Like all dogs, it is normal for your German Shepherd to get itchy every now and then.
It’s when the itching becomes consistent, intense, or leads to signs of a more serious health issue that you as an owner might be concerned.
In the guide below, we discuss itching in deeper detail – in particular, what might cause it, and what might be done about a dog itching.
Let’s take a look!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
Why Is My German Shepherd So Itchy, & What To Do About It
We’ve divided the guide below into these parts:
– Regular itching vs problem itching
– Potential signs of problem itching (serious itching)
– Reasons why a GSD might itch (what might cause itching)
– What you might do if your dog is itching
Let’s go into more detail …
Regular Itching vs Problem Itching (Serious Itching)
Before you ask yourself why your German Shepherd is itching (potential causes), ask yourself how serious it might be.
As mentioned above, if your GSD is scratching infrequently (your dog itches and scratches every now and then, but it is only temporary), and there aren’t any signs of harm or health damage on their body from the itching, the itching issue might be non serious.
However, if the itching is consistent, intense, doesn’t go away, or leads to signs of a more serious health issue, then you as an owner might be concerned.
In the second scenario, you might have a serious itching issue on your hands.
What Are The Potential Signs Of A Serious Itching Problem?
Your dog is constantly scratching themselves in some way
If your dog is consistently doing the following to get some relief from their itching, the itching problem might be more serious:
– Licking themselves
– Scratching themselves with their paw nails
– Chewing at themselves
– Rubbing themselves against another surface
There are signs of damage or harm from your dog’s constant scratching
Are there signs of damage or harm to your dog in the area they are scratching as a result of their itching?
For example, in more extreme cases, bleeding, hair loss, inflammation and secondary skin infections can all be caused by dogs itching and scratching themselves.
If you notice any of these things, it might be a strong sign you need to get a vet to check out what might be causing the itching so it can be treated and managed.
6 Reasons Why Your German Shepherd Might Be Itchy
PetMD says there is 6 reasons why your German Shepherd may itch due to skin problems.
They are all related to some type of dermatitis.
These reasons are:
1) Environmental Dermatitis
This is caused by factors in your German Shepherds environment.
A common irritant in your GSD’s environment is lawn grass.
Other irritants can be plants like thistles, plastics and household chemicals like washing powder for example.
When moisture causes lesions on your German Shepherds skin, this is referred to as Moist Eczema or a ‘Hot Spot’.
Moist Eczema is caused by rain, pond or lake water, or really any water that stays on the skin surface long enough to allow bacteria to cause an infection.
Long haired German Shepherds are probably more susceptible to Hot Spots.
2) Nutritional Dermatitis
Common itchy skin irritations caused by diet involve inexpensive corn based diets and those low in animal origin tissues, that are high in grain based products.
3) Parasitic Dermatitis
We are talking about fleas, ticks and mites.
Fleas is a topic in itself, but generally, your German Shepherd will contract fleas from its environment or another animal.
The flea’s bite will cause itching, and for sensitive German Shepherds, the flea saliva will also cause itching.
Ticks generally might not cause much itching, but can leave ulcer like wounds.
Chiggers, deer flies and gnats and might not create many skin problems either, and can be treated with over the counter ointments.
Mites consist of Demodex (Mange) and Scabies.
4) Allergic Dermatitis
In short, it is very difficult to diagnose Allergic Dermatitis.
Food ingredients, synthetic and natural fibers, medications and pharmaceutical products, plant material, insect bites, dust and even bacteria all can trigger an Allergic Dermatitis.
Allergies depend on the biochemistry of your German Shepherd, and also the environment they live in.
5) Neurogenic Dermatitis
Caused by irregular and obsessive licking and chewing of the skin, to the point that a lick granuloma is formed.
6) Infectious Dermatitis
This is bacterial, fungal and yeast organisms/diseases that cause coat and skin problems.
A common fungal infection is ringworm, which causes hair loss, and can be treated by your vet.
Yeast diseases and infections stress the skin with the waste products of the yeast organisms, and this causes inflammation, itching and scratching.
Bacterial infections usually only occur when the skin has suffered from other problems such as environmental dermatitis caused by moisture, or other environmental factors
What To Do About Dog Itchiness – Potential Options
You should obviously get a vet’s opinion/professional advice:
– if the itching it consistent, or if you suspect the issue to be serious (a threat to your dog’s health)
– if you are planning on using any anti itch sprays, creams, shampoo, chews, or other products or methods to address your dog’s itching
But, some potential ways to address itching might be:
Address any of the causes of itching directly
From the 6 causes outlined above:
1. Environmental dermatitis
You can identify the environmental factor causing your dog to itch, and remove that environmental factor, or prevent your dog from coming into contact with it.
An obvious one is if it’s grass or lawn clippings that is causing your dog to itch.
You can prevent your dog from coming into contact with that lawn or grass that is irritating them by cleaning up lawn clippings, or keeping them away from the problem grass.
2. Nutritional dermatitis
In this instance, if it’s a dietary factor causing your dog’s skin problem with itchiness, you can consult a vet and ask them to formulate a dog food plan to identify the problem ingredients or foods.
Some sources for example say that high quality, meat-based food might cause less irritations for dogs in general.
Sometimes supplements such as Omega 3 Fatty Acids can also help.
3. Parasitic dermatitis
This obviously involves searching for fleas on your dog and speaking to a vet about the proper treatment to remove fleas and manage flea problems.
Topical flea treatments are common amongst many dog owners (in consultation with a vet)
There’s a range of flea products for dogs on the market though.
4. Allergic dermatitis
In the first instance, you might try to work out your German Shepherd’s allergy and prevent it in the future as there is no cure to an allergy apart from prevention.
Otherwise, your vet can diagnose and treat severe allergic dermatitis via skin and blood tests, and usually medical baths, ointments, sprays, oral antihistamines.
5. Neurogenic dermatitis
See your vet for diagnosis and treatment, although it’s suspected to be caused by boredom, separation anxiety, frustration, confinement or even tiny scratches.
6. Infections dermatitis
The best treatment for infectious dermatitis is clipping the hair to allow air on the skin to dry it, application of topical medication and oral antibiotics to fight the infection.
See your vet for the best treatment for your German Shepherd’s situation.
Commercial dog anti itch products
There are currently commercial dog anti itch products available.
Take a look at this guide which outlines what some of the more popular creams, sprays and shampoos are on the market right now.
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