There are many reasons why a dog will get itchy skin but the most common is due to skin allergies, which can also be defined as atopic dermatitis. Treatment of a dog with a skin allergy should be carried out as early after diagnosis as possible. But it is also important to determine the cause of the allergic reaction in case it is possible to remove the allergens from the immediate environment.
Atopic dermatitis is a genetic disease which means the dog may be predisposed to skin allergies. If a dog has atopic dermatitis it should not be used to breed.
Dogs that have a genetic disposition to atopic dermatitis may not necessarily be affected by allergies if they live in an environment where there are few environmental allergens. However, it usually takes anywhere between 1 to 3 years of continued antigen exposure before allergic behavior begins to develop. The age of the dog is not a strict guide to when they might start exhibiting allergic reactions with some dogs affected as puppies while others not showing signs until midlife or beyond.
A dog's allergic reaction may be a seasonal occurrence with itching only taking place during the season when the specific allergens to which the dog is allergic become more prominent. As an example, dogs that are allergic to certain types of grass may be perfectly comfortable during the winter months and then suddenly begin itching in spring when the grass becomes more active in its growing cycle.
It may sometimes be difficult to pinpoint that the problems that your dog may be suffering is due to an allergy because sometimes the signs are atypical of what you would expect to see. These signs may include runny nose, runny eyes, asthma, diarrhea and vomiting.
Most allergic dogs do not start off with severe itching as the first signs of irritation. Atopic dermatitis can be suspected even if the dog itches but the skin appears normal. The itchiness can be mild, moderate or severe with the early stages merely consisting of mild discomfort.
The chronic scratching that can ensue can result in skin lesions and secondary infections. The skin can become pink or red or there can be bronzing or darkening in the end. The pink or red color is from the chronic inflammation while the bronze effect is from pigment in the dog's saliva that discolors the skin and hair.
It may be a difficult task to determine exactly what it is that has started the allergic reaction in your dog. The best idea is to consult with your dog's vet and have your dog screened for atrophic dermatitis. Removing certain items from your dog's immediate vicinity over a period of time may also be a fruitful way of working out the exact cause of his discomfort.