Pet Parenting: An itchy scratchy dog

Dear Denise,

My dog is really itchy and I know it’s not fleas or ticks. She keeps leaving little presents of hair all over the house from when she scratches like crazy. Can dogs be allergic like people?

Dear Mama:

Scratching DogIt does sound like your dog could have allergies, but it could also be a medical condition. If the condition persists or worsens, then you should see your vet.

However, to answer your question, yes, pets can have allergies just like humans.

If the allergy has just started, then it could be seasonal (grass, pollen). Talk with your vet about using antihistamines or steroids to get you through allergy season. If this is something that has been going on for a while, then it may be food. That can be trickier to solve.

It could be a food, a filler or a preservative. If you suspect a food allergy, the most common is corn and/or chicken, and I’d suggest trying a different food.

Start by switching to a food that has zero corn. You’ll need to read the entire ingredient label to determine this, as many ‘meat and rice’ foods, still contain corn-based ingredients. If that doesn’t do the trick, try a different protein source. If your protein is chicken, switch to lamb, or vice-versa. You could also simply try a limited ingredient food.

Diagnosing a food allergy with a hit-and-miss system can get tiresome. If you can afford it, the simple solution is to talk with your vet and make an appointment for an allergy test. In the meantime, you can try adding a little oil (olive, safflower, sunflower, etc) to your pets food each day. It probably won’t help the allergy, but it may alleviate some skin dryness and itching, and at least feel a little better until you solve the problem.

Good Luck!

Denise Holmes is a pet behavior counselor with over 25 years of experience. She focuses on family pet training and animal-assisted therapy.  She has consulted with Arkansas Children’s Hospital, helped set up a variety of local programs and produced a CD to help expecting parents introduce the family pet to a newborn,

*Itchy dog photo by Kyall via Flickr