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wildpotato's avatar

Why is my dog itchy? And should I take her to a different vet?

Asked by wildpotato (12820 points ) August 14th, 2009

She’s been scratching and biting herself almost constantly for about a month now, and she has begun developing patches of small, irregularly-shaped red irritated spots. The worst ones are a little bloody, and the fur is thinning and falling out at the spots. I just moved last week and took her to a new vet in my new neighborhood on Tuesday, and he said that it wasn’t ringworm (he looked at her skin with a UV light to confirm this). She doesn’t smell bad, so I’m thinking it’s not a staph or bactierial infection (from syz’s description of these from a different thread on this topic). She has seasonal allergies that manifest in the form of very mild eye irritation in the late fall in Colorado. She had no symptoms here in NYC last fall, though. And I doubt that it’s fleas because no one else in the house has been suffering at all, and I don’t see flea dirt in her fur.

The vet said it was probably just dry skin and sent me home with this spray that seems to give her temporary relief and make the spots a little better – but she’s developing more, and much worse ones all the time. I think it must be more than dry skin. The vet wants me to bring her back in, which I will do today – but I’m a bit upset that he loked at her fur falling out and these spots and called it normal shedding and dry skin, and that I seem to be taking her in for an office visit an extra time, when it seems to me that they ought to have been taking things a bit more in-depth in the first place. Since they charge $50 just to come in, I’m somewhat miffed. After this problem is resolved, I’m thinking I’ll try another vet – or do you think that they are not being lax, and are doing what this situation calls for?

More importantly, what the heck is bothering my poor pooch?

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14 Answers

Dog's avatar

Do you have fleas? (Not likely if you are not seeing flea-dirt)
Where is she biting primarily?
Do you have a pool?

There are a lot of reasons a dog can itch.
Hopefully Syz will drop by with more info but the questions above will help pinpoint the answer.

We have a dog with food allergies and she gets itchy and red on her underside mostly. We changed to a salmon-based natural food and within 2 weeks she was fine.

dpworkin's avatar

Maybe you dog is responding to allergens. You can try Desiten as topical relief. It’s cheap and it works.

Supacase's avatar

I think that is a normal response for a first visit. Just like with our visits to the doctor, they will work with the most obvious possibility first and go from there instead of doing costly test that may end up being unnecessary.

There are so many things that can cause itching for dogs. Dry skin is a big one as are allergies. Have you changed anything? Food, shampoo, treats, laundry detergent if she sleeps on any sheets or blankets? Have you recently had the carpets cleaned?

AstroChuck's avatar

Sounds like a flea allergy to me.

Dog's avatar

@AstroChuck I was thinking that too- especially if the biting is on the upper back near the tail. Even after the fleas are gone dogs who are allergic can take a couple of weeks to feel better. However @wildpotato says there has been no flea dirt so it may not be an issue.

wildpotato's avatar

If fleas are in the house or on me, my bf, or our cats, no one is showing any signs. She’s not showing any flea dirt that I can identify, except maybe a small amount by her crotch. She’s biting wherever she can reach – but yes, especially on the upper back near the tail. We have no pool, and she wouldn’t touch the water if we did. We haven’t changed her food or treats. We had been using Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, but the vet told us that that can dry out their skin so we switched on Tuesday to the one he told us to try. We use the same detergent as always, and we have no carpets.

Thanks, Dog and ‘Chuck – now I’m thinking it’s probably fleas even though no one else is being bothered and I’m only seeing a tiny bit of what may be flea dirt. Eeew!

syz's avatar

UV doesn’t always work as a determiner of ringworm – it usually only works in cases of heavy fungal loads. A more accurate test is a DTM culture. And while it’s not a guarantee, you are probably correct in your suspicion that it’s not bacterial (or yeast) since there’s no odor associated with the skin. Did your vet check the anal glands during the exam? I’d be surprised if that’s all that’s going on with your dog, but impacted or infected anal glands will often cause dogs to chew, especially around the tail.

Whether or not you feel you have fleas, I’d recommend that you use a product like Advantage or Frontline just in case. You’re probably familiar with the old axiom that one flea bite will make an allergic pet itch for two weeks. Even the rare flea can cause a problem, so it’s worth it to use a product as a preventative.

Pets can be allergic to practically anything and everything and they can develop those allergies at any time in their life – just because a food or a shampoo or anything else has never been a problem in the past is not adequate for ruling them out as an issue.

If using a medicated shampoo and flea prevention doesn’t help, you may want to ask your vet for a referral to a veterinary dermatologist. It’s not cheap, but the vet will definitively rule out possible causes until a probable cause is found (sadly, medicine doesn’t always have a “hard and fast” answer). Dermatology is a “product intensive” field and it gets pricey.

As always, if you’re not comfortable with your vet, a second opinion is not a bad idea. But try to be patient – itchy skin/allergies can be a bear to deal with.

wildpotato's avatar

My bf just got out of the vet with her – fleas it is :o( But they didn’t charge us for the recheck! So I think we are happy with the vet.

But now what? I know I need to clean everything in my house – what about the yard? And the car, oh no! My brother is supposed to use it to move his stuff to college tomorrow! Aaaaaah!

wildpotato's avatar

More info: we hadn’t seen them because they weren’t adult fleas, and it was a mild infestation. I’m so glad we caught it early on. I guess that’s why my cats hadn’t shown any symptoms. Little bloodsuckers are dead now and all animals are wearing flea repellant. Thanks so much for everyone’s input!

syz's avatar

Weren’t adult fleas? Only adult fleas bite. Is this something your vet told you?

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Mine is allergic to fleas and gets the same symptoms. Lots of bathing, treating house and bedding for fleas.

wildpotato's avatar

@syz Yes, that’s what the vet said. He also said that she was having an allergic reaction to the fleas, and that her own scratching was causing as much irritation as they were. But now that you mention it, how could she be having an allergic reaction unless they were biting her?

sandystrachan's avatar

Fleas , mange or scabies it could be allergic to something it has touched . Trip to local vets maybe

wildpotato's avatar

The Dyson Animal vacuum rocks! Thanks, whoever mentioned it in a different thread.

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