Saturday, 5 November 2011

WHEN A DOG IS CONSTANTLY SCRATCHING...Allergies, Other Causes, Treatment, Remedies

When a dog is scratching itself constantly, the source of the itch, rash, etc. may be the result of: 

An infestation of fleas; 

A reaction to another type of bug bite or even insect eggs that have been laid by a bug just under the first layer of skin;

Allergies to food or pesticides present in food stuffs;

Seasonal or year round environmental allergies to plants, air born pollen, fungus, molds, etc.;

An allergic reaction to solvents and cleaners (i.e spray application - miniscule droplets/particles becoming airborne in the home or outdoor environment);

Dry skin; 

Bacteria, fungus or yeast infection;

Scratching can also be an outlet for unspent energy or anxiety.
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Once in a while my Chihuahua will come into contact with a plant that he is allergic to - a dose of Benedryl resolves the rash and the itching for him.  

My Boxer is allergic to some vegetables (but not to fruit). He also has some environmental allergies - seasonal. I find adding two tablespoons of 100% pure aloe juice to his daily food helps a lot with his allergies. If your dog has pollen related environmental allergies you can read here for DIY natural herbal treatments and remedies. He is about 65 pounds. Remember what works for one dog may not work for another - just like with people. When my Australian Shepherd and my Alsatian x Alaskan Malamute get stung by bees or bitten by deer-fly they can get some really nasty swelling and irritation. Just like with us humans, some dogs are more sensitive to bug bites than others are.

Abby, Zoey, Stevie and Tasha on the trails
As I have a lot of experience with dogs I am often able to diagnose these things myself. Without this kind of experience you would likely have to see a Veterinarian to have the cause diagnosed. But, you can try to draw conclusions yourself if you wish to start the process yourself...

Think back to when your dog's scratching started:

See if you recall introducing any new food to his diet at the time;

Try to remember if something in his environment changed or a new item was introduced (new cleaning product, new plant in the house, etc.);

Is his scratching seasonal?

Did you start walking him somewhere different? Somewhere he may come into contact with a plant, fungus that he did not before (i.e. wooded trails, meadows as opposed to sidewalks or pavement).
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I also make sure my dogs get good fats - omega fatty acids 3 and 6 in the right balance from quality food sources, on a daily basis to support healthy fur, skin and immune system health. A lack of enough and good quality omega fatty acids can trigger allergies and a whole host of other health issues. If you would like to learn more about how to make sure your dog is getting the right kind of fats in the proper ratio from the best food sources you can read this article 'Fatty Acids for Dogs - Omega 3, Omega 6, Health Benefits, Best Sources, Dosage' 

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The following provides a little more in-depth information on allergies…

Foods: The common symptoms of food allergies consist of skin irritation, excessive itching, hair loss, and hot spots. In addition, they can cause the dog to have loose bowel movements and even cause them to throw up from time to time. There are a number of causes for food allergies including a built-up intolerance to beef, dairy products, chicken, corn and soy. Food allergies can develop over time making it all the more important to be aware of these symptoms. 

Fleas: Much like food allergies, a dog may develop redness to the skin, become itchy, and may begin chewing in spots. The primary instigator of discomfort is the saliva of fleas that irritates the dog’s skin. Similar to mosquitoes, fleas suck blood from the dog.  If the dog has chewed his own skin, antibiotics will be sometimes needed, depending on the severity of the problem. I recommend going to your veterinarian to obtain the required flea treatment products. Do not buy off-the-shelf products from pet supply stores - these are not affective. You can also look into holistic treatments. Some dogs do have a reaction to the chemical based flea treatment products. 

Bacteria: Bacterial allergies can be identified by red blotches, pus pockets, hair loss and skin formation that looks like ringworm. Typically, bacteria allergies are secondary to other problems the dog may have such as parasitism or hormonal disorders. It is vital to get a blood test to see what the actual problem is.

Contact: The symptoms of contact allergies are very similar to flea and bacteria allergy symptoms. The cause of contact allergies is the dog coming into contact with allergens. Anything from materials used for bedding, chemicals, plants, or household cleaning products can bring on contact allergies. There are several different treatment methods including using a specially formulated  shampoo (available from your Veterinarian), a prescribed oral form of steroids, or any natural treatments like omega-3 and aloe vera juice.

Atopical: Atopical allergies start with itching, biting, hair loss and face rubbing. Other symptoms may be papules, which are small red bumps, or pustules, which are small pimple-like lesions. Atopical allergies are typically caused by fleas, but can also be caused by airborne, chemicals, and by many of the common products found in your home.
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I would just add, that it is important to remember that scratching can also be an outlet for unspent energy leading to anxious behaviors such as repeated scratching. It can also be an outlet for anxiety resulting from a state of insecurity. Make sure that your dog is getting the exercise and Leadership it requires. Remember - energy must out!

My Boxer has seasonal allergies. I find that adding two tablespoons of 100% aloe vera juice as well as coconut oil, herbs and alternative medicines, homemade dog food and and fresh whole foods to his daily diet makes a big difference - his scratching and discomfort is greatly reduced! 

If your dog is suffering from skin irritations you can add rooibos tea to his/her diet as well as use the tea to topically treat the irritated spots. If your dog is suffering from candida you can use these herbal soaks to sooth itchiness and irritation. Many commercially manufactured dog shampoos contain chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions and help create a toxic burden in your dog.  Chemical based household cleaners are best replaced with natural, non-toxic household cleaners.


Robbie, my Boxer enjoying off-leash time on my trail
 Quercetin is a better alternative to Benedryl...

I recommend using Quercetin rather than Benedryl. Quercetin is called 'Nature's Benedryl'. It is a natural alternative without the side effects of Benedryl. You can read about Quercetin, its many health benefits and daily recommended dosage here.


The following provides the dosages for Benedryl (below) but be careful - if the scratching persists you need to find a real solution - please remember Benedryl is not a cure it is only a band aid approach - it is better to find the cause and cure! If the allergies are environmental you can use these natural herbal interventions and some of these herbs and alternative medicines in-place of the chemical based anti-allergens such as Benedryl. 

Here are the standard dosages for dogs - for Benadryl, based on body weight, & using a 25 mg tablet/capsule. The dosages are based on the dogs weight in kilograms - to convert to pounds...there are 2.5kg in a pound: <10 kg 1 tablet; 10-25 kg 1-2 tablets; > 25 kg 2 tablets. Frequency of dosage: every 8 hours.

To begin to track possible causes of allergies, I normally ask people to sit back, and think about when the scratching started and see they can draw some conclusions. You can then try to find a solution on your own...or go see your Vet. Either way don't leave it untreated to long!!!