog avoid itchy skin by:
- Identifying and Avoiding Allergy Triggers. Whether it’s food related or an unfortunate allergy to grass or dust, find out what seems to irritate your dog and keep them away as much as possible.
- Feed Your Dog a High-Quality Diet. Nutrition is so crucial to canines, and a dog with a quality, balanced diet is a happy and healthy pooch. Speak to your vet or another expert, and learn about the best possible food for your pet’s needs.
- Groom Your Dog Regularly. It can be a fine line, knowing how often to bathe a dog. Too often you’ll actually just irritate their skin, but not often enough will leave them feeling uncomfortable and greasy (just like humans when we leave it too long to wash our hair!) Keep an eye on your canine and learn when they need a wash – and use a gentle, unperfumed shampoo free of additives that may irritate their skin. Use wet wipes for clean-ups between baths, and ensure that your dog’s coat is being brushed at least once per day.
- Use Supplements. Coconut Oil and Omega-3 are both great ways of ensuring that your dog’s skin remains healthy, as well as keeping a canine’s coat glossy. Either pop these into your dog’s food as supplements or just let them lick the oil (in sensible quantities – it does contain many calories) straight from your hand.
Pay attention to your dog’s skin and behavior, and you’ll be able to tell exactly when – and how – they may be growing uncomfortable. If you can prevent your dog from suffering from itchy skin, you’ll all enjoy your lives a lot more.
Dealing with a Flea Infestation in Your Home
If your dog’s scratching has been a result if the dreaded fleas, there are a handful of steps that you’ll need to take.
- Kill the Fleas. Sorry, we don’t usually advocate genocide of a species, but these fleas need to go – as do their eggs. Use a chemical solution from a pet store, or wash your dog thoroughly with a flea shampoo.
- Wash Everything in Your Home. Yes, we mean everything. Every blanket, cushion, bedsheet, pillow … everything that your dog has touched. Fleas will find somewhere to lay eggs and make a nest, so just killing the critters that are presently feasting on Fido is only half the battle. You need to get rid of the next generation, too.
- Get Preventative Treatment. Once you are confident that your dog has shed their flea infestation and your home has been purged, you need to ensure that your dog has sufficient protection against them. If they already use drops that have proved ineffective, consider a stronger dosage or a flea collar.
Fleas are no fun for dogs or humans, but they can be dealt with. Just remember that prevention is always better than cure. Dealing with an infestation can be a huge pain in the neck.
Why Do Dogs Lose Hair at the Base of Their Tail?
It’s not just itching of the skin that could denote a problem for a dog, though – some pooches also suffer from losing hair at the base of their tail.
The primary reasons for this are the same as the those with itchy skin – allergies and flea infestations are common culprits, and anxiety could also be to blame. There is another potential reason for dogs to lose hair at the base of their tails, however; worm infestations.
If your dog has a problem with worms (most notably tapeworms, which are a common blight for dogs that suffer from flea infestations), many symptoms should be looked out for.
- Scooting along the floor.
- Continually sitting down while on walks.
- Excessive licking of the anus.
- Rapid and unexplainable weight loss.
- Yellow specks in the feces.
- Vomiting (you may also notice worms in said vomit.)
Tapeworms are not necessarily life-threatening by themselves, but they can cause a lot of discomfort for your dog – and lead to further complications if left untreated. They are easily dealt with by staying on top of your dog’s worm prevention treatments, or through medication prescribed by a vet. If you have any reason to suspect that your dog has an infestation, get them dealt with quickly, easily and painlessly.
My Dog Has Bald Spots on Their Tail
Fleas making their way into this part of your pet’s body often cause bald spots in the tail. It’s simple enough to explain why; these little bugs are hugely irritating to your dog, and they will more than likely attempt to dispose of them by biting at their tail.
If you suspect that your dog’s tail is suffering from the attentions of fleas, take the steps that we have already discussed to get rid of the infestation. Don’t delay on this – the fleas may lay eggs and multiply in number, as well as starting to make their home all over your dog’s body.
My Dog is Biting the Base of Their Tail, but There are No Fleas
This could be a sign that your dog is a little worried, afraid or bored – or maybe that have picked up a bad habit, not unlike a human that bites their nails. Take a good look at your dog and see if they are exhibiting any other strange actions. If you can’t think of any reason why your dog may be biting their tail, consider speaking to a vet. Your pet might be trying to tell you that something is wrong using the only language they know.
My Dog is Losing Hair on the Tip of Their Tail
When a dog loses hair in larger quantities, as opposed to in the small, spotted lumps that an allergy would suggest, the reason is more likely to be medical. Losing hair from the tail is a common symptom of hypothyroidism, which is an issue with the thyroid gland of a dog.
If your pet is uncharacteristically listless and seems to be gaining weight at a disproportionate rate, there is every chance that they are struggling with this condition. Get them to a vet if that’s the case – the food news is that hypothyroidism is easily treated by medication, but it’s a lifelong condition that could lead to health problems and an impacted quality of life if you ignore it.
My Dog is Chewing Their Tail Hair Off
This symptom comes with a greatest hits package of potential reasons that we’ve been discussing throughout this article.
Here are some of the possible reasons why your dog could be chewing their tail hair:
- Allergies. Your dog may be struggling with a reaction to food, dust, grass or countless other possible culprits. Attempt a process of elimination by yourself, and if you can’t pinpoint the reason why your dog seems to be reacting, speak to your vet for further advice. Allergies in your dog are not to be taken lightly, even if the symptom appears to be ‘only’ chewing their tail hair.
- Fleas and Ticks. It could be that a parasite has attached itself to your dog’s tail, and Fido is trying to rid himself of these unwelcome visitors before they can irritate him any further.
- Stress and Anxiety. Many dogs lick and chew on their feet to calm themselves down in times of stress or worry, and this behavior could graduate to biting at their tail. Another possible explanation could be that your pet is bored – try distracting them from their tail by offering a walk or playtime!
- OCD. Your dog may have taken to chewing their tail, and it’s become a habit that they’re struggling to break. Get help about this, as it could become a problem further along the line.
Don’t allow your dog to chew their tail hair continually. It may look harmless at first but it has the potential to end badly, and it could be a sign that your dog needs medical or psychological help. There’s no need to race to the vet as the first sign of the practice, but if it continues after you attempt to calmly coach your dog out of the habit then call for reinforcements.
You can also take the appropriate steps to ensure that your dog’s fur remains thick and lush by offering them plenty of supplements. Much like their skin, a dog’s coat is best served by Omega-3 and Coconut Oil – and by ensuring that you don’t use any harsh soaps or shampoos that could strip away layers of your pet’s precious fur.
My Dog’s Tail Looks Fine, but it’s Tucked Between Their Legs
This typically means that your dog is in discomfort or afraid. You can check out our detailed guide to whether a dog’s tail between their legs means they’re sick for more information. This small appendage on the back end of your dog tells you more than you could ever imagine!
It’s sometimes tempting to ignore a dog that is always scratching or biting at their tails, writing these actions off as just something that dogs do. You may even be tempted to tell your pet off for indulging in these habits, much like you would a child that picks their nos. Don’t!
When you scold a dog for scratching or biting their tail, you can’t be sure that you’re not punishing them for being in discomfort. Additionally, some dogs consider any attention to be good attention – and by providing them with a response when they indulge in what you consider to be an undesirable behavior, you’re encouraging them to do so again and again.
Itchy skin or balding tails almost always have their roots in lifestyle, so it’s typically simple enough to deal with these problems and restore your dog to perfect health. Just keep an eye on your pet when they start to demonstrate any of the symptoms that we have discussed and take the appropriate steps to treat the problem. It’ll save your dog a lot of pain and discomfort, and it’ll save you a small fortune in vet’s bills.