Itchy skin in dogs

Photo: NatchaS/

 Itchy skin in dogs explained by Vet Tina Levy

Dry skin in Winter is just one of the several causes of itchy skin in dogs according to veterinarian Tina Levy from Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital in Sydney.  Tina shares her expert knowledge and her top tips to help prevent and treat your dog for itchy skin.

You’ve probably heard of the wonderful TV show ‘Bondi Vet‘.  The Bondi Vet came to be filmed at the Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital after Chris Brown had worked there for more than a year as a full-time vet.  The show has become a  phenomenal success and Dr Chris Brown and Bondi Vet are now household names in Australia.

Tina Levy simply explains itchy skin in dogs

Pets4Life: So, what are the causes of itchy skin in dogs?

Tina: The causes for itchy skin are thought of simply as:

a) Allergies from fleas, airborne allergies, food allergy and contact allergy are the major causes.

b) Infections, which can be bacterial, parasitic, fungal or inflammatory.

c) Dry skin in winter is often a cause.

d) Medical/systemic caused by hormonal imbalances and liver disease may cause itchy skin.

Pets4Life: What are the signs of itchy skin in dogs?

Tina: Some of the signs of itchy skin on different parts of your dog may include:

a) Face, muzzle and eyes– the dogs may rub these along objects or rub with their paws. The skin may be red, inflamed and infected.

b) Ears– these are just a further extension of the skin tissue and can have discharge that is smelly and moist. The ears may be hot and painful to touch.

c) Feet– some dog chew at their feet and the skin between the pads become infected, swollen and painful to walk on.

d) Coat- some areas may be bald. This may be because of scratching or chewing. The fur may be wet or clumping. It can be stained from the saliva when chewing at it. The tail base if often bald in cases of flea allergy.  In dry coats, you notice a ‘dandruff’ like build up.

e) Skin– the exposed skin tends to be red, may have lesions with crusting and discharge. In contact allergy, it is the areas with most exposure to the allergen that is affected. The belly, muzzle and interdigital skin are most commonly affected.

Pets4Life: Do our dogs suffer more in Winter?

Tina: In both Summer and Winter we have dogs presenting with itchy skin. The primary causes do vary. In Winter dogs suffer from more ‘dry’ skin causing itching. Fleas are still present in winter months. Food allergy is often evident all year round too.

Pets4Life: Staffies are known to get itchy skin, is that right? Do different dog breeds get itchy skin more than other breeds?

Tina: Yes, some breeds are more inclined to present with itchy skin. Staffies are one of them. This is due to their genetics. Cross breeding is a positive way to minimise this.

Pets4life: What are your top tips for pet parents of dogs with itchy skin?

Tina: Here are my top tips to help prevent and treat your dog’s itchy skin.

  1. Ensure you have up to date flea control.
  2. Use low allergen shampoo. Do not over wash dogs. Regularly groom and brush coat.
  3. In winter if the coat is dry add omega 3 fatty acids to the diet.
  4. If contact allergy is suspected then wash the dog with water when returning from contacting allergens such as the grass at the park.
  5. Treat the itch early! The scratch-itch cycle can very rapidly cause a nasty infection. See your local vet for appropriate treatment of your pet’s skin condition.
  6. Be referred to a dermatologist if itching persists for further testing to identify the allergen.

About Tina Levy 

Tina has a long history with the Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital. Since graduating with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) from the University of Sydney, Tina worked at a number of veterinary clinics before rejoining the Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital over 15 years ago.

Itchy skin in pets explained by Vet Tina Levy

Tina Levy at Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital

Tina first came to the Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital as a child with her family pets. As soon as she was old enough she offered up her time doing work experience feeding all the animals. Obviously making a great impression she was offered work as a kennel hand looking after all the animals in boarding and hospital.

By this time she had taken a great interest in animals and decided to enrol at Sydney University to study Veterinary Science. When she wasn’t studying she spent her weekends and holidays working as a vet nurse and receptionist.

Tina was offered a job as a Veterinarian and has been with Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital ever since.

She is now working as a locum while juggling three young children and Henry, a six-year-old Labrador who is much loved by all the family.  Tina says, ‘Henry keeps us fit walking and he’s the best dog to have around children. He doesn’t even wake up when they are crawling and climbing all over him!’