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Why is my dog always scratching?

First of all you have to determine why your dog is scratching at his ears and feet, so I would recommend that you take your dog along to the vets.

It is important to identify the cause of the dermatitis, if that is the problem, and to eliminate it from your dog's life.

Skin irritation can be due to an allergic reaction. For example, a dog may react to something in the environment, such as house dust, house dust mites, fungi and pollens.

This is found initially in younger dogs, and is often seasonal at first but it may become a permanent problem. The patient will have severe irritation, especially around the face, feet, armpits and abdomen. The dog will scratch and chew so much at their skin that it can become infected and the dog may lose their hair.

The affected dog may be allergic to a particular food, such as beef, milk, eggs or fish. This hypersensitivity may cause an itchy skin as well as occasional gastoenteritis.

Identification of the cause involves elimination diets, where the dog has a diet of new food to which they have had no previous exposure. Absolutely no other food is allowed and the clinical signs should regress within eight weeks. At this point, other foods can be introduced into the diet to identify the cause.

The patient may have contact dermatitis where items such as soaps, detergents, shampoos, drugs that are applied to the skin, plastic, rubber and other synthetic agents cause an allergy. The reaction may develop within 4-6 weeks of exposure, but more commonly over a period of two years.

The reaction is most often found on the feet, underneath, neck and chin. The skin is very red and often infected due to self-inflicted wounds.

Identifying the cause of the irritation and making sure the dog has no contact with it may well alleviate the condition. There are many conditions that can cause skin to be itchy.

It may simply be because the skin is dry, but there are many, many other causes. This is why it can take some time to reach a diagnosis. Quite often the diagnosis is reached through elimination by using different therapies and seeing if the pet responds to the treatment.

If your dog has an ear infection, rather than a skin irritation in that area, then that also has to be taken very seriously.

Where the outer ear is infected (otitis externa) this can lead to the bacteria penetrating the eardrum resulting in problems with the middle ear (otitis media). This, in turn, if untreated can lead to the inner ear being affected and sometimes the disease even spreads to the brain. Otitis media is much more difficult to treat, which is why any infection of the outer ear should be treated quickly.

Make an appointment for your dog to see his vet, as any disease is better to treat early on in the process rather than when the condition has developed into a chronic problem.

Remember Elaine cannot replace the vet who normally looks after your pet and they should always be the first point of contact. If you are concerned your pet may be ill, don't delay contacting your own vet.
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