Other health problems

Why do Maltese Dogs Scratch Themselves?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. September 15, 2016
Why do Maltese Dogs Scratch Themselves?

Animal file: Maltese

The Maltese dog, sometimes mistakenly called "Bichon", is a very old breed. Its origin is not known for certain, but it might have been in the Sicilian city of Melita or the Méléda Island in the Adriatic Sea. These dogs were bred to hunt mice on ships and harbors of the Mediterranean. Nowadays they are appreciated as companion dogs, with a strong-willed and cheerful personality.

However, the Maltese dog has a quite delicate coat and they're often found scratching themselves, especially behind the ears. In this AnimalWised article we'll give you some tips to find out what is happening on your pet's coat and explain why do Maltese dogs scratch themselves so much.

You may also be interested in: My Dog Won't Stop Scratching Themselves
  1. What are the most common diseases in Maltese dogs?
  2. Why does my Maltese dog scratch itself so much?
  3. What other causes are there?
  4. What about parasites?
  5. What behavioral issues cause excessive scratching?

What are the most common diseases in Maltese dogs?

Maltese dogs are, of course, affected by the same common diseases as any other dog breed. Nonetheless, their long hair means that their skin tends to be the most affected organ.

If their long coat isn't cared for properly, it can bring many hair and skin problems. One of these common problems in Maltese dogs is hair tangles; while they sound harmless, they reduce the airing of the skin and the risk of catching diseases - like dermatitis or external parasites - becomes much bigger.

Other diseases like atopic dermatitis - which derives from allergies - have become more and more common recently in Maltese dogs and other breeds.

Why do Maltese Dogs Scratch Themselves? - What are the most common diseases in Maltese dogs?

Why does my Maltese dog scratch itself so much?

Scratching is a very typical behavior among dogs; we often see these animals, no matter their breed, scratching or licking certain parts of their bodies. Scratching is logically related to itching, but it can have other causes.

Scratching might be brought about by physical, skin-specific conditions or a general pathology, but it can also be caused by behavioral problems. Any strange sensation of the dog's skin - such as inflammation, a wound, a piece of clothing, a new collar - will be answered by scratching and licking.

A very common cause of itching and therefore of scratching and licking among Maltese dogs are allergies. These can be caused by a reaction to particular foods; they are called atopic dermatitis and manifest themselves in inflammation and generalized itching. There are also allergies by contact, in which the itching is localized on the skin area that has touched the offending material.

What other causes are there?

There are other reasons why your Maltese dog is scratching itself too much. There might be infectious dermatitis brought about by bacteria and fungi. Your dog might get infected due to a lack of skin airing (because of hair tangles, bad brushing or no brushing at all), contact with infected animals or due to wounds (like those caused by wheat ears or sprigs).

Why do Maltese Dogs Scratch Themselves? - What other causes are there?

What about parasites?

Parasites, such as fleas, can cause great itching in dogs. A dog with fleas will obviously spend long periods of time scratching itself. There are also parasitic diseases such as mange and massive tick infestations.

If you suspect your Maltese dog might have fleas, here is how to remove them.

What behavioral issues cause excessive scratching?

Excess licking and scratching of particular areas are usually caused by psychological problems in the dog, such as stereotypy - a repetitive movement or posture - or compulsive behaviors. The most common result is acral lick dermatitis or lick granuloma.

Lick granuloma is cause by constant licking a particular part of the body, usually a leg, to the point that a wound appears. It is common among dogs who spend too much time shut and alone at home and/or dogs who don't get enough physical activity.

Why do Maltese Dogs Scratch Themselves? - What behavioral issues cause excessive scratching?

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why do Maltese Dogs Scratch Themselves?, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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1 comment
Mary maryireland47@gmail.com
I was wondering if you could help me out. My Maltese dog is scratching a lot by her back end. Is there anything I could use to help her to stop scratching.
Amy McCready (AnimalWised editor)
Hi Mary, big apologies for the delayed response - this got lost!

You should check out this article here: https://www.animalwised.com/why-does-my-dog-drag-his-bum-on-the-ground-1454.html

If that doesn't help you out, please get back to us with more details!

Best of luck.
Amy McCready (AnimalWised editor)
Also, we do suggest that if this is still an issue to go to the vet ASAP.
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Why do Maltese Dogs Scratch Themselves?