So your dog has an itch…
Take your dog to the Vet if your dog is constantly itchy, scratching and particularly if there is broken skin, scaly or crusted skin or patches of thinning or missing fur.
We sometimes fall into the trap of calling all dog’s itch ‘allergy’ when there can be other causes such as scabies mites, ear mites, Demodex mites. endocrine disease especially Cushing’s and hypothyroidism.
Infection is also a big cause of itchiness whether it is due to bacterial or fungal causes- this is nearly always secondary to another issue as primary infections are rare but they are still a significant cause of pruritis or itch. It is necessary to make sure any infection is being treated as well. If the skin broken or scaly or crusted then infection is likely and needs addressing.
Most dogs with an itch do fall into the allergy camp and of these 80% are Atopy (or genetic tendancy to respond to environmental triggers), 10-20% are due to Food allergy and 5-10% due to Flea allergy. Atopy allergens can be present seasonally or year round depending on what they are- air borne allergens are very hard for pets to avoid- especially dust and pollens.
Allergy testing is available and the main point of that being that once identified desensitization can be attempted as the closest thing anyone has managed to come up with as a cure.
How Does Your Dog Get A Skin Allergy?
There are just about as many things that can cause a dog skin allergy, as there are things that can cause us to suffer an allergy. The reason behind this is the fact that dogs react to allergens not with nasal problems – the way we do – but with skin problems. Particularly where the skin is thinner or poorly protected by hair – ears, eyes, lips, feet, tummies and under the base of the tail. What makes the problem even worse is that your dog’s skin allergies have a whole spectrum of causes so that diagnosing your pup’s problem is best handled by your vet. Some dogs are born with a skin allergy. Some dogs develop skin allergy as an immune response. There are a few things you can do to minimize itching in your pet.
Firstly eliminate the cause.
Check for and treat fleas.
Check your garden for the most allergenic plants which may include many grasses such as paspalum, rye, buffalo etc. Keep lawns mowed to avoid seeding and keep dogs to mown areas. Other plants known to be particularly allergenic to dogs include Wandering Jew, Moses in the Cradle or Rhoeo and spider plants.
Unfortunately even if you don’t have grasses or pollens in your garden, the wind may blow them into your dog’s environment especially in Spring and Summer.
Check your house for dust and mould.
Avoid soaps or detergents unless your vet has advised a particular medicated shampoo. Other medicated shampoos may make the rash or itch worse.Soap free washes such as QV wash can be used instead of soaps or shampoos.
Secondly improve the dogs skin barrier to reduce allergen absorption, avoid removal of protective oils and excessive drying of the skin.
QV bath oil can be diluted in water (10ml Oil to 400ml water) and used as s daily spray. QV bath oil can be added to the bath water. QV “flare up” may also be helpful. These are available in pharmacies and at your local veterinarian.
Evening primrose oil can be added to the diet at the dose of 1 capsule or 1g per 5Kg bodyweight daily. This needs to be given on an ongoing basis and results may not be seen for 2 months.
Fish oils have an anti-inflammatory effect at a dose of 1g/5Kg bodyweight daily or replace part of the dogs diet with Sardines – 50g per 10Kg dog.
Certain foods can enhance skin barrier function eg Royal Canin “Skin Support” which is made of low allergy proteins and carbohydrates, has high levels of fish oil and safflower oil and is high in selected antioxidants. Useful if your dog doesn’t have a specific chicken allergy.
First aid advice when your dog is intensely irritated and itchy:
Sit dog in a luke-warm bath of water preferably with QV oil added – 10ml/400ml water- for 15 minutes. Pat dry gently before applying a topical cortisone cream or spray to the worse affected areas. Cover affected areas with a warm wet T shirt for the trunk or socks for the feet (wring out excess water) leave shirt on and sit with dog for 20-30 min so skin has time to rehydrate and cortisone has time to soothe.
Antihistamines may be prescribed by your vet for atopic dermatitis. They are rarely of benefit if used alone. In general are they are only effective in 30% of dogs., but they may be useful in helping reduce the dose of stronger medications like prednisolone in a “steroid-sparing” strategy. They vary in dose, side effects and cost. Individual response may mean that it is necessary to try 3-4 different ones to find the one that works best for your dog (just as in humans). If your dog has been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis and your dog’s vet has sent you to the pharmacy for an antihistamine the table below gives a guide to dose.
Of course they are also useful if your dog is allergic to bee or wasp stings.
Please do not use human cold and flu tablets or mixtures as they have other harmful ingredients in them.
|Antihistamine||Dose per 10Kg Dog||Dose frequency|
|Cetirizine (Zyrtec 10mg tablets or suspension)||5mg or Half a tablet or10mg or 1 tablet||Twice a day orDaily|
|Cyproheptadine (Periactin 4mg tablets)||8mg or 2 tablets||Two to three times daily|
|Dexchlorpheniramine (Polaramine 2mg tablets or syrup)||4mg or 2 tablets||Twice a day|
|Loratadine (Claratyne 10mg tablets or syrup)||10mg or 1 tablet||Daily|
|Promethazine (Phenergan 10mg and 25mg tablets)||10mg or 1 blue tablet(Caclulate dose for larger dogs – green 25mg tablets may be useful)||Twice a day|
|Terfenidine (Telfast 30mg and 60mg tablets and elixir)||20-40mg||Twice a day|
Always check with your veterinarian before giving any medication to your dog.
Your vet or pharmacist can advise which of the above are likely to make your dog sleepy or not. Thirst may increase with use of cyproheptadine. Generic equivalents of the named products above are also suitable.
Palmyra Veterinary Hospital 9319 8211
Spearwood 7 Day Pharmacy 94341118