Itching, Scratching Dog

There are many than one reasons why your dog is scratching herself. The most common reason I hear is that my dog has fleas.  Sometimes, that is absolutely correct.  But, sometimes that is not the reason at all.  More often than you think, it is something else altogether!  First, though, we can discuss fleas.


Interestingly enough, the dog or cat is not the reservoir of fleas. Fleas do not stay on the dog.  A flea will jump onto a dog or cat, have a quick blood meal, and jump right off. They do not stick around. Sadly, just one flea bite is enough to make your dog itch relentlessly. That one bite will itch for days to weeks. Flea bites are nasty and merciless.  The poor dog will itch in the area of the bite.  Then, she will scratch that area. The bite area will become swollen and itch even more.  The dog will scratch that area and increase the irritation.  That one bite can become infected.  This continues to torment the unfortunate dog.

Fleas like to have an area that is warm and safe and offering a meal easily.  If your dog is an indoor/outdoor dog, that can be the dog bed, or your sofa, or your rug, or your bed.  If your dog is mostly outdoors, the fleas will like the place where your dog rests or sleeps.  With that arrangement, the fleas can jump onto the dog and have a quick meal and jump off easily. 

Not Fleas

Here comes a short discussion of ‘stem cells.’  It is necessary to understand how a dog can be so itchy without any fleas.  Stem cells are wonderfully versatile cells that make up part of the fetus growing in the mom’s uterus.  These cells can mature into different parts of the anatomy.  The same stem cells that become epidermis (skin) also become the lining of the gastro-intestinal tract.  They start out as the same thing.  This matters because when a dog has eaten something that upsets her stomach, that may actually present as itchiness.

The itchy dog may not have any fleas at all.  That poor dog may have eaten something that disagrees with her stomach.  Picking the right dog food for your dog is so very important.  Not only do you have to assure that the food is supplying all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that she needs, but also, you have to assure that nothing in that food is indigestible by her.  Every animal is different.  Thankfully, most dog foods are just fine for most dogs.  But, if your dog is scratching, don’t leap to the conclusion that it is fleas.

We have interfered with the natural breeding of dogs to achieve some ‘look’, some ear type, some leg type, etc.  We have not done the species any favors.  In trying to achieve some ‘look’, we have not been paying attention to other areas of the dog that are being affected.  In order to achieve that muzzle type, we had to include this gene.  Unfortunately, that gene also carries a sensitivity to multiple nutrients.  In order to achieve the ears, we find attractive, we have bred a dog with multiple allergies.

Then, there is also the flea bite allergy.  Dogs and cats can have not only food allergies, but also, they can be unfortunate enough to have flea bite allergies.  These poor souls suffer merciless irritation, welts, swelling, infections.  All of this can be due to the bite of one flea who is long gone to another victim.

Itchiness (pruritus is the medical term) is not always due to fleas.  Flea treatment will not help if the problem is allergies.  The most effective treatment is the most inexpensive. Many things can present with largely the same symptoms. The solution to the problem is achievable only after we have determined the cause.  It is not always what it seems.  Let us help you figure out why your dog is scratching.