Dogs with itchy skin may lick or scratch their ears, belly or face frequently, causing discomfort and infections. Dogs may even chew their feet or legs if itching is severe. Areas of hair loss and flaking skin could also be signs of irritation.
Determining the Cause
Itchy skin may be caused by flea bites, intestinal parasites, mange, atopy (a genetic predisposition to hypersensitive skin), infections, inhalants or food allergies. According to Peteducation.com, other causes should be ruled out before beginning a food trial. Once other causes have been eliminated, it is important to determine which food source may be causing the itching. A hypoallergenic diet should be fed for at least twelve weeks. If the itching stops, return to the original diet for two weeks to see if the itching returns.
A hypoallergenic diet consists of protein and carbohydrate sources that are new to the dog. For example, if your dog has been eating a lamb and rice formula you may substitute a food containing venison and potato, turkey and barley, fish and potato, or duck and pea. Do not give your pet treats or chew toys during the test period, and do not allow your dog to roam where he has access to food or garbage.
The diagnosis of a food allergy is confirmed if itching stops during the 12-week trial and returns when the dog is back on his original diet. If the itching continues during the trial period, you may perform another food trial using different sources of protein and carbohydrates.
When you have determined a protein and carbohydrate combination your dog can eat without suffering allergy symptoms, stick to it. You may occasionally introduce a single new ingredient, such as chicken, to your dog's diet for two weeks. If allergy symptoms reappear, avoid this item in the future.
Some dog foods designed to treat food allergies are available for purchase only through a veterinarian You can buy these foods in their offices or obtain a prescription which will enable you to order them on the Internet.