Why do dogs scratch?

There’s nothing quite like a good scratch sometimes. But then there’s the kind of itch that drives you round the bend. The same goes for your dog. So when you see your dog scratch over and over again, it’s time to find out why. 

Reasons your dog has itchy skin

It’s best to find the cause of your itchy dog sooner rather than later. Persistent scratching or licking of the same area can damage their skin, cause hair loss or inflammation. Before it gets that far, here’s our guide to potential suspects:

Environmental factors

This can be caused both by things inside and outside your home. You can ask your vet to do a blood test for environmental allergies and then you know what you’re dealing with. For example, if it’s a dust allergy, you’ll need to vacuum your home more often or even get a HEPA filter that improves air quality. 

Here are the most common allergens:

  • Pollen – trees, grass, plants
  • Mold
  • Dust
  • House dust mites
  • Storage mites – from stored food
  • Feathers
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Prescription medications
  • Perfumes
  • Cleaning products
  • Rubber
  • Plastic
Westie in the grass

Fleas or flea saliva

The first thing that springs to mind when you see your dog scratching? Yes, those dreaded fleas. We all know how itchy a flea bite can be, but did you know that some dogs are allergic to their saliva? If that’s the case, even a few bites can leave your dog uncomfortably itchy for up to three weeks. So keep on top of these pesky parasites with a strict regime. Our super convenient flea, tick & worm treatment makes this easy. It arrives through your letterbox at just the right time every month, so we do the remembering for you. 

Dog with hair parted at the back of neck to apply flea treatment

Food allergy or intolerance

Just like us, some ingredients don’t agree with our dogs. While only 1 in 10 allergies are food-related, it’s worth keeping in mind.

The most common culprit is often a certain protein,  followed by the ‘big 5’ – beef, egg, dairy, soya and wheat. This type of allergy or intolerance can show up with itchy paws, face, armpits and belly. Identifying the culprit is a case of trial and error, and best tackled with advice from your vet first. Once an allergy or intolerance is determined, we can help with a kibble blend tailored to your dog’s exclusion needs. 

Ear infection

If your dog is particularly bothered by one of their ears, they might have an ear infection. Telltale signs of an itchy ear include head shaking, scratching and whining. Our floppy-eared friends, like Cocker Spaniels, can be particularly prone to this. As can dogs with food sensitivities or skin allergies. Quick treatment is essential, not only for their comfort, but also to prevent the infection spreading. If you suspect an ear infection, ask your vet to check your dog’s ears as soon as possible. 

Bacteria and fungal infections

No fleas to be found? It could be a bacteria or fungal skin infection. There are a wide variety of causes, but they all result in a scratchathon! This will need to be diagnosed by your vet and possibly treated with a round of antibiotics. Again, the sooner the better. 


It might not be our idea of entertainment, but excessive scratching, chewing and licking can be a dog’s way of occupying the time. So if you’ve ruled out allergies, try injecting a bit more variety – both physical and mental – into their daily routine. LickiMats are a great way to stimulate their brain and mix up meal times. Take a different route on your walk or teach them a new trick. And remember, some breeds just need more exercise than others.  

Scratch that itch

Scratching is a normal part of your dog’s day, just like ours. But when you see your dog scratch persistently, it’s time to find out what’s causing it. From itchy skin, to itchy ears, once you know the reason, you can help them feel better.

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