Why is my dog ​​scratching her bowl

(Published in "NIPPERS 2/2009, Dähne Verlag, Ettlingen)

Itching, also called pruritus, is an excruciating, uncomfortable sensation. Almost every dog ​​owner knows it: the dog bites, scratches and gnaws itself. He shakes his head or rubs against objects. The dog may not even rest at night. This is also a great burden for the owner. Since the causes of itching can be very different, but the appearance of many skin diseases is similar, a thorough processing of each individual case is a prerequisite for the success of the treatment. Visual diagnostics is in no case sufficient.


Why is the prehistory so important?

The patient's history gives the veterinarian valuable clues as to the cause of the itching. The processing of the previous medical history and the medication that has already been administered are key elements of the preliminary report.

An allergy sufferer usually falls ill at the age of less than three years. The initially mild itching can increase over the years. Littermates and parent animals are often affected by allergies.

Parasite infestation can occur suddenly at any age and lead to severe itching. The sarcoptic mite and fleas look for z. B. also on humans as hosts. This should be borne in mind if someone living with the animal in a household is itchy.

Skin infections are often accompanied by an unpleasant odor. Previous cortisone injections often only relieved the itching for a very short time and the animal soon scratched itself badly again.

A good preliminary report therefore provides half the diagnosis. Time is well invested as it limits the number of possible causes of itching and saves costs.


Causes of Itching

Over 90 percent of all itchy dogs suffer from allergies, parasites, or infections. As a rule, they can be treated or cured well.

Allergies come first. There are three types of allergies: The most common allergy is "atopy", which is directed against environmental allergens (house dust mites, food mites, pollen and grasses). The next allergy is flea saliva allergy. Flea prophylaxis or therapy should be carried out for every dog ​​with itching and suspected allergies. In third place is the food allergy, 10-20% of all dogs are affected by it.

Parasites that cause itching in dogs include various mites (sarcoptic mite, cheyletial mite, autumn grass mite, and demodex mite), lice, and fleas.

Infections are caused by bacteria or yeasts (Malassezia). Bacteria and Malassezia do not spread to humans. Dermatophytosis, i.e. fungal infection, is very rarely found in dogs, but it does not always cause itching. However, it is possible that humans are infected here.

The individual diseases can occur both separately and in combination. A logical and targeted diagnostic approach by the veterinarian is required.


What does the vet do?

The vet first examines the entire coat including ears, paws, lip folds and mucous membranes. Skin samples are examined under a microscope. This immediately clarifies whether yeasts and bacteria are on the skin or have even settled in deep skin regions. A skin scraper is used to detect mites. Fleas leave flea droppings, and lice are detected with a magnifying glass. After infections and parasites have been ruled out, an allergy test makes sense to desensitize the dog if necessary. Caution and experience are required here, because non-allergy sufferers can react positively to the test and conversely, allergy sufferers can also have a negative test result. Feed allergies always have to be laboriously ruled out via an approx. 8-week hypoallergenic diet, since the blood test does not provide reliable results.


What does the therapy look like?

If the animal reacts to environmental allergens such as house dust mites or pollen (atopy), desensitization must be carried out because environmental allergens cannot be eliminated. Feed allergies require extensive diagnostics and the aforementioned hypoallergenic diet, which must be adhered to in a disciplined manner. Most treats are forbidden. But the effort is worth it: if a dog is itch-free after this diet, it does not need any further treatments or medication except for a (mostly lifelong) hypoallergenic diet.

Commercially available flea preparations administered all year round help against flea saliva allergies. Detected parasites must be fought specifically. Depending on the parasite, it is also essential to extend the treatment to living space and contact animals.

Mites, yeasts and infections are easy to diagnose and can be treated effectively with medicinal baths or antibiotics. Cortisone treatment should also be avoided if the patient scratches. With a therapy aimed specifically against mites and bacteria, the dog has a good chance of healing.

Case study 1: infection

This patient's skin is infected with yeast. The affected dogs give off a musty odor. The skin is wrinkled, thickened, and darkly discolored. The constant scratching and gnawing result in bacterial infections.

Case study 2: allergy


This picture is just one of the many ways allergies show up. The itching particularly affects the head region. The dog constantly scratched its lips or rubbed them against objects or the floor. The cause is a house dust mite allergy.


    Case study 3: parasites


    The entire body is infested with demodex mites. Allergy sufferers or dogs with a skin infection can also show this type of appearance.

      Thoroughly diagnosed, successfully treated

      The aim of the veterinary endeavors is that the four-legged patient feels really comfortable in his skin again. Even if many skin diseases are not life-threatening, the dog's quality of life and zest for life should be restored. A precise diagnosis is the key to success in almost all cases.