Our Seattle Veterinarian tells a story about Dog Itching and How To Stop The Itch!
Our August Pet of the Month is a sweet 8 year old, female, German Shepherd dog, named Brinks. Like many dogs, Brinks has experienced the occasional ear infection and the occasional “hot spot” (small itchy skin infection). These usually are resolved with treatment. However, earlier this year, Brinks developed an itch that just wouldn’t go away.
In April, Brinks was taken to Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital to find out how to stop her constant itching. Dr. Shawna Wedde found that Brinks had a skin infection under both armpits and around both of her lips. A skin scraping showed many bacteria on the skin. Brinks received antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection, steroid medications to help stop the itch as well as an antibiotic and anti-yeast shampoo. Because of her history of recurrent hot spots and ear infections, Dr. Wedde also discussed the likelihood of Brinks having an underlying allergy and recommended starting flea medications and switching to a hypoallergenic food as a first step.
However, Brinks continued to be itchy and her hot spots did not resolve. At her medical progress exam, Brinks’ skin condition had actually worsened and the skin around her eyes was now inflamed. At this point, Dr. Wedde was concerned that Brinks may have a combination of both food and environmental allergies and recommended treatment with an allergy medication, called Atopica. This medication helps to reduce the immune system’s response to allergens and thus decreases the itchiness in the skin. Brinks began treatment with Atopica while the owners continue to bathe her and finish the course of antibiotics.
There are a number of things that can cause a dog like Brinks to itch, including:
Skin allergies can be the most challenging thing to treat because most dogs have a combination of infections and allergies. This requires treatment of the infection and inflammation on the skin while at the same time trying to get rid of potential allergens.
The itching usually starts with an allergic reaction to:
- Environmental Allergens (dusts/pollens).
The allergic reaction causes the skin to become inflamed and itchy which results in the dog scratching at his or her skin. The scratching damages the skin which allows bacteria and yeast to infect the damaged skin, which then causes even more itchiness and the cycle continues.
You have to get rid of the allergen that is causing the irritation.
Even when you clear up the infections with antibiotics or shampoos, the allergies can reoccur after the treatment ends. In order to truly stop the itch, you have to get rid of the allergen that is causing the itch, so it is important to discuss a long term allergy prevention plan with your veterinarian.
Choosing the right treatment:
To ensure your dog is not exposed to potential fleas or food allergens your plan will involve flea medications and sometimes diet change. Environmental allergies can be even trickier because it is difficult to control a dog’s environment and keep them away from all potential allergens. Bathing can help to clean the fur and rid it of dusts and pollens picked up outside. However, because they are constantly exposed to environmental allergens, most dogs with environment allergies need either allergy shots or allergy medications such as Atopica to help their itchiness go away.
Figuring out the best treatments for an allergic dog is often challenging and frustrating, but with dedication and determination it is possible to stop the itch!
For more information about allergies, please read the following articles:
Environmental Allergies (Atopy):
Itching and Allergy in Dogs: