If you’ve ever loved a dog, chances are pretty good that you’ve had at least one of these moments. Picture it: You’re sitting there, comfy on your couch, relaxing. Perhaps it’s the wee morning hours. In the stillness of this not-quite-awake place, you cradle a cup of coffee or tea as the light dawns… the potential of a new day unfolding before you.
It is in this still, quiet moment where Fido begins an aggressive deep dive into his nether regions. He does this out in the hallway, so the sound echoes off the tiles. You can hear every nauseating lick, slurp, rinse and repeat as he goes to town. Repeatedly.
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Ugh, you crinkle your nose and frown, quietly scolding him from the couch.
“Could you do that, like, literally anywhere else?”
The answer is of course no. No he can’t.
Just like it’s normal for you to have an itch here or some chafing there, to some degree it’s normal for your furry one too. But if you find yourself asking “Why won’t this doggo ever stop licking his skin?” (or scratching, or chewing…) then it might be time to get to the bottom of what’s happening.
It’s normal to be grossed out by the periodic tongue bath, but if there’s a hint of concern as to the frequency, it’s time to take part in a deep dive of your own.
There are a host of potential causes, so let’s really get in there and see what we’re working with.
Allergies, Hormones, And Parasites, Oh My
Dog Allergies and Itchy Skin
A lot of common irritants can result in dry, flaky, itchy skin. So if you find that Fido’s skin just isn’t looking all that great, consider his food, treats, and even the time of year as a possible trigger. Pollen in the air isn’t just annoying for some humans, it can disrupt a dog’s day in the exact same way. (1)
Environmental triggers are everywhere. That can be true whether you’re furbaby or fur parent. If you smoke in the house, or the pollen count is high these days, or you’ve just cleaned with harsh detergents, any of these can play a role in your furry one’s health.
Take a look at the ingredients in his food, and consider switching. It’s possible that he can’t tolerate grains, or that he’s allergic to corn for example. Just like these things might give a human a rash, this could be the source of his own skin woes.
But if you haven’t been able to make any headway with environmental factors or food, it might be time to make an appointment with a vet to see what else can be done. Just as your own doctor might prescribe something like Claritin for you, there are remedies available for Scooby-Doo too.
Dog Hormones and Itchy Skin
If your little guy is not producing enough thyroid hormone, or putting out too much of another called cortisone, he may present with itchy bald spots. This is obviously something that you’ll have help from your vet in determining, so you’ll be able to treat him with the best medications to put him back in balance in no time. So, again: Look to the obvious irritants first, but move quickly to more obscure possibilities. It could be something that really needs your attention.
Parasites and Itchy Dog Skin
Speaking of needing attention, some unwelcome guests are pretty easy to spot. If you’re seeing a lot of itching in one particular area, get out your fine-tooth comb and investigate. Ticks are pretty easy to spot, partly because they are about the size of a pencil eraser tip, but mostly because they don’t move. If one has latched onto Fido, you can bet he’ll let you know. They can be a little tricky to remove; use tweezers to gently pull it out. Keep an eye on the furry one for any lethargy, depression or seeming stiffness in their joints. If that happens, take them to the vet. Lyme disease is a possibility. (2)
Fleas, however, can be a little more difficult to spot. They tend to hang out near the base of the tail, behind the ears, and on the belly, so if the scratching is more specific to any of those parts, check closely… if it’s not a big infestation yet, you might not see fleas themselves, but you might find their droppings. They are tiny black specs that are hard like sand. If you encounter such things, your first line of defense is a flea dip. Rub a dub dub, into the tub. Woof.
When Chewing And Licking Is Something More
Pain and boredom can make people do strange things, and sweet furry Fido isn’t any different. If the attention mainly seems placed on the hips or chest, and he just won’t stop with the chewing or licking, it may be that he is in pain. Hip dysplasia and other issues begin to crop up in dogs as they age, and some breeds are more susceptible than others. So if you find that perhaps he’s been moving a little slower lately, and he’s always chewing on his hip, it might be time to visit your friendly neighborhood vet to determine what’s going on there. (1)
If your Fido is a youngster, and there just doesn’t outwardly seem to be anything wrong with him, he might just be bored. If he has a lot of energy even after he’s been walked a few times per day, he might need something more. Depending on what options you have available in terms of time and resources in your area, perhaps a dog jogger is in order.
Getting enough exercise for your furry one, particularly some breeds (Hi, husky puppies), can seem like a part-time job in itself. If this is you, don’t let it run you ragged, but don’t let Fido pay the price either. If he needs more, you’re going to have to give him more. Sturdy chew toys can help too, and food puzzles. Bored furbabies need more ways to play, more stimulation, not just for their bodies but their brains too. Hi again, husky pups. We see you.
The Road To Recovery From Itchy Skin
Just as you wouldn’t be able to stand it if your own skin wouldn’t stop itching, or your hip never stopped aching, or your days seemed endless, all that chewing and licking is Fido trying to tell you he can’t stand it. So get to the bottom of it as soon as you can, for everyone’s sake.
When you do find out what the issue is, and you’re on the road to healing, be sure to let him know he’s been a Good Boy with treats that will help his skin get back in the great shape you know it to be. Check out this great option from TruDog.