Feeding the Itchy Dog | Companion Animal Veterinary Hospital
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Feeding the Itchy Dog

Matt Young's picture
dog chewing on a really big bone

Scratching is an obvious indication that your dog is itchy but not all dogs with skin problems scratch. Here are some other things you may notice that also indicate your dog is itchy:

  • Rubbing their face on the ground
  • Shaking their head (itchy ears)
  • Licking at their feet

Imagine that you were itchy all the time. You wouldn't sleep well, and that would make you tired and irritable. You would annoy the people around you with your constant scratching. Now imagine that someone puts bandages over your nails or yells at you to stop scratching. You would probably feel depressed and frustrated. The same things happen with dogs. If your dog is itchy you need to help them out by doing something about stopping the itch.

Finding the underlying cause of the itching is important as it allows us to work out a management plan to minimise the amount of flareups and discomfort that your dog is in. I can't go into all the causes now as there is so many I would probably have to keep typing all night. There are however a couple of types of skin problems that are quite common that can sometimes be controlled using special diets. These are the ones i want to discuss here now.

Types of Allergies

Allergies are the most common cause of itchiness and the most common underlying cause of ear and skin infections in dogs. There are broadly three types of allergies we see in dogs. Some dogs have a combination of these allergies.

Flea Allergy

The first is flea allergy dermatitis, this is really common and even if flea allergy is not the cause of your dog's allergies are not fleas, having a few fleas can tip them over the itchiness threshold. So regardless of the type of allergy your dog has flea control is always important. 

Food Allergy

Food allergy is probably the least frequent of these allergies but if it is present, even as just part of the allergy it is easy to control. Food allergy can occur due to any protein in the food. The most common allergies are to egg, beef and wheat but these are also the most common proteins fed to dogs. It can be any component of the diet and most commerical dog foods (but not the royal canin foods that we sell) contain a number of protein sources which vary from batch to batch. Unfortunately there is no quick and easy way to find out if your dog has a food allergy. The way that we have to test is through doing a food allergy trial. 

Novel Protein Diet

The first way to do this is to use a protein source that your dog never would have had in any commercial food, homemade diet, or in any scraps. This can often be difficult to find but the easiest ones to get if allpicable are kangaroo and sweet potato. This is not a balanced diet so if you are feeding this diet long term you need to discuss with us, so we can balance the diet for you. 

hypoallergeinc diet in a bagRoyal Canin Hypoallergenic Diethyydrolysed protein, skin barrier, spa, eha, digestive security

This is my preferred way of doing it- it's easy and it works! Hypoallergic Diet is dry food produced using a process called hydrolysis which beaks down the proteins so they are too small for the immune system to recognise them. This is a complete and balanced diet that is safe for longterm feeding. 

Conducting the food allergy trial

The selected diet is feed as a sole source of nutrition for a minimum of 6 weeks and up to 12 weeks. It can take up to 12 weeks to get a response. During this time there can be no treats, only the selected food and water can pass through their lips. If after 12 weeks there is no response then food allergy has been ruled out.


Atopy is the most common type of allergy. I like to think of it as the animal reacting abnormally to something in the environment that is there normally. Most of the time it is a number of allergans that are involved, not just one. There are a number of treatments available now which aim to improve the skin barrier function. The skin barrier blocks allergans from getting across the skin surface to cause the allergic reaction in normal animals. In atopic dogs the skin barrier is dysfunctional. 

Skin support diet in bagOne of the ways that the skin barrier can be improved is through feeding a special diet called Royal Canin Skin Support. Skin Support diet works by:

  • Skin Barrier, epa/dha, skin support, antioxidant complexcontaining a skin barrier complex which improves skin barrier function
  • containing a skin support complex which promotes healing of damaged skin
  • Contains essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which can aid in reducing skin inflammation
  • Contains antioxidants which reduce oxidative stress and clean up free radicals which can cause inflammation.


I have had some fantastic results in some dogs with these foods and with some dogs this is all that they have needed to control their skin problems ongoing. 

Which food should I use?

Obviously we will help you to make the choice but generally it is best to do a food allergy trial first and then if there is no response your dog is atopic so switch to Skin Support Diet. 

Below I have attached 2 flyers that have more information about the diets for you.

Special Offer

We currently have a special while stocks last on Royal Canin Dog Hypoallergic. If you buy 1 bag of 2kg or 7kg you can get a second bag of the same size for half price. We only have a limited number of bags available and the 2kg bags have almost run out so take advantage of this offer by calling in to see us ASAP.


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