Cause of Dog Skin Itch is Mystery

by Sandra
(MB, Canada)

Our dog named Rider, who is a 1 yr old pure bred Bichon, has been having a very 'ruff' time with his skin. In late March he took a tumble down the stairs but seemed fine. Within a week I was giving him a bath and noticed a large blue/black spot on his skin (side of his body). My first thought was that he was bruised from the fall down the stairs, although there was no signs of tenderness or injury. Shortly after he began to itch and before long he had scratched a bald spot on his side.

The vet visit concluded that he was experiencing allergies, the skin discoloration was due to the scratching and was given an antihistamine. By early April, the medication (which gave Rider relief) had ran it's course and the itching became worse and his black pigmentation has spread to half of his body. Again allergies were the suspected cause, no other problems found. Once I found a pimple-like bump, that did not have puss that I could see; however it eventually produced a tiny scab (about the size of a pin head) and then disappeared.

The medication ran out once more, and I returned to the vet begging for an answer. (He has seen 3 vets now). Another antihistamine/steroid was given and his diet was changed to a Vegetarian, Medi Cal. The new medication had no effect so he went back to the original. There is some relief but he is still constantly scratching! Rider took to the new diet easy enough, however I was advised that it will take up to 12 weeks before it could show signs of doing the trick.

While we have been on this new diet and the same medication, bald spots come and go according to where he is itchiest the most. I have also noticed in this last week that there are more of those pimple like bumps-at least 6-10 of them; they rise up, scab over then disappear. They seem to be itchy however they are not in
the bald spot areas (which are on the right side only and eventually hair grows back).

I am at my wit's end so I can only imagine how poor Rider feels! I hate that his quality of life may be suffering and worry that there is a more serious underlying problem that is not being diagnosed. We have eliminated soaps, food, lotions, etc with no success so far.

Do these symptoms sound familiar? I know allergies can be elusive and Bichons can predisposed to them however there has to be something we can do for him. Any help is appreciated!

Vet Suggestion Mystery Dog Skin Itch and Allergy

Hi Sandra,

It is hard to say from your description alone what exactly your dog is dealing with, but it could certainly be allergies. The fact that he has responded to treatment, but his symptoms keep coming back is pretty typical. Rider could be allergic to certain types of pollen, molds, dust mites, even components of his food.

Many dogs with allergic tendencies develop multiple allergies as time goes on.

You mentioned the fact that you have started a food trial. Make sure that Rider eats ABSOLUTELY nothing other than this new food during the food trial, otherwise it is a waste of time. If you do this and his symptoms do not improve after 3 months or so, you can be fairly sure that a food allergy is not to blame.

Intradermal allergy testing is the best way to determine if Rider is allergic to pollens, molds, dust mites, and other environmental allergens. Your veterinarian could refer you to a board certified veterinary dermatologist who could perform this test, rule out other potential causes for Rider’s symptoms, and come up with an appropriate treatment plan. Keep in mind that if Rider does have environmental allergies, symptomatic treatment (e.g., prednisone, Atopica, medicated baths, etc.) will likely need to continue for the rest of his life. Another option is a regimen of allergy shots that will desensitize Rider to whatever he is allergic to.

Good luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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Itchy Dog Skin

by Su

My son has just got an alsatian cross dog from a rescue centre. She had been there for one year and kept outside in cold damp conditions. She is eight years old, so they told him. she has a terrible dog skin condition.

When he got her she was sore and itchy in her arm pits and inside legs, this is getting better now, but it is all over her paws and haunches.

My son doesn't have a job so is only able to take her to the blue cross for veterinary care. They prescribed antibiotics but say she has had all she can have of these. They also prescribed a dog skin cream, but she just licks it all off. Her skin looks so sore and weeps and bleeds and she looks depressed though is eating, but reluctant to walk far because she is so sore. She is bathed regularly in salt water, a step also recommended by the vet.

Most of her thick, outside, coat has fallen out now. Is there any advice you can give to improve the dogs health? I don't know if the blue cross have run any tests to determine what is causing the problem but i doubt it.



Editor Suggestions - itchy dog skin

Dear Su,

Thank you for your question and sorry to hear about the difficultly you are going through to treat itchy dog skin and other dog skin conditions.

A dogs skin is exposed to many factors which can cause symptoms such as lesions, sores, itching etc. Dogs that have remained outdoors most of the time and those rescued often develop various canine skin conditions due to exposure to various infectious and non infectious agents. Also, not only the skin, but general physiological conditions (normal body function) are affected.

As you said, this dog has been kept in cold damp conditions and has developed sores which are more severely presented in the inner side of the fore and hind limbs. This indicates that it initially started as a fungal infection, which spread to other parts of body as the infection progressed. Also, it is possible that secondary bacterial infections have caused the condition to worsen.

Also, if the veterinarian prescribed antibiotics as the major treatment, it indicates that your dog is not infested with parasites such as mites, fleas etc. It may be only a fungal and secondary bacterial infection causing the dog skin sores and itching.

We suggest that you bath your dog with a medicated anti fungal and anti bacterial shampoo such as Clinical Care Antiseptic and Anti Fungal Shampoo, initially twice a week, and when conditions get better, once a week till complete recovery is achieved.

Additionally, to support skin health and body condition, try some natural remedies and tonics. Two good choices are Skin and Coat Tonic and Immunity and Liver Support.

Feed the dog quality food and take additional care by keeping it indoors most of time. Also be sure to provide the dog with opportunities for regular exercise.

Hopefully, the dog skin conditions such as itchy dog skin will get better over time, but only if you take good care of your dog and follow the aforementioned recommendations.

Please keep us up to date on your dog's condition.

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