Fleas are the first thing dog owners think about when they see their dogs scratching. However, there are many reasons why dogs get itchy, and this time, fleas might not be the ones to blame. If your dog is itchy, you’re probably wondering why is my dog constantly scratching but has no fleas?
Compulsive scratching is common in dogs and happens for a variety of reasons. In addition to fleas, environmental or food allergies can also make a dog feel itchy. Anxiety or boredom, dry skin, hot spots, parasites like ticks and mites, mange, bacterial and yeast infections can make a dog scratch.
As you can see, there are many issues, besides fleas, that can cause compulsive scratching.
If you’ve eliminated fleas as the reason for your dog’s itch, keep on reading! In this article, we’ll explore all potential reasons for itchy skin and offer effective solutions.
Reasons Why Your Dog Is Scratching Without Fleas
When a dog is scratching non-stop, most dog owners assume they have another flea infestation on their hands. However, if fleas have been ruled out as the cause of your dog’s itchy skin you should look for other causes.
Common causes of itchy skin in dogs are:
1. Nutritional Allergies
Though food allergies aren’t as common in dogs as they are in people, some dogs can be allergic to certain foods. Grains such as wheat, corn, and soy, as well as chicken, dairy, and beef, are the most common food allergens for dogs (source).
2. Environmental Allergies
Seasonal or environmental allergies aren’t uncommon in dogs and are most often seen in spring, summer, and fall. Dogs suffering from environmental allergies can be allergic to many different things including carpeting, dust mites, mold spores, pollen, blooming plants, trees, weeds, and pesticides.
3. Anxiety or Boredom
Dogs who suffer from boredom or anxiety may compulsively scratch themselves as a way of soothing their nervousness. This type of intense itching and scratching is called neurological dermatitis by veterinarians.
4. Dry Skin
Cold weather, poor hydration, and lack of omega fatty acids in a dog’s diet can cause a dog to develop dry skin. Dry skin is especially common during winter months and in areas with low humidity.
5. Hot Spot
Also known as moist eczema, hot spots are caused by moisture being trapped on a dog’s skin for extended periods of time. Dogs with thick, dense, or matted coats are more likely to develop this condition since a dog’s skin can stay wet long enough for bacteria to reproduce and cause skin lesions.
Mange is a skin condition caused by mites that can’t be seen with a naked eye. These nasties burrow deep into a dog’s skin, creating inflammation and open wounds that can become infected.
Sarcoptic mites, also called scabies, cause hair loss, flaky skin, intense scratching, and open wounds all over a dog’s body. Demodex mites, known as mange, are commonly seen in young dogs or old and sick dogs and cause less scratching but more hair loss.
7. Skin Infections
Also known as infectious dermatitis, or pyoderma, skin infections can be caused by bacteria, fungi, and yeast that lead to painful skin diseases and itchy skin.
Ringworm is a common skin infection in dogs that causes hair loss in circular patches, itching, and can be passed to humans and other dogs.
On the other hand, staph infections are the most common bacterial skin infections found in dogs. The problem with these bacterial infections is that dogs and humans can transmit the infection between one another.
8. External Parasites
Fleas aren’t the only external parasites dogs can get. Though flea bites can cause intense scratching so can ticks and mites.
Cheyletiella mites, also known as walking dandruff, can only be seen with a microscope. They cause hair loss, flaky and irritated skin in humans, so it’s important to prevent a dog from getting them in the first place, otherwise, you might get infected as well.
How Can I Get My Dog to Stop Scratching?
Because there are so many different reasons why dogs scratch you must figure out the cause of this behavior to find the best treatment plan. Depending on the exact cause of your dog’s scratching the treatment might include:
1. Changing Diet
If an allergic reaction to food is making your dog itchy, eliminating potential allergens such as wheat, or beef can help your dog feel better. Feeding a limited ingredient dog food can help you determine which specific food your dog is allergic to.
2. Addressing Anxiety & Boredom
Sometimes, dogs use compulsive scratching as a means to relieve stress, fear, or lack of mental stimulation. To prevent this from happening, keep your dog exercised, play with it and spend a lot of time together.
3. Prevent this Behavior
Compulsive scratching can cause serious damage to your dog’s skin and affect the quality of its life, so do everything you can to prevent this behavior from happening. Use bitter sprays and cone collars to discourage your dog from licking and scratching hot spots.
3. Use Medications
If your dog’s scratching is caused by mange, bacterial infection, or other medical problem your vet will prescribe medication to treat the underlying issue. Your vet may recommend topical or oral antibiotics, steroids, or anti-itch creams to soothe hot spots or skin infections.
How Can I Relieve My Dog’s Itching Without Fleas?
Mild cases of itchiness caused by dry skin, hot spots, and allergies can be successfully treated with home remedies. Here are some natural home remedies for itchy dogs you should try:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Colloidal oatmeal baths
- Coconut oil
- Chamomile and green tea soak
- Baking soda
- Aloe vera
- Black tea
- Calendula lotion
- Garlic and lemon spray
However, if the persistent itchiness is making your dog uncomfortable, depressed, or restless, it’s time to call a vet.
Though common, fleas aren’t the only reason why dogs scratch. Persistent itching and scratching can be caused by many different things including allergies (food and environmental), mange, hot spots, skin infections, dry skin, anxiety, or boredom.
To stop your dog’s scratching, you must find the underlying issue causing this behavior. Once you figure out the cause of your dog’s itching, you’ll be able to come up with the best treatment plan for your dog.