Are some dog breeds really itchier than others?

Photo by Leslie Robbins

Some breeds have a reputation for being itchy. These include West Highland White Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds.

There are plenty of old wives’ tales relating to the care of our dogs. Is this just another one, or are some breeds really more itchy than others?

Breed Specific Skin Problems

There are definitely skin problems that occur in one breed much more than others. In many cases, there is a genetic component to these problems which explains why they’re more common in that particular breed, and not others.

One example is Epidermal Dysplasia in West Highland White Terriers. The term "dysplasia" means abnormal growth. This condition is caused by abnormal development of skin cells, which leads to inflammation and secondary infection with Malassezia yeast. The result is hair loss, and constant itching and scratching, which first appears at 12-18 months of age. This is a frustrating condition – treating the infection often resolves the itching but because of the underlying problem with the skin cells, it recurs as soon as medication is stopped. There are other specific skin diseases that occur in other breeds, and many of them are also suspected to be hereditary.

Are Allergies Hereditary?

Given that the majority of severe itching problems are caused by allergic reactions, it makes sense to look at whether or not some breeds are more allergic than others.

The most common allergy in dogs is flea bite allergy. Dogs with this problem can itch for several weeks if they’re bitten by just one flea, and they can bite and scratch themselves raw. As far as scientists can ascertain, there is no breed predilection for flea allergy.

The situation is similar to food allergy – there are no breeds that are particularly likely to develop this condition.

However, there is lots of evidence that atopy (or allergy to dusts and pollens) is more common in some breeds than others, and this does suggest that it may be hereditary. In fact, atopy occurs more frequently in some lines within those breeds.

Just to complicate things, some studies have suggested that atopic dogs are more likely to develop flea bite allergy. So, if that’s the case, can we then suggest there may in fact be a hereditary component to flea allergy dermatitis? Veterinarians aren’t sure about that one yet.

Managing Your Itchy Breed

Depending on the breed of dog you own, and the potentially hereditary skin condition you’re dealing with, your veterinarian may prescribe specific medication to alleviate his itch.

In the meantime, there are steps you can take to manage his condition.

1. Wash him in Comfy Dog Shampoo . It contains colloidal oatmeal which is well known for relieving itchy skin. It also contains herbal extracts to reduce inflammation and soothe red irritated skin. If you can follow up the shampoo with Fur Butter , your dog will have relief for longer.

2. Make sure he is never bitten by a flea. If he has an underlying atopy, he’s likely to also be more sensitive to fleas. This makes it even more important that you keep those little critters away. If you regularly apply Flea The Scene, he’ll not be bothered by fleas any more.

3. If he has a specific itchy spot, Itchin’ For Relief can help. It’s all natural ingredients relieve the itch, and its convenient nozzle makes sure you get the spray exactly where it’s needed.

4. If your dog has a skin problem that’s possibly hereditary, don’t breed from it. That’s easy to do with conditions that show up early in life. However, with skin allergies, they may not raise their ugly head until your dog is 2 or 3 years old. By this time, many purebred dogs have already had litters.

5. Make sure your dog is eating a no grain diet. Sometimes dogs are allergic to their food. Check out

If you take the time to correctly manage your dog with a hereditary skin disease, not only will he be more comfortable but you can reduce the incidence of that disease in the breed. That’s a win-win situation.

To get more tips on how you can stop your dog’s constant scratching, click below to get our free ebook. Written by vets and holistic pet practitioners, it’s jam packed with ideas and solutions to make your dog’s life more comfortable.

itchy skin ebook lar2

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