“Scratch…Scratch…Scratch…”The sound is so incessant and aggravating. You ask yourself repeatedly why your dog is scratching himself so much. The whimpers and whines that occasionally accompany the itching are heartbreaking. You want your dog to find relief, but you’re not sure how. You washed the bedding and changed him to a grain-free diet, but it hasn’t helped. You want to pull your hair out and scream. Why is he so itchy?!
An itchy dog is a frustrating situation but is usually a result of one of four causes: fleas, infection, food allergy, and environmental allergies. With your veterinarian’s help, you can get to the bottom of this.
The first thing that needs to be done is to rule out fleas. If your dog is not on a quality flea product currently, this is where you need to start. Note that I said “quality.” Some of the over the counter flea products are simply not effective. A couple of over the counter flea products that are effective include the Seresto Collar and Canine Advantix. There are also several prescription strength products available from your veterinarian. A flea product needs to be given for at least 3 months before fleas can be eliminated as a cause of the itching.
Infection can be a cause, as well as a result, of constant scratching in your dog. Repeated scratching breaks open the skin which pre-disposes it to bacterial infection. Infection itself can be itchy, so either a medicated shampoo or oral antibiotics is usually required to help get your dog some relief.
So, your dog has been on a quality flea product for 3 months and any infection has been addressed, and he is still itchy. The next step is a food trial to rule out food allergies. Contrary to what dog food companies would have you believe, when dogs are allergic to a diet, it is usually the protein they are allergic to, not grain. So just because your dog is on a grain-free diet, that doesn’t mean he can’t still have food allergies. A food trial consists of changing your dog’s diet to a prescription dog food for 8 weeks. The prescription food will either contain a different type of protein that your pet hasn’t eaten before, or a special protein that is formulated so the body won’t recognize it as an allergen and react to it. During the food trial, it is important that your dog eats only the prescribed diet. No other treats or food are allowed. A food allergy is strongly suspected in a dog that has itching without a seasonal component.
You’ve been dealing with this for several months. You are about to change vets because nothing you have tried is working. You have spent a small fortune, and everyone is getting very frustrated. If fleas, infection, or food is not the issue, the issue is most likely environmental allergies, or atopy. The good news is we have a diagnosis. The bad news is that there is no treatment for atopy. However, there are several medications and products that can manage the symptoms and help your dog live a better life. Your veterinarian will help you decide which products are right for you and your dog.
Treating an itchy dog is unfortunately not a quick or easy process. The four reasons listed above are the most common causes, but occasionally there are more serious issues that can cause itching such as hormonal imbalances or immune-mediated diseases. That is why maintaining a relationship with your veterinarian is so important.
Do live in or around Dalton, Georgia and have an itchy dog? Contact us today to get started on the path to relief!