Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Skin Problems in Dogs: Scratching, Itching & Other Skin Conditions

Skin Problems in Dogs: Scratching, Itching & Other Skin Conditions

Excessive scratching, itching, or licking are signs your dog might have irritated skin or dermatitis. Today our Los Angeles vets discuss common skin irritants and how you can help your pooch feel better. 

Why is my dog scratching?

Dermatitis, or irritated skin, happens when your dog's skin is exposed to an external allergen or irritant. The affected skin will become itchy, red, and swollen and may flake or form blisters.

Most dogs will inevitably encounter some type of dermatitis during their lives. In most cases, the issue is a minor annoyance that can be easily resolved at home. However, some conditions do need to be seen by a vet and will require treatment to prevent them from becoming worse.

Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

There are several reasons your dog may start to scratch, lick or bite at their fur. Some of the more common ones include:

Parasitic Bites

Bites from fleas and mites are one of the most common sources of itching in dogs, and one of the easiest to treat. Your vet can prescribe medication to resolve the parasite issue. You can also proactively give your dog preventive medication to avoid fleas, mites, or ticks in the first place.

Environmental Dermatitis

This is a skin irritation that develops due to contact with certain substances, such as grass, dirt, and plants. Symptoms include itchy, dry, or cracked skin, rashes, blisters, redness, or swelling.

Suggested ways to alleviate this condition include antihistamines or oatmeal baths. Your vet may recommend a cortisone cream or other alternative depending on the severity. You will also want to limit your dog's exposure to the irritant. 

Nutritional Dermatitis

This is a relatively uncommon issue for dogs, however, it is possible that they may have an allergic reaction to something in their food. Typically, nutritional dermatitis results in skin irritations and scratching, but digestive issues may happen as well, such as diarrhea or vomiting. If your dog is displaying either type of symptom, it's best to make an appointment with your vet.

Skin Allergies

Some dogs are prone to allergies. Allergens that cause itching can be found in pollen, dander, plants, or insects, among other things.

Some of the symptoms aside from itching include excessive grooming or licking, watery eyes and sneezing, rashes, and inflamed skin. Your vet may be able to diagnose what is causing the allergy and will recommend treatment as well as ways to prevent future allergic reactions.


Another type of allergic reaction is hives. Hives can be a reaction to many things, from bites or medications. Symptoms show as a raised bump that would cause the dog's fur to stick out.

Occasionally, hives will present with swelling near the eyes. If your dog is experiencing hives, talk to your vet. Typically, an antihistamine treatment is effective for hives. Your vet may also recommend applying a cold cloth or ice to your dog's skin. 

When To See The Vet

If your dog's itching persists for more than a few days or is causing them extreme distress or injury from scratching, bring your dog in to see the vet right away. Apart from being uncomfortable for your dog, a dog's skin problems can cause them to scratch their skin to the point of open sores which can lead to infection if not promptly treated. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Concerned about your dog's skin condition? Contact us to set up an appointment or determine if emergency care is needed.

New Patients Welcome

Ambassador Dog & Cat Hospital is accepting new patients! Our veterinary team is passionate about the health of pets in our Los Angeles community. Contact us today to book your first appointment.

Contact Us

Book Online (213) 384-1255