Season of the Itch

Spring got your dog scratching? Dr. Patten helps a reader track down the source of a persistent itch.

Dear Dr. Patten,
Now that it’s gotten warmer, my dog’s scratching way more than he usually does. I’ve tried a new flea collar, Advantage treatments, even different shampoos, but it doesn’t seem to give him any relief. In fact, the poor guy’s skin is really starting to look red and irritated. What am I missing?

– Bill E.

Dear Bill:
If your dog is constantly scratching, itching, licking his paws or hind end, these could be signs he has allergies.

The first step is to make sure fleas not the problem. Sometimes you can’t find live fleas on a dog but you can find flea dirt. These are small dark specks that look like dirt. Flea dirt is often found around the hind end or by the base of tail. A flea comb is a great inexpensive tool to help look for fleas.

If your dog does not have fleas, then he should evaluated for mites. Only your veterinarian is able to do a special test to determine if your dog has mites. The test involves a simple skin scrape and then your veterinarian looks at the skin scrape under a microscope. Mites are easily treated with medication.

If fleas and mites have been ruled out, then allergies are possible. Dogs can be allergic to things in the environment or to food. Environmental allergens include grasses, weeds, pollens, dust mites, and many others. Food allergens are often a source of protein.

If you believe your dog may have allergies then it is best to consult with your veterinarian. She may recommend an antihistamine, such as Benadryl or Zyrtec. If these are not effective then a stronger allergy medication may prescribed. Some dogs are put on a hypoallergenic diet to improve their allergies. Treatment for an allergic dog is tailored to each specific dog and their symptoms.

In allergic dogs, all of the scratching, licking and inflamed skin often leads to a skin infection or an ear infection. A skin infection will make the skin look red, irritated, moist, and sometimes the skin has brown or yellow discharge. If your pet has a skin infection, the infection must be treated. The scratching and itching will not stop until the infection has resolved.

Although allergies are a frustrating problem for many dogs and their owners, with the proper medication and diet, they can be easily treated.

About Dr. Patten
Dr. Patten, owner of Liberty Vet Clinic in Roxborough, has extensive experience in preventative care, dental procedures, emergency medicine, and soft tissue surgery. She lives on Fox Street in East Falls with her husband and their two sons.

Liberty Vet Clinic
8919 Ridge Ave
(215) 483-1066

Extended Hours:
Mon.-Thurs. 9AM-7PM
Friday: 9AM-1PM
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: 9AM-1PM

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