I’ve had my beautiful Staffordshire Bull Terrier Ruby for over 10 years now. I have raised her from a 9 week old puppy. From the moment I brought her home I noticed how much she was scratching. As a new dog owner I thought this was normal, but soon found out it wasn’t. Ruby had skin problems. This put me on a journey of several years to answer the question, why is my Staffy always scratching?
The most common causes for why your Staffy is always scratching are:
- Food allergies
- Environmental allergies/Atopy
- Contact allergies
- Dry Skin
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Skin infections
- Stress and/or anxiety
All of these conditions can be diagnosed and treated in a variety of ways.
Believe me when I say I know how frustrating it can be to have an itchy Staffy. When you don’t know exactly what is causing the underlying problem, or how to treat it, you can feel helpless. Worse is how uncomfortable and often times miserable your Staffy can be when dealing with excessive scratching and itching.
Hopefully through my experience I can save you the many months and years that Ruby and I suffered trying to find the cause, and the solutions.
Why Is My Staffy Always Scratching?
When I first brought my Staffordshire Bull Terrier home I noticed she scratched more than I thought dogs should scratch. Ruby was my first dog that was MY dog. A lot of this was very new to me, despite growing up with a family dog. I also noticed a small bald spot on top of her head that wasn’t growing in. I decided to head to the vet to investigate why my Staffy was always scratching, and had bald spots.
Turns out she had one the more common causes of excessive scratching, especially in puppies, which is demodex mange. Demodex mange is caused by a tiny microscope parasitic mite that lives in hair follicles of dogs. It is actually quite normal.
Where it becomes a problem is when there are too many multiplying because of a weak or immature immune system. This happens with puppies under 12 months old fairly regularly. Ruby was treated by the vet right away and it cleared up in a matter of a few weeks.
There are other types of parasites that can also cause a great deal of excessive itchiness leading to your Staffy always scratching. Another form of mite is called the Sarcoptic mite. This pesky mite burrows into the skin of the dog and causes what is known as Sarcoptic mange.
Sarcoptic mange is much different from demodex mange, and is highly contagious from dog to dog. These mites are a bit more serious and can cause hair loss as well as thickening and darkening of the affected area. Your vet can diagnose and treat these parasites easily. But be sure to keep your dog away from other dogs until they are clear of this nasty little mite.
We have all heard of fleas. These irritating parasites can cause a really itchy issue for your Staffy and cause what’s called Flea allergy dermatitis. Which is an allergic reaction to fleabites. Some dogs are allergic to the saliva of fleas, and these bites can cause their skin to become red, inflammable and extremely itchy. Regular treatments of flea medications can help ward off these nasty buggers.
Food Allergies & Nutritional Deficiencies
If your dog has been cleared of all and any parasites the next place to look is the food they are eating. Many dogs are prone to food allergies, typically from the protein sources in those foods.
I found this out with Ruby when I transitioned her off her puppy food to a very high quality adult dog food with a chicken protein. She broke out into hives all across her belly, had swollen ears, and chewed her feet bloody within a couple days, and before I knew what was happening.
Some of the more common food allergens that may be why your Staffy is scratching are:
- Dairy products
- Chicken eggs
- Gluten (from wheat)
After figuring out that Ruby was for sure allergic to chicken, we began a long and tedious elimination diet process. This diet helped to determine what protein she could eat, and rule out any other possible causes, like grains.
Transitioning your dog to a different premium quality dog food can be a little painstaking and expensive. In the end we did finally find the perfect food. A single protein, limited ingredient, Acana Lamb & Apple was the solution.
Supplements Can Help Your Staffy That Is Always Scratching
Nutritional Deficiencies, such as a lack of Omega 3 fatty acids in your dog’s diet, can cause dry skin which leads to red itchy sores, and potentially infections.
Supplementing your dog’s food with a good Omega 3 fish oil is a great preventative measure to take to ensure they are getting the proper skin care nutrition. I give Ruby a pump of Pure Wild Alaskan Salmon oil in her breakfast every morning.
Probiotics can also be a good overall supplement to give your Staffy. These help improve the GI tract as well as maintain a healthy gut and immune system. This may aid in preventing allergy symptoms caused by foods. Always consult with your vet if your dog is having a severe allergic reaction though.
Environmental Allergies and Atopy
One of the toughest allergies to combat, and diagnose are the environmental allergies and atopy. Things like pollen, dust mites, weeds, trees, flowers, mold, and sometimes grass, can all lead to why your Staffy is always scratching.
After I had treated Ruby’s demodex, and had painstakingly found her the perfect foods and supplements, I noticed that every Spring in the early months as the snow was melting that she was getting really itchy again. This time it was really affecting her eyes and feet. Turns out my little Staffy has Atopy and is allergic to something called Winter mold, and early spring pollens.
She was constantly rubbing her eyes, much like humans do that have seasonal allergies, and this time no changes in diet were going to fix things. We had a visit with our vet and we tried several medications to keep her from itching for several months of the year.
Our vet began a treatment of a drug called Atopica, and we used that for several years, and it was the first time in Ruby’s life that she could enjoy the spring and summers totally allergy free.
It was a fairly pricey medication, but well worth her well being. Since Ruby is becoming a bit older now, our vet suggested a switch over to a Cytopoint inject every 8 weeks instead, and it has also worked fantastic.
These are the allergies that can cause skin irritation in your Staffy when they come into contact with them. Because Staffies have such short coats, things like laundry detergents, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, and other household chemicals and detergents can really irritate their skin.
If your Staffy has recently started scratching and there hasn’t been any changes to diet, or indications of parasites, it could be that new laundry detergent you used on their blanket.
Take a look at any changes you may have made in your dog’s environment if they suddenly have irritable, itchy skin. Even in the yard, things like lawn care products, and fertilizers can cause some dogs to have allergic reactions or irritations.
Sometimes your Staffy is always scratching because they have really dry skin. This can be especially the case in colder, dryer climates where just like us humans, our skin can get really dry and irritated.
There are topical treatments you can use like coconut oils and hydrating shampoos, and as mentioned above, and things like adding some Omega 3 to their diet can really help.
Excessive bathing or certain oil stripping shampoos can also be the culprit for your Staffy’s itchy skin. I have a few recommendations and tips below on different shampoos and topical remedies you can use to treat and prevent dry skin.
Skin Infections and Hot Spots
When your Staffy’s skin becomes irritated from always scratching due to one or several of the above mentioned causes, this can lead to cuts and open wounds causing infractions and hot spots. These can be very sore, red, and incredibly itchy.
It’s important to treat any small cuts and sores with an antibacterial soap or spray to ensure they don’t lead to bigger infections and hot spots in your dog’s skin.
Stress and Anxiety
Your Staffy could be reacting to a high level of stress or anxiety causing them to always be scratching. This is like an obsessive compulsive disorder similar to how humans can bite their nails, or pick at their own skin when nervous.
Dogs can do this too when feeling uncertain. Chewing of the paws and scratching can be a sign of a nervous, anxious or high stressed dog.
Proper levels of exercise can be a solution, but consulting a vet or dog behavioral specialist might be a good option if things persist and your dog continues to always scratch and potential cause infections to themselves from this behavior.
Are Staffies Prone To Skin Conditions?
Unfortunately Staffies are prone to skin conditions, along with many other Pit Bull type dogs and Bully breeds. The short coat of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier can expose them to many more allergens in the environment, whether that is pollen or a contact allergy from detergents.
Staffy skin conditions can also come as a result of just generally dry skin, or even sun exposure, especially in white or light colored Staffies with less protection from the sun. It is important to keep this in mind when you have your Staffy outdoors on bright sunny days. They can get sunburns just like humans.
Blue Staffies are especially prone to skin conditions, and any blue colored dog in general. There is a condition that these Blue Staffies may have called color dilution alopecia or CDA that comes from a recessive gene that gives them that rare bluish color.
“Color dilution alopecia (CDA) is a genetic recessive inherited condition that causes patches of hair thinning or loss, and may also include flaky and/or itchy skin. The condition is associated with individuals who have what is called “dilute” color, and is most commonly seen in dogs with a blue or fawn coat.”VCA HOSPITALS
Though some, and not all Staffies are prone to skin conditions, it is still important to keep their coats and skin in top condition for their own health and appearance. Preventative measures to ensure a happy and not itchy Staffy should be a priority for you as the owner.
How Do I Stop My Staffy From Scratching?
Depending on what your Staffy is suffering from there are a variety of treatment options available to stop them from scratching. It is important to identify what is the root cause of the itch first, and consulting with your vet is always a good idea.
It is always best to avoid allergens when possible, but that is easier said than done, and in some cases when it comes to environmental allergies and atopy, it can be impossible. Other causes of itchy skin can be treated and prevented in most causes though.
Parasites such as fleas and mites can be easily treated by simply killing the fleas and mites. Routine flea medications can be administered by you or your vet, and mites can be eliminated with a prescription treatment from your vet.
It’s important to remember to wash all the different blankets, beds, sheets, pillows and clothing that your dog may have come into contact with as well, to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again right away.
Food Allergies & Nutritional Deficiencies
Food allergies can be addressed through elimination diets down to single sources of protein and carbs to slowly try and detect what it is your dog is allergic to.
It is important to remember to feed your Staffy a premium quality dog food regardless, and when transitioning foods, do so gradually. Shifting your dog to a different food can often upset their stomachs and cause GI problems like gas, diarrhea, and potentially vomiting.
Once you have found out what your dog is allergic to in their food, ensuring they have the best nutritional benefits is important in preventing general dry itchy skin in your Staffy.
Feeding them a diet that is high in Omega 3 for example can help keep their skin healthy, and coats shining. Many of the premium quality dog foods I recommend are high in these Omegas, for this exact reason.
Though the food they are eating does have good Omega fatty acids, it’s not a bad idea to supplement with Wild Alaskan salmon oil as well. Assuming that is not the cause of their allergy of course.
The way most dry dog food is processed can reduce the potency of even the best dog foods, so a little supplementation can be a good call to ensure they are getting those fatty acids.
Probiotics are also a great way to keep your dog’s gut healthy, and ensure a strong immune system to battle off any potential allergens or ailments that come their way. A simple probiotics supplement is easy to add to their food, and can make a big difference.
Atopy, Environmental, and Contact Allergies
These allergies can be the trickiest once to prevent because you can’t isolate your dog from the world, but these can be managed, treated, and there are ways to proactively reduce them.
Ruby as I mentioned has been on treatments of the drug Atopica and later in life Cytopoint for her Atopy. Her allergies to winter mold, grass pollen, and generally spring/summer pollen in general is hard to avoid, and these treatments have made a world of difference.
To be proactive about her allergies however and not just rely on medications I keep a box of wipes in my car for outings, and at the front door of my home. Every time we come in from our adventures I make sure to give her face, coat, and feet a good wipe down to remove any excess pollen, mold, or other allergens.
I typically use wipes specifically for dogs that are unscented and hypoallergenic to ensure I am not irritating her skin with anything I shouldn’t be.
The Biga brand aloe vera wipes are fantastic and I use them on Ruby all the time. I have used the Earth rated and Pogis as well, and they are terrific options. Affordable pricing and available on Amazon.
Generally dry skin can make your Staffy very uncomfortable.If they scratch enough can lead to cut, wounds, and hot spots. There are some great options to both treat and prevent this dry skin, even in the cold and dry climates you might live.
Aside from a premium dog food diet, with some Omega supplementation, there are topical options as well to give your dog the nice moisturized skin they need. These are just a few examples of things around the house and grocery store that you can use to moisturize your dog’s dry itchy skin.
Topical Treatments For A Staffy That Is Always Scratching
Coconut oil – just rub a little coconut oil onto the affected spots on your dog. This is my go to for Ruby.
Vitamin E capsules – you can open a vitamin E capsule and directly apply the liquid gel to your dogs dry skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar – A 50/50 mixture of water and apple cider vinegar is a great anti-bacterial and anti-fungal solution you can use to treat your dog’s dry skin. Just BE SURE to not apply to any open sores or extremely raw skin areas, this can cause severe irradiation to your dog.
Colloidal Oatmeal Baths – these oatmeal baths can really soothe and reduce inflammation in your dog’s skin, while also washing away any allergens that may have accumulated in their coat or skin.
Aloe Vera – the age old sunburn cure works wonders on dogs as well for any dry or itchy spots. Concentrated versions at the store, or direct from the plant can work wonders.
Chamomile or Green Tea Baths – adding a few chamomile or green tea bags to your dog’s bath and letting them steep as your dog soaks can be a great way to relieve inflamed and irritated dry skin. You can also directly apply a cooled off tea bag to affected spots.
Baking Soda – Making a baking soda paste by mixing equal parts water and baking soda and applying it to your dogs dry, rashy, itchy skin is an easy home remedy. Simply mix up the paste, apply it to the affected areas, let it sit for 15-20 minutes and give it a rinse. This can alleviate soreness, inflammation, and red irritated spots on your Staffy’s skin.
Can CBD Oil Help Dog With Skin Allergies?
One great option that is worth exploring is CBD oil for your Staffy. There have been many claims, and some scientific research conducted on the effectiveness or easing pain and reducing inflammation through CBD oil use.
There are some great CBD oils for dogs on the market now that can help with your dogs allergies, or anxiety induced scratching.
I have highlighted some of my top choices for quality, third party testing, lab result transparency, and overall price on my CBD Oil for Dogs page. I have personally used CBD for Ruby’s skin as well as joint health now that she is a bit older, and so far it has been great.
CBD for your Staffy can potentially benefit their general well being when it comes to their allergies. It is a safe and affordable alternative to stronger medications, but as always you should consult with your vet on what the best form of treat for your dog could be.