My Dog is Scratching, But it’s Not Fleas.

Why is my pet scratching?

There are many reasons why pets become itchy. We usually think that fleas are the cause, however there are other reasons too. Some pets experience allergies, just like people. Others may have a skin infection that will go away with simple treatments. Thus, ignoring your pet’s skin condition will complicate treatment options and prolong your pet’s discomfort.

‘We often see dogs and cats who have scratched themselves to the point that the skin has been broken. This can lead to bleeding and infection – which in turn leads to further self trauma  This level of skin damage requires a visit to your local Greencross Vets to ensure a diagnosis and correct treatment are commenced.

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Fungal, bacterial, and yeast infections are some common causes of itchy skin that can be simple to treat. So, don’t delay in bringing your pet to the vet to find out what’s causing them to scratch. Your pet’s quality of life can be affected by uncomfortable itching and scratching, we are here to help!

Skin disorders can be difficult to diagnose. The expertise of a professional veterinarian is needed to ensure safe and effective treatment is started to get your dog back to full health. Some common causes include:

Flea allergy dermatitis

Both dogs and cats can be allergic to flea bites, and it might only take one bite from a single flea to cause this allergic reaction. Dr. Namekata-Wales says, ‘Some dogs are particularly sensitive to flea bites. You may not find a flea or flea dirt in your dog’s coat, but one bite could be the cause of their itch.’ Often the itch is very intense, especially at the base of their tail. We recommend using effective flea control all year round, especially if your dog has sensitive skin. Don’t forget to treat all pets in your household for fleas, including cats but remember to use a product that is safe for them.


Atopic dermatitis  is an allergic reaction to airborne pollens or particles from grass, trees, dust, cleaning products, or mould. There are many treatment options now available for atopic dogs and cats.  To diagnose atopy, other causes off allergic dermatitis need to be ruled out. If the time of the year, breed, history, physical examination findings and results of in house skin test are supportive of atopy, a blood or intradermal skin test is then required. Based on the above, your vet will be able to build a treatment plan moving forward.

Other causes

Food allergies account for approximately 10 to 15% of all allergic skin diseases in dogs. Diagnosing food allergies can be difficult, just like with humans. Chat with your local Greencross Vets team and they can provide advice on how to help your pet if you suspect a food allergy.

In addition to fleas, another cause of intense scratching could be mites. These parasites can lead to a skin condition known as ‘sarcoptic mange’. Mange is incredibly uncomfortable, and it is zoonotic, meaning it can be passed from animal to human. Treating the mites that cause mange involves treating your pet and their environment. Ask our friendly team for advice, we are here to help.

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If your pet is scratching their ears, they may have an ear infection. Ear infections can be very itchy and painful. If your pet is shaking their head, scratching or rubbing their ears please contact us for advice. It may or may not be related to an underlying skin allergy

Your local Greencross Vets team will work with you to diagnose your pet’s itch and decide on the best treatment plan. If your dog has been scratching a lot lately, it might be time to find out why. Together we can ensure your pet is comfortable and happily enjoying life without the itching and scratching.

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