Dogs scratch themselves all the time but if you think your dog is scratching just a bit too much or their skin is becoming red, blistered, inflamed or maybe if your dog is stopping playing or eating to scratch then this could be an indicator that their scratching is a bit more serious. There is a chance your dog could be suffering from sensitive skin. If you suspect this is a problem and you would like to put your mind at rest, your veterinarian should be able to help with a proper diagnosis.
What are the causes of sensitive skin in dogs?
The four main reasons for a dog to have sensitive skin are parasites such as ticks and mange, skin infections, allergies and the less common cause, autoimmune diseases.
What can your vet do to diagnose the problem?
Your veterinarian will probably eliminate the parasites as a cause first and then work back to eliminate the bacterial cause, if those two are not the problem they will be left with the most likely outcome which is an allergy, but some allergies can lead to bacterial infections so just because the bacterial infection has been treated it doesn't mean that the underlying cause is not an allergy.
Does your dog lick their paws excessively?
Do you ever find your dog constantly licking their paws and notice that it leaves a rust colour on lighter coloured fur? Can you guess that one of the main causes is allergies? A dog with allergies love licking their paws. A food allergy, a flea allergy, environmental allergy.
They may have an Interdigital cyst which is small lump or cyst of bacteria growing between toes which is better treated with antibiotics.
How to help and prevent sensitive skin in dogs?
There are things that you can do to help prevent your dog from getting sensitive skin. 1, ensure that they are kept up to date with their parasite’s treatments. 2, you can have your dog on a good diet, and you can also use some supplements like vitamin E and give them foods that contain omega fatty acids which are good for preventing skin problems. 3, regular grooming is good for preventing skin allergies,
Is dog grooming important?
It is a good idea to keep their hair short particularly during the summer. Ensure the hair is free from knots and tangles as much as possible. It is recommended a dog’s hair is brushed or combed daily. Washing is also a good prevention against sensitive skin and use a shampoo that is not made of harsh chemicals but of natural ingredients that would be good for sensitive skin.
Check for ticks in your dog's hair
I always try to check our dog for ticks after we have been out for a walk particularly after walking in the woods. Tick land on the hair and then make their way towards the skin so if you run a comb through the hair, you may be able to knock the tick off before it can embed itself in the skin.
Products for sensitive skin
There are many shampoo products containing oatmeal to help soothe dry itchy skin. Oatmeal contains anti-inflammatory properties and has a natural ability to balance the skin’s pH. It is great for locking in moisture by producing a barrier to help alleviate the dryness and also cleaning and softening the coat. There are also recipes for oatmeal soap that you can make for home use.
Aloe vera gel which is the inner flesh/pulp of the plant only (the part of the plant that contains aloin is toxic to dogs and is yellowish in colour). It is anti-inflammatory and has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Used topically it is good for cooling so therefore good for hot spots and helps ease itching. It is also an astringent which speeds up injury by causing the contraction of skin cells.
Calendula (pot marigold) is a flowering plant and is commonly used in herbal and skincare products. It has very effective anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. What is really useful is that It can be mixed with water and sprayed on your dog’s skin for hot spots, irritation, and open sores when your dog’s skin is too sore to touch. Calendula can also be bought as balms and ointments.
Epsom salts are crystals of hydrated magnesium sulphate used as a purgative or for other medicinal use. It is great to use in a bath for your dog to soak in. It will help to alleviate the symptoms of dry itchy skin and feet that are tender. It improves swelling and aids quicker healing, removes odours, increases moisture and keeps wounds clean.
Rubbing coconut oil on your dog's skin can help improve the health of their skin it is a very good moisturizer and will help to improve any dry skin or flaking us or dead tissue coconut oil can improve the look feel an odder of a dog's coat. Coconut oil can also be added to a dog's diet to help improve the condition of their skin. Coconut oil can be used to repel fleas and ticks.
Dog food for sensitive skin.
Nutrition in dogs as in humans can be one of the main root causes of poor health including sensitive skin. It is better to give your dog natural cooked or even raw foods (always be careful feeding your dog raw meat, particularly pork) you have prepared yourself instead of relying solely on processed bought foods. Natural foods rich in Vitamin E such as eggs and liver and in omega oils such as oily fish are good at keeping your dog healthy. Always maintain a balanced diet with variety of ingredients. We like to give our dog the same dishes we are having but there are certain foods we eat (spicy food) that cannot be given to dogs.
There are many reasons your dog may have sensitive skin and your vet may be able to assess the cause of the problem but not always, particularly in less severe allergies. Sometimes it may come down to you as a pet owner making changes to your dog’s environment, diet and grooming to see what gives the best results and sticking with that. Whatever works best for you and your dog