Itchy dogs can be a common type of visit at veterinary offices around the world. It’s easy to spot – your dog scratching continuously in discomfort can cause anyone to want to find a solution fast. And listening to constant scratching and licking can be a major stress for human counterparts too! More than 7.5 million dogs were diagnosed with itchy skin (pruritus) over the past year alone, making for the number one reason a pet parent may visit their vet. Once you identify the itchy skin problem, you should book an appointment at your local THRIVE Affordable Vet Care clinic for an evaluation.

What happens at a vet visit for an itchy dog?

Your veterinary technician and veterinarian are here to help drill down on what is causing your pet’s itchiness and scratching. Be ready to have the answers for common questions that help identify potential solutions, such as:

  • When did you first notice your dog itching?
  • Are they scratching all over or just certain areas?
  • When was their last dose of flea/tick preventative, and what kind was it? (It may be helpful for you to bring the packaging if it’s a product you purchased elsewhere.)
  • When was their last bath?
  • Are any other pets or people in your home itchy?
  • Are there any new food, treats, or other changes in their environment?

After reviewing your answers, along with the pet’s medical history and thorough physical examination report, your veterinarian will come to a solution. They’ll give special attention during the physical exam to ears, skin folds, feet and nails, and check for signs of fleas, flea dirt, or hair loss that may indication parasites. Obvious areas of redness, scaling, bumps and sores will also be assessed.

How does a veterinarian identify what’s causing my dog to itch?

THRIVE Dermatology Diagnostic Screening

At THRIVE, your veterinarian may suggest the Dermatology Diagnostic Screening Package for your itchy dog. This inclusive package offers a skin examination, skin diagnostic sample collection, skin mite evaluation, skin bacteria evaluation and fungal culture. This is the perfect first step to help diagnose your itchy dog or cat and get relief to keep them healthy and happy!

In general, your veterinarian will recommend some tests based on the results of the above exams and questions. Such tests may include:

Testing for Bacterial or Fungal (Yeast) Infections

Infections of the skin and ear can be secondary, as allergies are often present in underlying causes. If your pet has itchy (or smelly) ears, wax or debris may be gathered by your veterinarian for testing. Open wounds or skin lesions may also need to be sampled. Your veterinarian may scrape the surface of your dog’s skin, or press a microscope slide, swab, or special tape against it.

Samples taken are then analyzed under a microscope to check for bacteria or yeast. Occasionally, the samples will be sent to an outside laboratory to figure out the bacteria type and what medicine is best suited to counteract it.

Testing for Parasites and Other Infections

If your veterinarian suspects mange, fleas, or ringworm (a fungal skin infections), your pet may be in store for a slightly more invasive testing method like fungal hair culture or skin scraping. Fungal hair culture involves plucking hairs from specific areas of skin lesions. Scraping refers to removing a small amount of the top layer of skins. While this sounds uncomfortable, most dogs do just fine with these methods – especially with lots of love and treats in store!

If these initial in-house tests are unable to provide answers, your veterinarian may recommend more advanced testing like blood testing to diagnose conditions. These tests are sent out to labs, and you’ll often get results in 1-2 weeks. Diet trials may also be recommended to see if allergies are the cause for your pet’s itchiness. Additionally, skin biopsies may be helpful to confirm the diagnosis of an allergy or infection, or even in uncovering less common skin diseases!

How does my veterinarian provide a treatment plan for itchiness in my dog?

After determining the underlying cause of your pet’s itchiness, your veterinarian will create a treatment plan catering to it. This can include solutions such as oral anti-itch medications, antibacterial and antifungal therapies, supplements, medicated shampoos, or even special diets! Pets may also benefit from injectable medication to counter itching in specific cases.

During June, THRIVE PLUS™  members receive 15% off ear cleaners and dermatological shampoos. If your pet is suffering from itchiness, now is the perfect time to visit your THRIVE veterinarian.

If your veterinarian can’t provide a finalized diagnostic result during your visit, they’ll still provide some form of treatment for itch relief and offer tips for your itchy pet. Treatments can help break the cycle and give relief to your pet while preparing for the next steps in diagnosis.

When do I need a veterinary dermatologist?

Advanced allergies, resistant infections, and otherwise complicated cases can be present that required specialized knowledge. Your veterinarian may recommend taking your dog to a veterinary dermatologist – a board-certified specialist in managing skin diseases and allergies. The dermatologist will examine your dog and provide an analysis when sharing their report. In many cases, your veterinarian can resume maintenance for treatment and relief for your dog.

How does my veterinarian provide relief for my itchy dog?

Sometimes, your dog’s causes of itchiness can be a chronic medical condition that requires lifelong management and monitoring. Thankfully, your local veterinary team is there to support you and your dog as you move through life. Your dog’s veterinarian, and veterinary nurses and technicians, can help determine the best ongoing schedule of medication, bathing, and diet, and provide advice and tips to make treatment easier for you and your dog. The entire veterinary team understands the stress and challenges that itchy skin can present to you and your pet – they’re here to help you maintain a consistent and effective treatment plan to keep your dog comfortable!


Do you have more questions about being a pet parent? Be sure to check out the THRIVE Guide for Pet Parents weekly to get the answers to your most popular questions. For specific questions and routine care, book an appointment at your local THRIVE. Our veterinarians are here to provide exceptional and essential care for your pet. Don’t wait – book a nose-to-tail pet exam today!