Things have been strange around your house lately. One windy autumn night, you hear a menacing slurp, slurp, slurp coming from the dark corner of your room. Your investigation leads to a foul odour. With horror, you realize that the victim is your own furry family member, tormented by red, itchy skin.

It’s time to bring them in for questioning. Since licking the paws and face can also be a symptom of pain or illness, the first order of business is a full cross-examination with a veterinarian. Once the most dangerous ailments have been ruled out, your veterinarian will start eliminating other suspects: allergies.

Food allergies are often wrongly accused, but really, itchy skin can have many causes. While some breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, French Poodles, West Highland White Terriers, and Retrievers have family histories of skin disorders, the most common reason for dogs with itchy skin is an allergic reaction to flea saliva.

Even one bite from these blood-thirsty villains can cause severe local itching and can lead to a secondary infection. A dog with flea allergy dermatitis will bite and scratch relentlessly. Fortunately, parasite prevention is available to control these and other creepy crawlies, including mites, which can also terrorize the skin.

Other perpetrators are hiding in the air our pets breathe. While reactions to pollen and mold are worse in the summer to late fall, once we turn our furnaces on in the winter, dust is stirred up which can trigger itchy skin for the remainder of the year, too.

When all clues point to a food allergy, your veterinarian will likely set up an elaborate plan to catch allergens in the act. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are very rarely allergic to grains. The most common food allergens are usually proteins – especially chicken! Your veterinarian will likely make a recommendation for a specially manufactured food that does not contain any trace of the suspected allergen(s), which must be fed exclusively to see how the dog responds.

Skin issues can be a tough case to solve. With a long suspect list of blood suckers, invisible villains, insidious ingredients, and more, your veterinarian can help lead your investigation. Remember, like a good murder-mystery, the answer may hide in the last place you look!

Dr. I. Wonder is here to answer your questions regarding your furry family members. If you have a question, email it to us at Our team at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic will tap into their collective experience to answer your various questions.