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Common Conditions - Articles of Interest - My dog is scratching but doesn’t have fleas – what’s wrong?

My dog is scratching but doesn’t have fleas – what’s wrong?

If your dog is scratching excessively it’s extremely important to visit your local Greencross Vets right away because the problem can escalate quickly.

Dr Sae Namekata-Wales from Greencross Vets Strathfield says putting off a visit to the vet can make treatment extra complicated. 
“We often see the dog has scratched itself to the level that the skin has started bleeding and sometimes the area gets infected,” she says. 
Fungal, bacterial or yeast infections of wounds are likely to be itchy too, compounding your pet’s distress. 
“When damage is done to this level, systemic treatments (tablets) are needed rather than topical treatments (cream) and it takes a long time before the skin heals.”
Your pet’s quality of life may also deteriorate if you put off treatment. 
“We can put ourselves in their situation,” says Dr Namekata-Wales. “Imagine you are feeling itchy constantly and scratching all over your body till the skin starts bleeding and gets infected. It is very uncomfortable and painful.” 
Unfortunately skin disorders  are some of the most complicated problems pets suffer from and veterinary expertise is needed to determine the underlying cause. 

Flea allergy dermatitis

Dr Namekata-Wales says the most common forms of allergic dermatitis in dogs during spring and summer is flea allergy  dermatitis. 
“This is caused by the infestation of the fleas but you do not necessarily see actual fleas crawling on your dog,” she says. “Sometimes we only see flea dirt, which is ‘flea faeces’ (digested blood of the dog) and it looks like black specs. Some sensitive dogs become really itchy just after one flea bite and you don’t even see flea dirt on these dogs.”


Atopy or Canine Airborn Allergy is another common cause of itchy skin in dogs. It is an allergic reaction to airborne pollens your pet breathes in – often grasses, trees, house dust, cleaning products or mould. Treatment for atopy and other allergies may involve a course of hyposensitisation shots. If you notice itching symptoms in your pet, seek advice from your local Greencross Vet. They will be able to check for the condition with either a blood test or an intradermal skin test.

Other causes

Allergic reactions to food account for between 10 and 15 per cent of all allergic skin diseases in dogs and cats and are the third most common cause of itchy skin in dogs. Yet it is very difficult to pinpoint the underlying cause of the inflammatory reaction by your pet’s immune system. Another cause of itching is mites, which can lead to demodectic mange .
Your local Greencross Vets are best placed to help work through the wide range of possible causes of itchiness and help alleviate your pet’s distress.

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