My Dog is Itching! (And Nobody is Sleeping!)
It’s bedtime and you’ve just got your teeth brushed and your comfy pajamas on, drank your sleepy tea and snuggled down into your bed and turn out the light. Just as you roll over to catch some zzzzz’s, you hear it. Scratch, scratch, scratch. Chew, chew, chew. Clank, clank, clank as your furry friend shakes his head over and over. You realize that your friend is itchy again, and you know that both of you are going to have a long night.
Anyone that has dealt with an itchy dog or cat knows the misery that accompanies the red skin. Or the nasty smell of the gunk that builds up inside an ear.
There are many different potential reasons for itchy dog syndrome and red swollen ear canals.
1. Fleas. Fleas. Fleas.
4. Other parasites.
5. Other miscellaneous diseases.
The first thing that veterinarians will do when presented with an itchy dog (after a thorough physical exam) is to run a flea comb through the fur. We are looking for adult fleas and/or flea “dirt” (excrement). If there is any evidence of fleas at all, we eliminate the problem by administering a quality flea medication on a monthly basis.
The skin is normally examined during a physical exam and the type of lesions can give us a clue as to the underlying problem. Often we can scrape the skin to look for mange and other parasites. We can also prepare slides to examine ear and skin debris. These tests can help guide us closer to the ultimate cause of the itchy dog.
Sometimes we see infections in the ears and in the skin that can be helped with antibiotics or antifungal medications. Often these infections come back over time because they are a symptom of an underlying problem, which is typically an allergy of some kind. We see allergies to fleas, to food, to pollens, to dust mites…the list is long! If we see a pattern develop over time that can help us identify the cause of the allergy. Some allergies are life-long and require more than one treatment to keep it under control. All allergy cases are individual and require patience in diagnosis and treatment of both.
Food allergy is common in dogs. Often we start to suspect it when a dog is itchy all year long, even in the winter when outside allergens are dormant. About 1/4 of these dogs will have GI signs of disease too (vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence). Beef and dairy are the most common food allergens, followed by chicken, eggs, soybean, corn, and wheat. The best way to rule out a food allergy is a “food trial”-feeding a hypoallergenic diet for 10-12 weeks and watching for improvement. Your veterinarian is the best person to ask what to feed, it can be tricky to find a food that works best for you and your pup.
By far, the we see fleas, allergy and infectious causes of skin disease most commonly here at our clinic, but at times we do see more unusual things. Sometimes this requires a biopsy to diagnose, or even referral to a specialist.
Bathing, soothing sprays, antihistamines, oral essential fatty acid supplements, and steroids all have their place in treating the itchy dog. We would be glad to help you formulate a plan for your favorite itchy family member to get more comfortable.
Didn’t know that your veterinarian could help you get some zzzz’s tonight, did you??