Ask the Veterinarian/itching


QUESTION: Both of my dogs spend a great deal of time scratching and biting at themselves. I've tried everything. I used Biospot spot on flea  treatment (I can't afford Frontline we are on a fixed income) I bought no corn, soy, or wheat food, gave them baths..none of this has worked!
Do you know whats going on? My one dog is white and she has red stains on her
One is a mini poodle mix, and the other is a dachsund mix - we got them both from the animal shelter.

ANSWER: Hi there,
are you seeing fleas on them? Are they itching predominantly around the bottom or feet or all over?

Are they predominantly indoors, or do they spend lots of time outside?

For many dogs that have flea allergies, they need a really fast acting product otherwise even small numbers of fleas will drive them batty.

Where do they sleep usually? Do they have access to under the house or down the side of the house? Do you have a backyard with a lawn or lots of leaf litter?

I would love to help, so let me know some details specific to your situation and I'll see if I can assist.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks! They nibble at their feet and rear licking and scratching..they are mostly indoor dogs but spend about an hour a  day outside going potty, etc.
THey sleep strictly indoors.
Yes we have a lawn and leaves.. my Bandit (dachsund mix) already gets shots for allergies about once a year (his eyes get red and he starts to itch constantly) No access to under/side of the house..
If you need more details feel free to ask.
I have flea spray called Adams my vet said I could spray it lightly onthem every 9 days..I got itat Walmart. I don't know if that helps better or not.

ANSWER: Hi there,
sorry for the delay getting back to you, I didn't see your response until today.

If both dogs are itchy, it is unlikely to be seasonal allergies (pollens, grasses, etc) or food allergies, unless it is just a coincidence that you have two itchy dogs.

I keep thinking the problem could still be fleas. I'm not specifically familiar with either of the products you are using, as I'm in Australia and we don't have them here (or not that I know of!).

With our supermarket flea products here, they are generally pretty useless. They are slow to work and most allow fleas to bite up to 200 times before they are killed. So dogs that are very sensitive to fleas are often still being bitten. A dog that has a flea allergy has an allergy to flea saliva, so one flea bite can keep them scratching for up to 2 weeks.

The best flea product in Australia for flea allergies is Capstar (active ingredient is Nitenypram- here in our supermarkets we can get a generic form in supermarkets that is pretty cheap to get) every second day OR Comfortis (spinosad) every month. Comfortis is pretty expensive, particularly with 2 dogs, but it works so much faster (kills 100% of fleas within 30 minutes to 4 hours, rather than 8-24 hours like the other flea products. This is the best product to use for dogs with flea allergies.

If you don't have any cats and need a cheaper option, I would suggest Permoxin ( spray daily. You buy it as a concentrate and dilute 10ml into a 400ml spray bottle and spray it on all over daily. You can use it as a bit of a test (ie spray it on daily then if the scratching improves after 2 weeks, you know for sure its a flea allergy).  I'ts pretty cheap. It actually repels fleas. You can then also tackle the environment (maybe some flea bombs inside?), sweep up leaves, keep lawn short and wash their beds on a hot cycle in the washing machine.

There is an article I wrote here about fleas:

And one about seasonal allergies that might help:

Hope some of that helps.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: None of those flea products ring a bell for in the U.S.
There is a product called Frontline that vets sell and recommend and you can buy it over the counter too.  I just found that out. They have a "generic" version It's called Pet Armor and it would only cost me $10 a month for both my dogs.
It's worth a try!
Thanks for your help!

Hi there,
i would avoid Frontline and get a faster acting one. Frontline takes 24 hours to kill fleas, so it isn't great for flea allergic dogs. You do have a generic form of capstar over there, the active ingredient is Nitenypram, here it is on Amazon ( . You need to give it every 2 days during flea season.

You can get Comfortis in the US, but there is no generic available yet, so it is pretty expensive.

You do have a permethrin concentrate that looks to be the same as our Permoxin. It is here on Amazon:

So to me, the most effective and cheapest way to do it would be to use the permethrin spray every 3 days. Just don't use it if you have cats!

I wouldn't bother with the Frontline for a flea allergic dog, but would save up for some Comfortis.

I'm just in contact with a friend over in the US who may be able to help me work out what products you have that actually do work for our allergic many on Amazon and any that have the active ingredient Fipronil are slow-acting, and many of those sprays, powders and shampoos are pretty ineffective too.

The other product we have here is Advantage, the active ingredient is Imidacloprid, so if you see any generic versions of this, that would be a better monthly product to use than Frontline.

The issue for many pets is that new fleas hatch every couple of days, so if each flea takes up to 24hours to be killed and is biting your pets in the meantime (up to 200 times before it is killed), they can still be driven crazy. The only real way to get rid of fleas in the environment is flea bombs and vacuuming every 3 days. Wash pet bedding on a hot cycle. Sweep up leaves in the yard and keep lawns short.

I will say, I have an indoor cat who has a flea allergy. He never goes outside, we have floorboards and theoretically he should be fine, but if I am just a day late with his Advantage he pulls all his hair out. I probably take flea eggs home on my shoes and bring them into my home that way!

Hope some of that helps. It is challenging!


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Eloise Bright


I am a vet with a special interest in dermatology, particularly allergic dogs and cats, behaviour and acupuncture. I work mainly with dogs and cats. If you are wondering why your pet is still itchy, despite good flea control, or why your dog licks his feet, I may be able to give you some solutions. I'm currently very passionate about behaviour and am doing some further education in this area. So if you have a troubling behaviour with your dog or cat, such as barking, leash reactivity, anxiety or a dog who is a little wild and difficult to control, I may be able to help you with some solutions.


I work in an area of Sydney where we see lots of allergic pets. I think behaviour problems are very common and I help a number of owners find solutions that will restore peace to them and their pets. Currently I enjoy answering questions, providing advice and writing pet care articles for

I graduated as a vet from Sydney Uni in 2006 and have since been completing my Masters in Small Animal Practice and am also updating my skills with a behaviour course through Sydney Uni.

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