Is Scratching a Sign of Allergies in Dogs


Dogs may get allergies just like humans do, but their symptoms are different.

Here’s How to Spot Allergies in Dogs

Scratching often and sometimes with vigor is a normal part of every dog’s life…or is it? What if scratching is a sign of something other than ordinary, healthy behavior?

Dog Scratching 101

Dog owners know their dogs scratch for a multitude of mysterious reasons (scratching the floor before lying down, for one) but it’s important to know when scratching is a sign of allergies in dogs.

You don’t have to be a Dog Whisperer to know that their scratching comes in many different forms. In fact, it seems they have an entire language built around the many different ways in which they can scratch…

  • scratching at their lie-down spot to mark it or make it comfortable
  • scratching on the floor out of instinct, to make a “den”
  • scratching the ears (ear mites)
  • licking their feet because they have allergies
  • scratching the dirt with their hind feet after going to the bathroom
  • licking their skin out of boredom
  • licking their skin because they’re anxious
  • licking their skin because they have pain elsewhere in their bodies

Sometimes, dogs scratch and lick because it’s their nature. You see, there are glands on their paws, which release scent when they paw at the ground. That would explain the scratching around the bed where he sleeps (my bed!) or around his own poop (stay away!).

Likewise with licking: when dogs lick, endorphins are released so it’s a soothing effect. That explains licking when they’re in pain. Licking also carries its own messages: mothers lick their puppies from birth to communicate with them. Licking is submissive behavior, too. Pack harmony is maintained when the submissive members of the group lick the dominant members.

Allergies in dogs are usually noticed by their owners because of unusual licking or scratching, which we’ll describe below.

When Scratching or Licking Means Allergies in Dogs

Since you now know dogs express all kinds of emotions through scratching and licking, it’s important to be able to distinguish when he’s suffering and when he’s just bored, for example (it may not sound like a barrel of laughs to you or me, but to a dog scratching or licking is entertaining).

Itchy skin is the primary symptom of allergies in dogs. The main areas of allergy-related scratching will be:

  • ears
  • armpits
  • anus area
  • forelegs
  • face
  • feet
  • base of tail (flea allergies)
  • itchy eyes
  • chewing between his toes

As a result of all the scratching, your dog may develop secondary symptoms. His ears will become infected over and over again. He’ll lose his hair, he’ll get hot spots and his skin will develop infections where he scratched it away. Sometimes (poor things) they even get yeast infections because of all the allergy-related scratching.

Allergies in Dogs Cause Intense Scratching

There’s one way to tell the difference between an allergic reaction and all the other reasons dogs scratch. Allergies in dogs, whether those allergies are from food, inhalants, or skin contact, will cause intense scratching, rather than casual, relaxed scratching.

The intensity of the nagging itching will cause scratching beyond what’s good for your dog’s skin, which is when red, raw patches will start to show up. Hair can start to fall out in that area, too, resulting in a completely miserable-looking scenario for the dog.

Contact Dermatitis Allergies in Dogs

When small bumps of blisters may begin to appear, the allergy is a “contact dermatitis” type of allergy. These are allergies in dogs which are caused by exposing the skin to something they’re allergic to. Examples would be certain types of fabrics, or household chemical residue, and pest control residue left on their skin.

Flea Allergies in Dogs

Again, intense itching sensations on the skin are a sign of allergies. When it’s flea allergies, the scratching is more likely to bring on crusts, papules, and scales…and even infection of the hot spots. This is a sign your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction to the saliva of fleas that bite him. As if having fleas wasn’t annoying enough!

Atopy Allergies in Dogs

Licking of the feet is a primary sign that your dog is allergic to something in the air. He’ll also scratch his skin and develop hot spots.


Dogs scratch a lot and sometimes it doesn’t mean a thing. However, if you pay attention and know your dog’s behavior, you’ll be able to tell when the scratching or licking is due to something else.


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