Debby on…scratching dogs

Christi is at her wit’s end. Who could blame her. She is battling a scratching dog. Here’s what she had to say:
Hi Debby,
I’m bummed!!! You should see Ruby’s coat, it’s a total mess, bald spots everywhere and she continues to scratch. I’m at my wits end and not sure where to go from here. I’ve changed her diet to non grain, using the spring tonic that Tammy suggested, have her on Benedryl and used a Flea and mite shampoo just in case she picked up mites at one of the shows. I’ve braided her hair and she rips the hair out as she scratches.
I had her coat looking so good for Pueblo and then everything went to hell. She’s got bald spots on both sides now right behind her shoulders and also behind both ears and as I’m typing I looked down at her and she’s scratching……. uggh.  I had another thought yesterday to try the little mittens they use on newborns and tie them loosely on her back feet so if she scratches at least she won’t tear any more hair although there’s not much left to tear.
Any suggestions?????????????????????????????????????????
This is not uncommon problem, frustrating for any dog owner, particularly so when trying to keep a dog in show condition. I’m opening this up for discussion. I’ve added What’s Eating Them? Food Allergies. to both the Nutrition page and the Veterinary page. Let’s talk!

10 Comments on “Debby on…scratching dogs”

  1. shelley says:

    There are quite a few PONs who suffer from this…I’ve done a number of things, cause it usually starts with the feet on PONs, but this sounds different. Have you tested for allergies other than food? There is a blood test provided by Heska. It isn’t cheap, but I discovered that one of my beautiful imports started this at about 18 months. When I tested him, he was found to have an allergy to dust…sigh. I did a desensitization shot regimen with him and eventually he was weened off of it. Good luck…there are also those soft n o bite collars that might not hurt the coat.

  2. >>> I’ve changed her diet to non grain, using the spring tonic that Tammy suggested, have her on Benedryl and used a Flea and mite shampoo just in case she picked up mites at one of the shows.

    Too much going here … i.e., one can’t tell what, if any, triggers are contributing to the problem. Given that I have had several fosters through my home with severe allergic reactions (in addition Ali and my first Apso, Brittany), I’d start with this …

    Since you’ve tried different types of protein sources with no luck, I’d ask my vet for a small bag of Hills Ultra z/d. Not that I’m a fan of Hills/Science Diet, but this particular formula breaks down protein into molecules unrecognizable by the body. If it can’t recognize the it, the body won’t react. When using this food, that’s the ONLY thing she gets — treats are kibble. If she has good results, you can then try adding *one* protein source at a time to see if she has a reaction (minimum of a week or two feeding the new source). Basically, you want to get her down to a minimum of food/products so you determine the allergen.

    Take her off the spring tonic — she may be reacting to this as well.

    Stop the benedryl and use chlorpheniramine instead … per my vet, it does better with the canine itchy/scratchy. Ali takes it for seasonal allergies with good results and is available OTC as a generic.

    For a shampoo, I”d recoommend a colloidal oatmeal to soothe the skin … Chris Christensen makes one, Day-to-Day shampoo. A true colloidal shampoo will separate and has to be mixed by shaking before use. If concerned about mites, have the vet do a scraping before treating with mite-specific shampoo.

    Re: the baby mittens … take a pair of baby socks and slip them on the back feet/legs fully extended. Next, take masking tape and wrap securely just above the hock. Roll the tops down to cover the tape. Baby gots new shuz! However, with the the snow on the ground, it will be difficult to keep her feet dry. You might want to use an indoor x-pen for potty breaks … and then get her out quickly before she steps in any urine!

  3. lhasalhady says:

    Vickie, where do you purchase the chlorpheniramine? To clarify for readers, OTC means over the counter. What dosage do you give Ali?

  4. Avaliable at Wal-Mart or most any drug store. Just check to see that the active ingredient is …. Chlorphenamine or chlorpheniramine, commonly marketed as its salt chlorphenamine maleate ( brand names are Chlor-Trimeton, Piriton, Chlor-Tripolon but generics are available) … is a first-generation alkylamine antihistamine used in the prevention of the symptoms of allergic conditions … Chlorpheniramine is one of the most commonly used antihistamines in small-animal veterinary practice as well.

    Ali gets a half tab up to 3-4 times a day, depending on how she’s reacting to the dosing. I’d probably start Ruby on a half tab twice a day to begin with and then go from there based on the results (or the lack thereof).

    Determining triggers is a long, drawn-out process … takes close supervision to ensure the dog isn’t ingesting something other than what’s on the diet and patience because we humans tend to want immediate results/relief for the dog in question. (Guilty as charged!)

  5. Julie says:

    Frustrating, not doubt!! What can you do? If you don’t want to feel helpless I would start with 2 things, 1)treat her for mites (they can’t be found by scrappings) it is cheap and easy. I give Ivomec, bought over the counter at Fleetfarm or dog magazines, I have the dosage if you decided to try it. 2) have her thyroid checked. Even a low “normal ” thyroid can cause scratching and hair loss but I would use Jean Dodds for the testing. In the meantime I would but her on a raw diet using a different protein source than normal. The reasone behind the raw diet is to be feeding her a more healthy diet that will build up her immune system. Katy should be able to give you some more ideas that are healthy alternatives that build the immune system.
    I dealt with scratching dogs for years, spent thousands of dollars at the vet, I’ve used every antihisimine out there (the one Vickie reccomends worked the best). In the end I found I had mites, but only a few of my dogs were allergic to the mite bite and those were the ones that scratched. Don’t give up, but don’t let it drive you nuts either. I spent many a nights crying as I dematted a dog who was scratching.

  6. Christi says:

    Thank you for all the great suggestions. This has been so frustrating and I can definitely relate to the nights spent crying as I dematt her now thinning, mangy coat. I’ll pick up some Chlor-Trimeton first thing in the morning and hopefully it ‘ll bring her some relief.
    Julie, how did you determine the scratching was due to mites and how long did it take to remedy the problem? My in home vet also ssuggested that the skin scraping isn’t always a definitive answer and recommended using a flea and mite shampoo containing pyrethrins as the active ingredient. She thought we should see some results within a couple of weeks.

  7. Christi says:

    Vickie, The baby socks taped and folded is a great suggestion, thanks!!

  8. lhasalhady says:

    Thanks to all for sharing your own experiences. If you’re just jumping in on this discussion, I suggest starting with reading What’s Eating Them? in addition to Katy’s excellent comments in a previous discussion on the blog.

    Giving all information consideration, I’m advising Christi to take a step-by-step approach. One step at a time will show what may – or may not – be the culprit.

    1. This first step has nothing to do with Ruby and everything to do with Christi’s sanity. Take the focus off what’s left of her show coat. The hair will grow back when whatever is causing her to scratch is determined. Christi, keep her clean and groomed. Vickie’s suggestion about soothing shampoo and conditioner is excellent. Those may provide relief and they certainly shouldn’t hurt.

    2. Start her on Chlorphenamine per Vickie’s recommendation. Do that today! Any allergic response creates the release of histamines which causes itching. Anti-histamines are designed to interrupt that response.

    3. Take her off all supplements and treats immediately. She’s currently eating a fish based kibble, which was started to address the scratching. Keep feeding that or consider Vickie’s suggestion. The only drawback is doing too many things at once, which may cloud determining the root cause. Both Julie and I – I know Katy would agree!! – think switching her to raw/homemade diet will be beneficial in building up her immune system, helping her deal with allergic response no matter the cause, keeping her body in good natural balance. Julie sent me information from a recent program given at a TCLAC meeting. I will use that to start a food discussion, centered around allergies, in the near future. Dr. Grognett points out that only 2% of allergic responses in dogs are caused by food allergies.

    4. Treat her for possible mites. The treatment itself is inexpensive, can be ordered OTC, so to speak. If Ivermec stops the itching, then mites were the cause. Skin scrapings could be done, but as Julie points out (and Dr. Grognett, recalling off the top of my head) the results are often false negatives. While I’m not a fan of putting needless drugs in a dog, the possible benefits outweigh my usual caution. Fleas and lice are visible to the naked eye. Mites can burrow into the skin, making diagnosis hit-or-miss. Flea and tick shampoo kill surface ‘bugs’. Burrowing mites need to be killed with medication. If her itching/scratching stops, the logical conclusion would be she had mites. If not, then mites have been ruled out.

    5. Julie thinks having Dr. Jean Dodd run a thyroid panel has merit. Low thyroid can cause itching. If the results are normal, that would eliminate one more fairly common cause of scratching. Your vet will need to do a blood draw; you’ll need to fill out Dr. Dodd’s paperwork. If you want to proceed let me know and I’ll get the info to you.

    Keep us posted!

  9. lhasalhady says:

    I wanted to add this behind the scenes exchange because of the value of this topic!

    Excerpted from Tammy’s email to Christi and me: Here is my two cents. I like the raw Idea and I know we try ed raw before and it did not work for you. Due to Ruby hiding the raw food behind the couch, but what if we feed princess Ru in a crate for 15 min everyday and pick up her food. She is use to a crate. Stopping the Spring tonic I don’t agree. Since it was made for Spring, environment allergy. it is used by and made by Holistic vets. You know me Holistic Medicine is the only way to go.

    And my response: Obviously, she had the problem before the Spring tonic, but the approach is to eliminate all but the absolute necessary while systematically addressing possibilities. Holistic ingredients can create allergic responses too. Depending on how the product is designed….the concept of the homeopathic approach actually escalates symptoms. The intended result being the immune system kicks up a notch.

    P.S. I totally agree with Tammy. Feed her in the crate. Put her in there with her dinner, give her 15 minutes and then take it away until the next day. If she doesn’t eat, don’t worry about it. Don’t make a fuss about it. She’s not going to starve herself. It’s possible she was hiding the food behind the couch because she sees raw food as a ‘high resource’ and not because she didn’t like it. Protecting ‘valuable resources’ is a very canine behavior.

  10. Christi says:

    keeping you up to date…. spoke with Julie Sundeay afternoon concerning treatmnet for mites and received a lot of valuable information. Thank you Julie!!
    Picked up the Chlor-Trimeton and gave her a dose yesterday, with a vomitting episode not more than 5 minutes later. After talking with Ginny she suggested giving it on a full stomach. After dinner I attempted another dose and same thing within minutes she vomitted. She’s not an easy one, this little Lhasa

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