My Dog Is Itching, Now What?

So often in the clinic I hear on a pet’s history that he/she is itching and it has always been a problem. It has been assumed that nothing can be done about it, or that itching and licking is normal, but I am here to tell you that the itching is NOT normal and that we can very often relieve the itch, giving your dog a much happier life.

The itching and scratching can be caused from many underlying issues, including; yeast or bacterial skin infections, airborne or food allergies, parasites (fleas, lice, mites, etc.), and even from systemic disease (hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism, etc.). It takes a thorough history including information such as what age your pet was and the season of the year the itching started, if the itching is seasonal or year round, if medications have been tried previously & if they helped, and if other pets or their owners in the household are itching too, to help narrow down the possible causes of the itching. We then often examine a skin scraping and/or ear smear under the microscope to look for signs of a yeast, bacterial, or parasite infection that we can easily treat with oral and/or topical medications. Often yeast and bacterial infections can occur secondary to allergies or systemic disease. Blood work may be needed to rule in or out any systemic diseases.

If a systemic disease is found, medications can be prescribed. Food allergies can be verified by improvement on a prescription hypoallergenic diet trial of 6-8 weeks, using a diet with a single new protein and a single new carbohydrate source or a hydrolyzed diet, where the ingredients are broken down so small that the body doesn’t recognize them as allergens any longer. Over-the-counter diets cannot often meet this criteria. If airborne allergies are suspected, then we can offer antihistamines, medicated baths, fish oil supplements, and allergy testing and injections to reduce the itch. I am also more than happy to refer you to a board certified derma- tologist if the itch continues in spite of our efforts. I would love to meet you and your pet and help to relieve his/her new or chronic itching problem.