Why is my dog scratching no matter what I do?
Itchy dogs are usually allergic dogs. Allergies cannot be cured. The only way they can be avoided is if you take away the source of the allergy. If you can’t do that the allergy needs to be managed for the duration of the dog’s life.
What are dogs allergic to?
1. Parasites: mainly fleas but they could also have mites
2. Food: mainly chicken, beef, dairy or gluten but it could be a food additive
3. Atopy: indoor or outdoor allergens like house dust mites or pollen that they inhale
4. Contact: substances that they touch which cause a local skin reaction like grass
Bacteria and yeasts usually take advantage of the inflamed allergic skin to cause an infection.
How is allergic dermatitis diagnosed?
It is best to see your vet in order to get a diagnosis and a plan to eliminate the possible causes. The tests that could be performed include a flea comb, a skin scrape (to check for mites in the hair follicles), a wood’s lamp (to check for ringworm), a biopsy (to differentiate between allergic and autoimmune dermatitis), a culture (to find out what bacteria is causing the secondary infection), hormone blood tests (to check thyroxin and cortisol levels) and an allergen blood test (to check for environmental allergies).
How can allergic dermatitis be treated?
It can be managed but unless you manage to eliminate the underlying cause it cannot be cured.
1. Fleas: Use regular monthly treatment, treat all in contact animals and treat your house with a spray designed to kill flea eggs.
Mites: Depending on which mite is implicated will depend on what treatment is recommended.
2. Food: Feed a hypoallergenic diet for 2 months as a test. Either home cooked or prescription pelleted diet will suffice). Exclude chicken, beef, gluten and dairy products. If it works, stick with it.
3. Atopy: There is a blood test that can be performed to determine the inhaled allergen and if found, it can be vaccinated against.
If not you will have to use a combination of Omega3/6 oils, medicated shampoos, antihistamines, skin diets, herbal remedies and anti-inflammatories (cortisone or cyclosporine) to alleviate the itch.
Omega 3/6 oil: If supplemented in the diet, these oils alter the composition of the fat layer surrounding each cell in the body. When the cell disintegrates, as it does during the allergic process, it breaks down into non inflammatory products rather than inflammatory ones. This means less inflammation and itchiness for you dog.
Medicated shampoos: Because the itch is exacerbated by the secondary bacterial or yeast infection present on the skin of allergic dogs it is wise to keep this at bay which may need to be achieved with antibiotics but can be maintained with antibacterial shampoos. Seborrhea (dandruff) often results from chronic allergic dermatitis and can be cleared using anti seborrheic shampoos. If you know your dog has a sensitive skin use hypoallergenic washes to minimize irritation. Some shampoos simply have a soothing effect and can be used in combination with any of the suggested products.
Diet: Various skin diets have been specifically formulated to aid skin health and contain extra Omega oils, Zinc and sometimes novel protein sources.
Topical remedies: Often the area in question is too large to treat topically but if not it prevents dogs from possibly suffering from the side effects of systemic drugs.
Homeopathic remedies: They have been used to mixed effect.
4. Contact: Avoid allergen if possible. If not you will have to use the above combination of substances to alleviate the itch.