Tails of Seattle: A pets blog
Veterinary Q&A: Dogs with dry, itchy skin
Posted by Neena Pellegrini
Question: My 5 1/2-year-old Yorkie/Poo mix is losing her hair. She has dry skin and scratches a lot. I put her on an all-natural-made pet food, and she loves it. Her skin was doing great until the weather started getting colder and drier. I have put Bag Balm and Cortaid on her, use a vet-approved shampoo, brush/comb her daily, add fish oil to her food.
But, she still scratches and is losing her hair. I can't afford the $300 blood test the vet recommended; I can't afford the vet office call for that matter. What can I do at home to ease her itching and scratching?
Answer: If your dog is scratching more in the cold weather, there are three possibilities, and they are not mutually exclusive.
The first is the dryness in some of our forced-air heated homes. This can be combated by using an emollient shampoo and a leave-on conditioner. Purchase one specific for dogs, preferably on your veterinarian's recommendation.
The second is that your dog may have an allergy to indoor allergens - these may be house dust mite, molds, etc. As serum testing and subsequent hyposensitization is not an option, you might try antihistamines, which seem to work in approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of environmentally allergic (the medical term is 'atopic') dogs.
Not all antihistamines are the same, and failure of one to control your pet's discomfort should not dissuade you from trying other.
Each one should be given for one week to see any response -- the fish oil capsules you now are giving your dog may increase the anti-itch effect of the antihistamines.
Antihistamines are NOT benign drugs. While most are safe, they can cause drowsiness or nervousness, and more serious effects are possible if your dog has any liver or heart disease, or is taking other medications.
This is especially important in smaller dogs, to get the correct dosage. For these reasons, these drugs (even the ones that are available over the counter) should be given following the directions of a veterinarian.
The third is fleas. In cold weather, the fleas seek our warmer homes.
They can not always live for long periods, because of the dryness, but they can sometimes live long enough to bite our pets. The more flea allergic a dog is, the less fleas need to bite the dog, and the less likely you will see fleas. So make sure your dog is on a good flea-control program, even in the winter months.
Dr. Stephen White
White has worked as a veterinary dermatologist for more than 3 decades, becoming a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology in 1983. A 1979 graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, he did his internship and residency at Davis as well. He held faculty positions at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, before joining the School of Veterinary Medicine at University of California at Davis as a full Professor in 1998. White has lectured throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. He has published over 80 journal articles. His areas of major interests include cutaneous manifestations of systemic disease, rabbit/rodent dermatology, non-steroidal therapy of auto-immune disease, congenital skin disease, and equine dermatology.
Read our past Q&As:
Veterinary Q&A: Holiday toxins that can hurt your pets
Veterinary Q&A: Itchy skin and hair loss in cats.
Veterinary Q&A: Pancreatitis
Veterinary Q&A: Dementia and senior dogs
Veterinary Q&A: More health issues facing aging dogs
Veterinary Q&A: Eye problems in aging dogs
Veterinary Q&A: Halloween treats and pets
Veterinary Q&A: Health issues facing aging dogs
Veterinary Q&A: Why blood work is necessary
Veterinary Q&A: Are prong collars safe for your dog?
Veterinary Q&A: Birth control for pets
Veterinary Q&A: How to find a good vet
Veterinary Q&A: Neutering your dog Part 2
Veterinary Q&A: Neutering your dog Part 1
Veterinary Q&A: Hyperthyroidism in cats
Veterinary Q&A: Incontinence in dogs
Veterinary Q&A: Hanging tongue syndrome
Veterinary Q&A: Bad breath in dogs
Veterinary Q&A: How much is too much exercise for my dog? Part 2
Veterinary Q&A: How much exercise does my dog need? Part I
Veterinary Q&A: A killer called bloat
Veterinary Q&A: Initial care for new puppies
Veterinary Q&A: Knee problems in dogs
Veterinary Q&A: Flea-control treatment
Veterinary Q&A: Bearded dragon lizards
Veterinary Q&A: Vaccinations for indoor cats
Veterinary Q&A: Lumps and bumps
Veterinary Q&A: More on aging dogs and arthritis
Veterinary Q&A: Aging dogs and arthritis
Veterinary Q&A: Puppy and geriatric exams
Veterinary QA: What dogs can safely chew
Veterinary QA: Why does it cost so much to clean a dog's teeth?
Veterinary QA follow-up: More on cleaning a dog's teeth
Veterinary QA: When to spay or neuter
Do you have a question about pet health? Ask now! We'll pose some of your questions to a local vet in an upcoming post.
Apr 14 - 10:30 AM Get your pet licensed without getting dinged with late fees
Apr 11 - 4:25 PM The cat's meow: Fun events for fans of felines
Apr 3 - 6:00 PM Another salmonella pet-food recall
Mar 31 - 9:25 PM Update: Pet-food recall
Mar 28 - 5:00 PM New study on how diet may impact a dog's sense of smell