How to Solve Your Dog's Skin and Scratching Problemsfrom wikiHow -
Fido just can't seem to stop scratching behind his ears and nipping at that itch on his legs. While hearing the "cheecheechee" of Fido's scratching might be quite annoying for his owner, there's no doubt having itchy skin is even more troublesome for poor little Fido. All it takes is a series of steps to cure Fido of his woes. Here is how to solve your dog's skin and scratching problems.
- Make sure that "Fido" and your home are completely free of fleas. Many dogs and cats are extremely allergic to flea bites, and will lose hair, as well as scratch and chew at their skin all day.
- Remove your dog from all foods that contain food coloring, which can contribute to allergic reactions. Read the back of any products you buy for your dog's consumption and check for any food dyes. That includes treats as well their main meals. Avoid junk food snacks. It is OK to treat your dog to the occasional steak snack, salmon or cheese; sometimes even pistachios. Dogs may have allergic reactions to ANY protein commonly found in foods (lamb, beef, chicken, wheat, corn, soy, fish, milk...) and may need to be on a diet FREE of that specific allergen.
- Speak to your veterinarian about giving your dog a steroid injection (this has NO benefit over oral steroids, and is more likely to cause side effects). Using oral cortisone sparingly with oral antihistamines gives you more control and the dog less side effects. Removing your dog from foods with food coloring may not completely relieve the problem. Sometimes itching can be caused by a reaction to something specific the animal has eaten. Or the problem could be a seasonal allergy. Your vet may recommend a treatment that includes a cortisone shot (see comments above) followed up with doggie antihistamines.
- Follow what is called an "allergy hypo-sensitization injections." Have your dog tested for what it might be allergic to. The allergens can be determined either by doing skin patch-testing (more accurate, but harder), or by drawing blood and sending the sample to a lab, similar to what a person goes through when they are having allergic reactions. A series of shots are prescribed that need to be administered to the animal once every three days, starting with low doses and moving to higher doses. At the end of the treatment you are required to continue the treatment ad infinitum, but only every 10 days and at a full dose.
- For the best results, keep your dog on food that has no food coloring, supplement his meals with omega-3 fatty acids and specific vitamins and minerals that are intended for dogs with skin conditions and continue with the allergy injection regimen.
- There is a new prescription product called Atopica® (oral cyclosporin) which can help those poor dogs that would have to rely too much on steroids.
- Make sure that your dog is not suffering from mange. Along with itching, mange often produces fur loss. A veterinarian can diagnose mange by doing a skin scraping.
- Have conversations with other dog owners that share similar problems. You may find an alternate treatment that has worked for their dog.
- Keep an open mind and listen to the advice of your veterinarian.
- Switch to laundry detergent free of dyes and perfumes (ie- Purex Free & Clear). Your dog's reaction might be to the chemicals in regular detergeants used to wash the bedsheets or sofa covers. If you can't find a free & clear formula, look in the section for baby laundry detergeant.
- Benadryl (or generic diphenhydramine hydrochloride) is safe to give to dogs at a 1 milligram to 1 lb dose ratio. It's safe to give a 25 lbs dog a 25 milligram dose. If it's hard to give Fido a pill, hide it in a small dab of peanut butter.
- Use common-sense.
- MONITOR YOUR HOME'S HUMIDITY LEVEL! Notice that your pup is itchy soon after you switch your heat on for the fall \ winter season? Buy a hydrometer at your local Home Depot or Lowes and verify that your home humidity level is +55%. If not, purchase a humidifier and get that level up there! This is a rather common cause of canine skin discomfort and is often overlooked. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED YOU TRY THIS FIRST (after checking for fleas, of course).
- This is a multi-stage process and the first step may cure the problem, but in some cases, you may need to continue to the end of the treatment.
- When a treatment ends there is a possibility the scratching will return. The process can be repeated, however, that may not be advisable because steroid treatments are often linked to liver and kidney changes.
- The Allergy Injectible Regimen may relieve your dog's symptoms to a great degree but it is possible he still may have skin problems, albeit not as severe as before.
- All of the treatments can result in degrees of success, however, expect flare-ups every now and again.
- Try not to wash Fido more than once a week to help preserve the natural oils found in his coat.
Sources and Citations
- About.com - Dogs: Corn, Wheat and Soy Free Dry Dog Foods for the Allergy Sufferer