Dogs itch for many different reasons, and sometimes, for no reason, and it’s not uncommon for the scratching to seem worse at night, when the house is quiet. Every dog’s gotta scratch some time, and that’s completely normal. But when a dog is incessantly licking, scratching, biting and chewing to the point of wounding herself, then scratching becomes a symptom of an underlying pathology.
The medical term for scratching related to excessive itching is pruritus. This is the second most common reason people take their dogs to the vet (gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea top the list). The causes of pruritus can be quite complex, but there are two main reasons why dogs itch. The first has to do with the condition of the skin itself: Is it infected? Is it too oily? Is it too dry? Of these three, dry skin is a frequent occurrence. The second major cause of pruritus is allergies.
When your beagle’s skin is dry, it flakes and itches. He is not a happy camper. He scratches and bites to ease the irritation, but when one itch stops, another one starts. Luckily for him, you can often ease his dry skin with simple remedies.
Start with grooming. A stiff brush loosens flaky skin and shedding hair in his short, dense coat. Brushing distributes natural skin oils and encourages healthy skin circulation. A good brushing also removes pollen, dust or other irritants that contribute to skin problems.
Take your beagle to a professional groomer. Watch her techniques, and ask about proper grooming tools for his coat. Also ask about moisturizing dog shampoos, but remember that an indoor beagle does not need frequent bathing. Bathing him too often removes natural skin oils and dries the skin.
Feed the Skin
Beagles thrive on most dry foods, but these foods are low in moisture and in fats essential to healthy skin and coat. He could be mildly dehydrated, another cause of dry skin, so keep fresh water beside his kibble dish.
A dash of olive oil on his food two or three times a week is a good source of nutritional fat. Canola and other vegetable oils are also good for his skin and coat. Your vet might recommend fish oil capsules or other essential fatty acid supplements.
Soothe the Skin
Indoor air, especially in winter, is dry. It dries out skin, yours and your beagle’s, and it contributes to flaky skin and other irritations. Add moisture with indoor doggy fountains, and change the water often. This encourages your pup to drink and adds humidity to the dry air. A humidifier in the sleeping area provides much-needed moisture for dry skin and room comfort.
Dry air can irritate airways and lungs, so an added benefit is that the humidifier might help you and your dog breathe better.
On the dog bed, change out flannel or fleece that irritate his skin for smooth cotton covers, or cover the existing dog bed with a sheet or an old cotton tablecloth. His dry skin is irritated by prickly fibers and soothed by smooth fabrics. Additionally, the cotton bed cover can be easily washed to remove dog dander and hair.
Take your dog for a vet check. Your beagle might have a mild skin infection that would respond quickly to a short course of antibiotics. Your vet might suspect that a hormone imbalance such as hypothyroidism is causing dry skin and other problems. This condition is treated with an thyroid medication given twice daily. Allergies are another cause of dry skin. If your vet knows that your beagle is allergic, she might recommend over-the-counter antihistamines for seasonal relief. Fortunately for your beagle, you can soon make dandruff flakes and dry skin problems disappear.