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Vet Advice: Relief for Your Dog's Itchy Skin




This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 46: Jan/Feb 2008
Robert Silver, DVM, founder of Boulder's Natural Animal: A Holistic Wellness Center, is also a certified veterinary acupuncturist. He received his DVM from Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1982. bouldersnaturalanimal.com
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Submitted by Joanna | August 19 2013 |

I adopted an 11 year old dog from a couple who had the dog since he was a puppy. They brought along vet records that were extensive. They also brought all kinds of medication. The results from a previous allergy test were that the dog was allergic to all kinds grass and trees. The problem for me was that this was February and nothing was blooming and there was no grass anywhere yet the dog was suffering. He had no fur on his belly and his skin was tough and blackened.
I decided to do an allergy food testl. Before the results were in, my other dog started itching. It turned out the dog had fleas and was suffering from from flea allergy dermatitis. The food allergy results came in and my little guy was allergic to rice (lamb and rice is often recommended for dogs with allergies), peas, cod, liver, corn and a few more things. We found food with none of the ingredients he was allergic to. We got rid of the fleas and began allergy shots. Eventually we were down to one shot a month and no more itching! All the hair grew back on his underside and the skin returned to the normal color and softness. Happy dog and happy family. Many vets don't go this route. Thankfully our vet who has since retired was no nonsense with no fancy office and not into the easy way out of just prescribing more drugs and never ending office visits. I know giving shots seems scary, but I learned to do it with no problem. My dog got used to it, instinctively knew it was good for him and didn't mind it at all. This was 8 years ago. Today we adopted a stray with major skin problems. Here we go again! If it turns out to be allergies I won't waste time with medication and go straight to allergy shots along with eliminating whatever food to which she may be allergic.

Submitted by monica ong | August 22 2013 |

Beware of allergy shots they can be very dangerous to your dog.
My ratterrier mix developed a serious case of acute pancreatitis and nearly died from it. She got the shots every month for 2 years and they did wonders for her itching but at the same time was destroying her health. I now try to manage her itchys' with diet, bathing, flea control and antihistamines. Nothing seems to work like the shots,but I am scared of them now.

Submitted by donna | December 16 2013 |

i have a 12 year old lab who has been on allergy shots for 10 years and they have done her allergys a world of good and her health is great

Submitted by David | August 29 2013 |

Hello. I have a two year old golden who is tearing herself up from itching. Her father had severe allergies to grasses and trees. We have had her on benadryl and are going to try using mane and tail shampoo. Any comments as to how often to shampoo her? Also, someone posted to use tinactin on spots that have been bitten raw, does anyone else successfully use that?

Submitted by Lucille S | June 5 2014 |

My Gracie & I adopted one another last July, 2013. She had hair missing from the back of her legs, under her chest, belly & her tail was almost hairless. She's on minimum ingredients, grain-free dry dog food - I add fresh chicken breast to morning meal. I bathed her frequently with oatmeal shampoo when I first got her. Later - I would bathe her when she seemed more itchy. One day I used the oatmeal shampoo & added the Main & tail shampoo w/it. Afterward, she was jumping & running all around, seemed she was irritated - it was early evening. I rinsed her again because I thought it must have been reaction to the shampoo. In the morning her skin was a deep red color in spots on her back - not from scratching but I believe from the main & tail shampoo. Had to take her to the Vets & he gave her a prednizone injection. I since have used the oatmeal shampoo only & she hasn't had any reaction. I will not use main & tail on her again. This is the shampoo I'd used on my previous dogs w/o skin allergies & no problem w/them that I ever noticed. Gracie is going through the itching again this June; hair coming out in clumps. I'm looking for a natural remedy.

Submitted by Patti | September 1 2013 |

Daisy is. 7 months old and we live on a very hot and humid area. Her skin is dry so she scratchs a lot. Is there a shampoo or cream I could use to help her! Thanks for your help.

Submitted by rohit | September 4 2013 |

my dog got some skin allergies for a long time tried out lots of medicine can any one help me out with this ...

Submitted by athlete cox | May 20 2014 |

Cortazone shots

Submitted by Judy Crown | May 25 2014 |

Long term use of cortisone is very dangerous to your dog. It eventually causes diabetes and then blindness. Please be careful. It happened to a dog of mine whose vet just wanted to get rid of a dry cough.

Submitted by debbie orr | September 8 2013 |

i have a small cairn terier cross silky his itch is driving him crazy and i can not afford a vet where he itches he gets very hot its like he has dandruff and he could be asleep and all of a sudden he jumps up and starts itching he is so uncomfortable please help

Submitted by Regina Naron | September 20 2013 |

Sytematic yeast.. look it up

Submitted by william | May 19 2014 |

I have a silkey and oatmeal dog shampoo helps as does childrens benydril,try 1 tsp
I have also put extra dry skin moisturizer (body lotion) for fast relief. Hope this

Submitted by Nicolle Guimbarda | September 9 2013 |

Hi! I have my dog here having his irritated skin. He used to scratch, lick and chew his skin due to its severe itchiness. He don't like to drink water as usual consumption of his body and saw him licking on others dog pee. He is always inside our house and regularly taking a bath. But it seems that it doesn't help him to prevent him from scratching. He's skin now is like a point-point small lump around his body. He's not that tardy (that i'm gonna think that he's sick) but he's shedding to much also. What can I do? Is chicken meat and crushed chicken bones bad to dog's health? Thanks

Submitted by Emma | March 29 2014 |

Hey there, NEVER give your dog crushed chicken bones. Chicken bones are really bad for dogs, especially when cooked as they can puncture their insides. Crushed ones are even worse!

Submitted by Mel | April 10 2014 |

As a matter of fact, raw chicken bones are not bad for dogs. When they're raw, they're soft enough to chew; it's when they're cooked that they splinter. Some large long bones may splinter also, but chicken, turkey, and neck bones are fine.

Submitted by dogzzz | April 16 2014 |

Wow. Just no. Chicken bones are an awful thing to feed a dog (no matter what form) and it's moronic to feed them to dogs.

Submitted by Joanna | May 22 2014 |

Our 1.5 year old german shepherd is on a raw diet (no kibble at all) and whole chicken quarters are many of his meals. Raw bones are safe for dogs - they are flexible and canines are designed to eat them. Maybe err on the side of caution with tiny dogs - you don't want them to choke. The point is, please stop spreading misinformation about raw bones, and educate yourself.

Submitted by Alisha Franczak | June 7 2014 |

I just adopted a German Shepherd. The Rescue has put her on some sort of antibiotics twice and they help but the condition comes back. I just ordered her a medical shirt... Until I can figure out what the heck is wrong with her. Did you begin feeding raw because you also were having allergy issues? I think I will switch to raw too (she is currently on limited ingredient kibble) because I've heard it is cheaper than canned food and really good for them, especially allergies. Please reply! I am desperate

Submitted by Helene Gorman | July 31 2014 |

My Frenchy has been having the same problems. What I've found is that eliminating all grains, and following a diabetic diet helps, along with supplements like probiotics and digestive enzymes, and oils helps. i feed only canned dog food with only one protein product and no other products. I will add soft cooked fresh veggies that are safe for dogs and low in sugar. I will do this one veggie at a time to watch for reactions-have fed some that did not not agree with my dog. Cranberries, blueberries are also good with no sugar added. I stay away from shampoos with oatmeal, it is a grain and really irritates the skin. I use a herbal shampoo that is anti-fungal and has tea-tree oil as a main ingredient. I've also found that apple cider vinegar is helpful as talked about in one of the other posts. the big thing is to stay on top of things--food is very important and baths--can be given every other day and using the apple cider (mixed 1:1 ratio with water) is a very good conditioner. Makes the dog very soft and shiny. The vinegar is also supposed to help with fleas . A friend will wipe her dog down every-time it comes in from outside

Submitted by sheila | July 26 2014 |

Maybe you need to ask a vet about the raw meat. I just read, on a list of things not to give dogs, is ANY raw meat.

Submitted by Mike G | June 28 2014 |

I feed my dog raw. We have a very good meat grinder, When raw chicken is put in the grinder you don't even see the bones. They are ground into the meat. So there is a way to feed your dog chicken bones which is very healthy because of the marrow in the bones.

Submitted by sheila | July 26 2014 |

OMG....never never give your dog chicken bones. They splinter in your dogs gut and could kill him.

Submitted by BQu | August 15 2014 |

Actually RAW bones - poultry bones included are great for your dog. Never mix raw food and kibble - it will cause digestive upset and distress. Kibble takes longer to digest, and raw takes less time as it is a more biologically appropriate diet their bodies utilize it better. Proof is in the poop quite frankly. I fed my cats raw from kittens, and now I am feeding my rescue dog raw as well, even went to work for a raw food place when I found them.
NEVER feed COOKED bones as yes they will splinter and harm your animal.
Where are you folks getting this information against feeding raw meat?
Do you really believe that kibble has been around for forever?
What do you think dogs ate before kibble while still domesticated and working with humans?
Why can your cat hunt a wild bird and eat it, but not a chicken?
Research is needed, please just google raw diet for animals.

Submitted by Holly | September 9 2013 |

Is it possible for the topical flea medicines to cause a reaction on the skin? If so how do you recommend treating for fleas? Also, is there any homeopathic regiments to treat the skin and itch?

Submitted by dian blinte | September 18 2013 |

my dog is having a reaction also scraching on the area that i put advantix II on I gave him benadryl but still scraching been 2 days rinsed him with plain water what else can we do

Submitted by Heidi | March 7 2014 |

I know I'm late to this party but my dog had a severe, toxic reaction to a topical flea medicine. Symptoms started (itching all over and rubbing her nose and face) showing about 12 hours after application. I stayed up most of the night with her. By morning she had calmed down but still didn't seem right so I took her to the vet. Good thing because my vet said she would not have survived if I hadn't brought her in when I did. She ended up in the hospital for 5 days and now, almost two years later is still on Denamerin because her liver enzymes are too low. Thankfully Denamerin is one of the more natural medications out there. It is made from milk thistle extract and has no known side effects or long term repercussions. My baby girl has done really well on it.

Submitted by Andrew | May 1 2014 |

If you want a homeopathic version of anything, just mix 1ml of the original with 1L of water, and you have a VERY powerful homeopathic version of the original. To make it even MORE powerful, take 1ml of the new mixture and mix it with 1L of water. The more times you do this, the more powerfully homeopathic it is. That's what the (for instance) 16x on the label means - it has been massively diluted 16 times.

If you think that sounds like a sick joke, and you should, then you don't understand homeopathy.

Submitted by chaz | September 19 2013 |

my staffy has allergies and chews his feet(pretty bad)my vet has said he will have to take steroids for the rest of his life!but I fear they will harm his health,i have heard of a product called dermapaw in America..do the uk have a sililar product?? anybody who can help please do!

Submitted by Tom | September 27 2013 |

For what it is worth, my little pekingese / poodle (peek-a-poo) mix gets the itchies every fall. Nothing else changes in his world or in his (very high quality) dry dog food, just the time of year. Common sense tells me that my skin also becomes itchy at this time of year, why not his? I started adding a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil (not corn oil!) to his food. This helps until the season really kicks in, about now.

Last couple years I took him to the vet who, of course, decided he needed expensive injections of steroids plus steroids by mouth. After reading the horrors of steroids I didn't want to do that to him again. Heck, it didn't help for more than a few days anyway. A lot of what you read online is scary too... One article I read recommended rubbing baking soda and oatmeal into his skin. Really? The dog's skin is dry so we want to use the driest stuff on the planet on him. Stuff that will take motor oil out of a concrete driveway? I think not!

Today, after reading the above article as well as some others I just thought "why not try on him what I use on my own dry skin?" Nothing with chemicals or scents, of course, just pure aloe vera. I buy it at the local pharmacy, but you can get it almost anywhere. I had to mix the gel with water to make it thin enough to get down through his coat, but the relief was immediate and has lasted all day so far. It must taste like crap because he won't lick it, and it is non-toxic even if he did. It is unscented and has no real natural scent to it. And, bonus, it is dirt cheap.

My dog is no longer suffering. I hope you'll try this solution for yours and save him some irritation, and yourself some money.

Good luck!

Submitted by cyn | April 1 2014 |

Thank you for your post! My lil peekapoo, thanks you as well :-)

Submitted by aditi | April 8 2014 |

Yeah...for sure..i will try this..for my cutiee pie minnie..thnx dude..

Submitted by Cindy | May 3 2014 |

Will give this a try. I will stop at the store tomorrow. My poor Oscar is itching so much. he looks at me sometimes, like he is saying, can't you do something mommy

Submitted by Melody | June 27 2014 |

I'll be trying this on my little Pekingese this afternoon! Thanks!

Submitted by Roger | September 30 2013 |

ABout 1 week ago, I decided to try the Wellness brand dry dog food, for my 3 4 legged kids, and i am starting to decide it was a bad idea. Cost wasn't a factor, as it is pricey. More so than the Blu Buffalo I was feeding them for many years. Bear is a 5 year old Shi-Chon Bichon mix and has never displayed any signs of excessive itching or skin problems up to this point. After 1 week on the Wellness brand dog food, the itching has begun to drive us both crazy it seems. He sleeps with me and shakes the bed all night long now. I spend more time scratching him to prevent him from doing damage to himself. I tried benadryl ( 1/2 tablet) and it seemed to quiet down the itch, but only tried it as a last resort. It worked for 1 night of rest, but I am leary of making it a constant remedy for his itching. As of today, I am removing the Wellenss from his diet and going back to Blue Buffalo permanently. Just because it costs more, doesn't mean it's better. Wellness brand claims are deceiving at this point. for instant releif, I use the benadryl insect bite spray and rub it in very good, to treat the skin where he seems to have the itchy spots ( rib area on both sides, lower inner stomach) after reading other posts, I will go back to benadryl tablets at bedtime so he sleeps good at night.

Submitted by Diane Johnston | May 20 2014 |

My dog 14 year old lab had severe skin allergies I tried Fromm's dog food Salmon Tunalini and her skin cleared up immediately. It's grain free and consists mostly of fish, fruits and vegtables. It'susually a protein source that causes the severe itch or seasonal allergies. And it's good practise to rotate the dogs food don't feed them one protein source for a long time. I switch betwen the beef frittata, salmon tutulii
and the surf and turf one from fromms. I also give her some wet food because dry
dog food has very litle moisture. I sprinkle a probiotic supplement on her wet food.
Benedrly is okay but should be shorterm only. All it does is make the dog sleepy.
As a treat I give her sardines ,the ones in spring water, it's an excellent source of B6 and B3 helps with dry skin issues. Add more fish to the diet.

Submitted by Michele | November 9 2013 |

Both my dogs went crazy with allergies this past summer. They only got relief when I gave them regular antihistamines. I found out what dosage from this vet's website.
It worked for me and I have since shared it with a lot of people.
Good luck

Submitted by Delaney | November 22 2013 |

My dog has had major itchiness, and developed some scabby spots and thinning hair on her but near her tail -- I am using canine enterouc powder on her and this has helped a great deal, all her hair is back and the scabby spots are gone. Along with brushing her and tea tree oil for hot spots I think I might add olive oil to her diet a couple of times a week also see if that gets rid of the remaining dryness and flakiness.

Submitted by Donny | December 6 2013 |

I Have an american pitbull x bulldog aka a bandogee she is super itchy from her face ears back all the way to her legs and feet she has been on venectyl p, prednisone and fed with medical hypoallergenic dog food. We cant seem to get her itchyness under control she has scratched / chewed her hair and legs to the skin and wont stop even on her med which is prednisone right now is there anything we can do for her? She has no hair left on her back legs :(

Submitted by Theresa Day | December 7 2013 |

My two English bulldogs have food allergies changed mine to a grain free diet and they are 99% better...

Submitted by Sandra Erickson | December 14 2013 |

Help! I have 50 lb pit bull she is 2 year ,she has a bad red rash her tummy that just won't go away,we
gave her antistamine & temaril-p nothing helps!

Submitted by Thea Mcclure | March 6 2014 |

My little chihuahua and shihtzu has had allergy's since we moved to our first home four years ago. Started out really slow for the two and a half and then she started breaking out with these little bumps mostly on her back, then she started getting some on her belly. Then she scratches on the right side on the under side of the belly. Took her to the vet wasted time and money. So I started looking for web sites that had vets that were holistic. I kind of anticeptic but by this time I was ready to listen. As long as it was safe. So Dr at website. . she suggest providone iodine its for a lot of infections and is a nathuarl medicine. Its used for skin infections , yeasts,molds, fungi and viruses.so I started using it. U can find it in any drug store. Put some in warm water into a glass container and apply with a wash rag or a clean rag. Wipe gently down going the same way the hair grows. Never against. Do it twice a day. Don't forget the belly. Then you pat dry with a clean towel, not to dry just damp. Then let dry. Its working for us. It takes about three weeks to see it really working. We have also started benadryl twice a day it seems like that's adding help also. Thank you God.

Submitted by Rod | December 15 2013 |

We have a 8 year old mix breed, that has every licking and itching issue possible. Allergic to so many different things, the food allergies are pretty much conquered since all he gets is lamb and brown rice. Organic snacks, with limited ingreients. Bath every other week, has a vaccine every 10 days for 6 months now. NO relief!!, Poor dog wears a cone most of the day, with exception of when outside and can be watched constantly. Issues have been discussed with Vet overand over, so far no solution, bendrdyl twice daily no help, sprays and lotions worthless. I read of a new product coming available first quarter of 2014 that has shown to give relief to the constant licking and scratching. /the name of it is Apoquel, I am hoping it will give some big relief, because at present we are at wits end and frustrated at no relief for all the things we have tried either OTC or prescription, I don't know how this dog is able to have a good quality of life the way it is. All the home remedies we tried, no help. This dog was a rescue puppy and feel due to the inbreeding that a lot of his problems were generated that way. We will continue to give all the comfort possible and hope one day for something more powerful.

Submitted by Randy Poppert | January 1 2014 |

We have a full blooded German Shepherd that we got as a pup. He in now 7 years old and every year his allergies seem to get worse. Our vet says that he is allergic to just about everything and during the dry winter months up here in Alaska, he seems to get so much worse. I think this may go back to the earlier article when you spoke about "puppy mills". At any rate, as is the case with most pets, Zues is a very big part of me and my wife's life. Zues gets really sick sometimes to the point of vomiting and fevers. He scratches almost non stop when he is awake in the winter months (which is about 6 months a year)even though I can see no dry skin under his coat. It is a very sad thing to have to go through for him especially and for us to have to watch because of the family bond we have with him. He has been put on a whole litany of different medications but he seems to be immune to just about everything they try. We are at our wits end trying to keep him comfortable and the money that we have spent on his care up to this point is an extraordinary amount which is fine and we would gladly spend that over and over again if we could find something that would help. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate it so very much. (And I have had people tell me "Hey, his name is supposed to be spelled "Zeus", you have it misspelled". And my reply is "No, he's not some mythical god, he's my buddy, a part of the family and Zues is his name".)

Submitted by Jmfarrside | January 5 2014 |

We have a 3 year old German Shepherd we have has as a pup as well and he has horrible allergies. We have spent a considerable amount of money also to try to get him some relief. We have him on a prescription called Clemastine which we get from Target pharmacy. It helps a lot with his itching and we tried many prescriptions before we found one that helped. But we also make a solution of apple cider vinegar and water a 50/50 mix and just wipe him down twice a day. It gives him relief for several hours. It's worth a try to give your dog some relief.

Submitted by Mads | January 10 2014 |

Please try to get him on Apoquel as soon as possible, should bring him relief without harsh side effects for the forseeable future. Best of luck.

Submitted by Jamie Vaccaro | March 13 2014 |

Hi, I read your post and had to reply. We put our Lhasa Apso on Apoquel last month. Her itching stopped, but she began to refuse to take the pill, which is unlike her. So I thought I would check out the side effects. APOQUEL CAN CAUSE CANCERS, something our vet did not tell us!! It also can cause upper resporatory illnesses, etc. Please read about these pharmaceutical drugs and the actual side effects before you give them to your pets. She knew that pill was doing something to her and since I read that, she has never, nor will EVER have Apoquel or Cyclosporine/Atopica again!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Trublu | March 19 2014 |

Please try grain free Halo pet food or Primal raw; I shave my poodle down and put on 100% aloe gel all over the areas that make him itch. I also give him probiotics and very low sugar plain yogurt. I also make sure my sheets on my bed and anywhere he lies down are washed in fragrance free and chemical free laundry detergent; no downy or frangrance softener either. I also use Halo Pet shampoo and never give him cheap treats or any toys made in China. See if he is allergic to other cats or other animals you may have. Cheap air fresheners are bad for you and your dog's environment. Use Vinegar to clean floors; toss out the chemical floor and rug cleaners. Rug deodorizing powders make my feet itchy when I walk on carpet. Ok, hope I can help someone out there.

Submitted by Susan | March 28 2014 |

This sounds so simple, but have you tried lavender essential oil.Try a few drops in a jug of warm water as the carrier, concentrate your pouring under arms and legs (of dog) if possible and leave for as long as possible. or make a natural mix of lavender oil and a non poisonous oil, any lightweight edible oil for the carrier(for the non poisonous factor in case licked.)a few drops to a around 50 mls of oil. Use under arms or itchy hot spots. I use lavender essential oil in an ointment with my dog and when he is itchy, and this is frequent come autumn I use it and he actually comes to me, for me to put it on him when he is suffering. He only has to see me with the jar and he is there. I conclude it doesn't cure but it eases. Just an idea :)

Submitted by kim | January 12 2014 |

It started with my older dog who would itch and chew his whole body . HE had red skin,loss of hair, bumbs , you name it he had it . Now my younger dog (5) is itching and so am I . I'm itching so bad and so is the other dog . the older one has been to the vet 5 times (they said its food allergy . My gut tells me its not (no ringworm,no mites) had him tested. all three of us have this problem. i need help i think its internal but what????????

Submitted by Lori | January 12 2014 |

Help. My Samoyed who is 12.5 years old is suffering from a skin condition. She is dry in someplaces, but in others she has oily canine seborrhea. I washed the oily pits with dishwashing soap as suggested to remove it from the skin. Now she is incredibly itchy. Any advice?

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