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For the love of you pet: Scratching causing problem

By By John Beck
March 14, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 13, 2013 at 10:14 p.m.


My dog is scratching all the time. I have taken her to the vet multiple times and have gotten all kinds of medications. She has been on antibiotics, antihistamines, antibiotics, medicated shampoos, etc. She still scratches whether she is on medication or not. It seems that the medications were helpful at first but now don't seem to be helping. Do you have any advice on what I can do to give my poor dog relief?

I'm sorry to hear about your dogs scratching problem. Besides making your dog miserable, I'm sure it is driving you up the wall as well. When dogs continually scratch, regardless of medications, you are usually dealing with a chronic inhalant, contact or food allergy. There are many ways to tackle your allergy problem. One is allergy testing.

This is the ideal way to find out what your pet is having trouble with. Your vet will draw a few milliliters of blood and send them off to an allergy testing company. This company can run tests for common regional allergies, food allergies and allergies to insects. They send a report back to your veterinarian that shows how sensitive your dog is to each of these things. You then can have a serum made by the allergy company that is given to your pet in a series of injections.

You start off giving them approximately once or twice a week and might be able to dwindle down to a couple times a month. These injections usually provide the best results you will get. This process can be a little costly, but considering the amount you would spend trying to 'blindly' manage the allergy over the rest of the dog's life, you are probably better off going in this direction.

If your report comes back as a food allergy, then you can eliminate that food item (i.e. chicken, beef, etc.) from your pet's diet. If you or your veterinarian suspects your dog has a food allergy and the allergy testing is not something that you can afford to have done at this time, a food trial can be done as well.

In a food trial, you look at the main source of nutrients in your current pet's diet. You then decide on a different source (a novel protein) to begin feeding your dog. Novel proteins include rabbit, venison, duck, salmon, buffalo, etc. You begin feeding these proteins and only these proteins to see if your pet begins to get some relief. There are two problems with food trials.

First, you can only feed the newly selected food. No human food or treats that are not made out of the same protein. Secondly, it often takes two or three months before results are evident. After the three months or so you will know whether the food is beneficial.

If not, you can then pick a different protein source and start again. If you opt for allergy testing, the food section will report what your dog is or isn't allergic to and then you can pick an appropriate food the first time. You will still need to feed only that food to avoid any future flare ups.

If you have any questions concerning allergy testing or food allergies, please feel free to contact me.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at drjohnbeck@hotmail.com.

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