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1/19/13

Put a Stop to Dog Scratching and Gnawing

If you are dealing with the annoyance of a constantly scratching, gnawing, and licking dog it's probably driving you crazy. One of the most common problems among dogs, which rears its ugly head during the summer is skin allergies and irritation.

The evidence of skin irritation or allergies in your dog may be indicated by their gnawing and scratching, or may even show up in the luster and length of their coat. Some cases of dog skin irritation and allergy can become so profound that the dog injures his or her own skin in an attempt to get at that itch.



So, if you think it is irritating to you. How do you think a dog with skin allergies and irritations feels? It must be a miserable feeling. Imagine if you had an itch you couldn't scratch, or scratched so hard that it became infected or inflamed. The same can happen to your dog.

Identifying dog allergies

I was unaware that dog allergies could cause scratching and gnawing on skin, until our Golden Retriever, Bailey, started incessantly gnawing. We checked her for fleas and ticks and found nothing, so it was time for a trip to the vet, at which time we were informed that Bailey has skin allergies.

According to our vet, skin allergies are quite common in the South. Pollen storms seem to irritate dogs as much as they do people, but instead of getting the sniffles, dogs get irritated skin.

The vet gave us a prescription antihistamine to soothe itching and irritation. It was very effective and we were able to back off from an everyday dose to every other day to keep Bailey from being miserable.

Symptoms of dog allergies

Symptoms of dog allergies are easy to identify because they tend to annoy humans. Dog allergies to inhalants are often identified by ceaseless scratching, chewing at feet, gnawing at armpits and licking of what appears to be hot spots. Gnawing on flank and groin are also tell-tale signs of allergies.

If your dog rubs their head or body on the ground, it may be a symptom of allergies, or it could also be a sign of mites. This symptom is an indication that your dog should see a vet as soon as possible. Whether it is caused by mites or allergies, this symptom can lead to serious infection.

It's best to see a veterinarian if you see these symptoms in your dog, because there are numerous causes of dog allergies.

Causes of dog allergies that cause scratching and gnawing: pollen

Unfortunately, the vet said there was no cure for dog allergies, although the symptoms could be treated. The viability of treatment depends, in large part, on the cause of the allergy.

The same substances that cause allergies in humans to flare-up can cause dog allergies and begin a routine of scratching, gnawing, and licking. Dog allergy inducing substances include pollen, dust mites, and molds. These allergens are easier to identify than some others.

Pollen allergies will occur regularly at specific times of year. One of our Beagles, Scooby, is plagued by allergic reactions and sunburn on his tender skin every year. He does best when bathed regularly and kept out of direct sunlight. When Scooby's gnawing and scratching tears his tender skin, a triple antibiotic, analgesic medication usually helps him heal.

It has not been veterinarian recommended, but Scooby's case of skin allergies and the subsequent gnawing and scratching are so severe that we have given him very small doses, for example half a pill tucked in a treat, of Benadryl for his own relief.

This is administered with care, because we do not want to over sedate him or cause additional problems.

Causes of dog allergies that cause scratching and gnawing: mold and dust

If allergic dog gnawing, licking, and scratching occur year-round, the problem may be dust or mold allergies.

A skin test can be performed by the vet to determine exact allergies, but often circumstantial evidence and an examination is enough information for your vet to determine if your dog has skin allergies.

Treatment for skin allergies that cause dog gnawing, licking, chewing, and scratching

One of the first things you can do to help your dog is keep him or her bathed and clean. If your dog's skin is appears red or irritated and your dog has been scratching and gnawing try adding a little colloidal oatmeal to the bath. It will help soothe your dog's skin.

Do not apply sprays and ointments that have not been approved by the vet. They may prove harmful to your dog.

Allergy shots are an expensive, but viable treatment for your dog. The time it takes for shots to become effective and the amount of relief they offer may make you want to really give this hard consideration before beginning your dog on an allergy shot regime.

As in humans, corticosteroids can help relieve itching and inflammation in dogs. Bailey was first treated with corticosteroids to reduce her sudden onset of allergies. Corticosteroids have to be administered in precise amounts, exactly as directed. The dog must be tapered off of the medication as directed by the vet. Corticosteroids affect nearly every function of the dog's body. It is dangerous to administer corticosteroids then suddenly stop them. Long term use of corticosteroids is not advised, and many vets will use this only as a last resort to get a case of severe allergic reaction under control.

As mentioned above, over the counter antihistamines can work well to help reduce your dogs allergies and put a stop to the scratching and gnawing. It is best to check with your vet to find out which otc antihistamines are safe for your dog and the appropriate dosage amount.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids seem to contribute to healthy skin development in dogs. Dog specific formulas of these fatty acids can be found in local pet supply stores or ordered online.
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