Is Your Dog Itchy?

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Approximately 10% of dogs are supposed to be genetically prone to become sensitized to allergens in the environment.

Some of the breeds predisposed to developing allergies include Shar-Peis, Wirehaired Fox Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Dalmatians, Boxers, Boston Terriers and Labrador Retrievers.

The age of beginning of the clinical signs is commonly between 6 months and 3 years.

itchy dog

Atopic dermatitis is an over-sensitivity to allergens that may easily lead to intense itchiness and scratching. The majority of atopic dogs experience itching during certain seasons, when flowers or trees are flourishing and producing pollens. Other atopic dogs will have complications all year long, which mean that the allergen is continually present, or that the dog has developed several allergies.

Atopic Dermatitis

Boxers can be allergic to numerous substances (allergens), including plant particles and other substances in the air or ingredients in food. Allergens are elements that, when inhaled or absorbed through the skin, respiratory tract, or gastrointestinal tract, induce histamine production, which results in inflammation.

Itching is the most classic sign. The feet, face, ears, front legs, and abdomen are the habitually affected zones, but scratching all over the body is also common. Other signs of atopy include licking or chewing the paws and rubbing the face and eyes. Occasionally dogs can have respiratory signs in addition to the pruritus.

Finding the Cause

Diagnosis is not easy. Your dog may be allergic to a number of different things with the result being the same: too much itching and scratching. So, the diagnosis is based on the existence of clinical signs and ruling out other causes of pruritus (flea allergy dermatitis or food allergies).

To find the particular allergen responsible for your dog’s itching, allergy tests will be required. Allergy tests deliver a specific diagnosis in nearly 80% of cases.

The traditional allergy test is called intra-dermal allergy testing. It consists of injecting a small amount of an allergen into the skin. If the body produces a reaction to the allergen, the dog is allergic to that substance.

A more recently established allergy test is called IgE allergy testing. It implies to obtain a blood sample which is tested for the existence of IgE antibodies against specific allergens. If it contains a high number of these IgE antibodies, an allergy is acknowledged to exist.


After the allergens are identified, it may be possible to desensitize the dog to the upsetting allergens. These process is called immunotherapy or hypo-sensitization. A specific allergy serum is prepared in a specialized laboratory according to the results of your dog’s allergy tests and is administered to him in a series of shots.

These shots will “reprogram” the dog’s immune system and lessen its hypersensitivity. For about 50 % of the treated dogs, these “allergy injections” result in considerably reduced itching. Allergy shots have few adverse effects, however, they are very slow to work. It may be six to twelve months before enhancement is seen. After primary protection, a sporadic booster may have to be given.

Antihistamines can be used with safety in dogs. In the majority of dogs they work very well in controlling symptoms of allergic skin disease. Examples of antihistamines usually used for dogs include Benadryl®, Atarax® and Zyrtec®.

Cortisone products such as prednisone, prednisolone, and dexamethasone decrease itching by reducing inflammation. These medications have a lot of side effects, so they need to be used cautiously in treating skin allergies.

[box style=’doc’]If necessary, your veterinarian will make a cortisone administration protocol adjusted to your dog clinical signs.[/doc]

Cyclosporine (Atopica®) is an oral medication that seems to be effective at reducing the inflammation accompanying skin allergies and calming the immune system of the affected dog.


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Omega fatty acids (NaturVet Salmon Oil Gel Caps®) may provide some relief for dogs with allergic skin disease. These fatty acids have natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties.

NaturVet Salmon Oil Gel Caps

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Antibiotics may be necessary when a secondary bacterial skin infection is present.

In atopy cases, dogs may benefit from frequent bathing with hypoallergenic shampoos (Epi-Soothe Shampoo®). Investigation demonstrated that some allergens are absorbed through the skin. So frequent bathing may help lessen the quantity of allergen that the dog absorbs. Additionally, some medicated shampoos contain elements that calm injured skin and reduce inflammation.


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Moreover if you know to what are the allergens that your dog is allergic to, avoidance is one of the best methods of control. For example, molds can be reduced by using a dehumidifier.