Puppies tend to scratch more than adult dogs, especially around the neck and shoulders, just after you buy them a shiny new collar! However, if this behaviour becomes excessive and you notice your puppy scratches more than normal, it may be an indication that something is wrong, and you need to do something to break that itch cycle.

What are common causes of itching and scratching in puppies?

Some of the most common causes of excessive scratching include;


Fleas are extremely common in puppies and often overlooked, mostly because they are small and, if the infestation is mild enough, we don’t often see them. The most effective way of identifying fleas in a dog is by brushing their coat on top of a few sheets of paper towel, then gently wetting the paper towel with water. If a few red spots appear, you have the confirmation for the presence of flea dirt and, therefore, fleas. 

However, regardless of whether your dog has fleas or not, you should treat them regularly with an appropriate product; keep reading and we will go through the different options below. Learn more here: How do I know if my puppy has fleas?

Ear mites

If your puppy is scratching mostly their head and ears, the culprit could be ear mites. Infection by this parasite is often associated with severe itchiness and a brown and dry bilateral ear discharge. Some antiparasitic products cover against ear mites and can be useful in preventing infection. 


Mange is an infection by mites that can live in any part of the skin. Dogs with mange usually have some degree of hair loss, as well as mild to moderate itchiness. Learn more here: What is mange in dogs?

Contact dermatitis

Puppies’ skin can be sensitive to cleaning products and even to some topical treatments. If your puppy is itchy and you notice their skin is red in places that were in contact with artificial products, this could be a skin reaction (or contact dermatitis).


Skin allergies to dietary and environmental triggers such as pollens, grasses or dust mites are very common in dogs and tend to be diagnosed between 4 months and 3 years of age; however, they can develop at any age. This condition is called atopic dermatitis and is usually associated with redness and itchiness of the paws, ears, belly and/or inner thighs.

What should I do if my puppy is itchy?

Firstly, you should eliminate the chances of your puppy having the most common reason for itchiness: fleas! This is also the first question you will be asked if you take your puppy to the vets to figure out why they scratch so much.

There are numerous products available in the market, and some are more effective than others. 

You may have noticed that some older products may not work as well as they used to; this may happen because parasites evolve quickly and become resistant to the preventative products we use. This is also why your puppy may still be infested even if you have been religiously using your antiparasitic product of choice. 

When deciding on which product to use, first you should consider whether you want to use a prescription-only or over the counter medication. 

The main advantage of the prescription medication is it’s efficacy; products requiring a veterinary prescription are stronger and that is also why they need to be prescribed by a vet to the individual patient. These products are also usually more expensive. 

Over the counter antiparasitic drugs are cheaper and more convenient and may be an adequate option too. Examples include Bob Martin’s, most Frontline products, and supermarket own brands. With these products, be very careful that you follow the instructions precisely – many over the counter dog medications are lethally toxic to cats, and some dog and cat products are dangerous to rabbits.

In between those extremes are the “VPS” medicines, which can only be supplied by vets, pharmacists and SQPs. Products in this group include Advantage, Activyl, some other Bob Martin lines, and Seresto.

The next thing to consider is which format do you want your antiparasitic to be in. 

They come in all shapes and colours and you can choose between tablets, collars or spot-on treatments you apply on the back of your dog’s neck.

Finally, you want to choose which parasites you want your dog to be covered for.

This is because you will usually need a combination of products to cover for a larger range of parasites.

As a minimum, a dog living in the UK should be covered against fleas, roundworm, and tapeworm. You should also consider coverage against ticks, mites and lungworm, depending on your location and lifestyle.

If you are confident your puppy is protected against the most common parasites but they are still itchy, the next step would be to book an appointment with a local vet, where they will be able to advise you on the next steps towards investigation or treatment of your precious companion.

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