The itchy dog

3 months ago

If your dog spends its  days itching, biting, chewing or scratching, then you know the frustration that many pet parents with atopic dogs feel.  There are many causes for itching in dogs, including infestations with fleas or mites and allergies to ingredients in the diet or things in the environment. Environmental allergies are one of the most common causes of itching behaviors in dogs.

My little Odie used to have an awful itching problem, but we nipped it by having him looked at by his vet and luckily the pills he was given helped him immensely. It was always in the fall of the year when he would itch most. Once the snow and colder weather came, he would come out of it.

Environmental allergies or atopic dermatitis is one of the most common ailments in dogs. It can arise from sensitivities to outdoor allergens like grass, weeds and tree pollens, as well as indoor allergens like mold, dust mites and storage mites.  Skin dander can also play a role, as dogs can be sensitive to cat dander or even human dander.  

Depending on a pet’s allergies, the condition can be seasonal, occurring just in the warm or cold weather, or even year-round.  

While many humans with allergies have mainly respiratory signs like sneezing or watery eyes, pets show their allergy signs primarily on their skin by biting, licking, chewing or scratching. They can have recurrent infections on the skin and in the ears.  Dogs with allergies experience increased water loss from their skin and a weakened skin barrier, making them prone to dry, itchy skin and bacterial and yeast infections.  

Unfortunately, environmental allergies are not curable, and most dogs’s allergy signs worsen with age.

If the symptoms are affecting your dog’s quality of life, it’s important to set up a plan to diagnose and manage the allergy signs as they likely will require lifelong treatment.  There are many over-the-counter remedies to help dogs with allergies. But many products lack reliable testing to prove they work, so if it were me, I would set up an appointment with your dog’s veterinarian as soon as possible.

The vet will examine your pet, and will more than likely collect samples — non-invasive rubbings and scrapings from their skin — to determine if your dog has an infection and will help set up a treatment plan for short or long -term management.  Hopefully this works and your vet can help your beloved pet, so that you do not have to go to a special veterinarian that specializes in dermatology and allergy cases.

There are a range of options, from over-the- counter antihistamines to prescription oral or injectable medications.  Your veterinarian will be able to give you the appropriate dose for your dog. 

Being itchy affects the quality of life of the pet and it also affects their humans in the household. The good news is that there are many treatment options to help maximize a pet’s comfort and care, and we all want that for our little buddy. We are there to help them.

If you are looking for a pet to add to your household, please take a few minutes and check out the Central Aroostook Humane Society at 24 Cross St. in  Presque Isle.  We have a shelter of wonderful pets there looking for their special person.  

Please be responsible:, spay and neuter your pets.

Gail Wieder is a member of the Central Aroostook Humane Society board of directors.