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Ask the Veterinarian/Coco: itching, scratching, biting


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Coco outter thigh  

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Coco tail  
I have a 3yr old female Pitbull/Lab Mix. She is strictly an indoor dog. She has always had issues with scratching here and there. However, for the past 2 weeks it has become increasing significant. We have switched her dog food to all natural. We have bought medicated shampoo from local pet stores including: coconut, aloe vera, and hotspot shampoo. Due to her scratching,biting, and licking she has: fur missing from head to tip of her nose, red spots and bumps, scabs and bleeding. last we took her to the vet because of this they informed us that it might be food allergies and to switch her food. We have done that numerous times and still the same result-except worse now. They did a test for mange- not mange. I need answers before I go to spend a ton of money at the vet. Thanks!

Hi Dana,
Mostly I have questions that need to be answered. Firstly, is your dog spayed? Unspayed females can have many hormonal problems that can cause hair loss, or alopecia, which is what it looks like she has. Also, did the vet give her anything at all? Steroids? An injection?

Secondly, food allergies and food intolerance are two different things. A food labeled "All Natural" by law only has to abide by certain rules to mean that.

What does that mean anyway? Unless your food is labeled certified organic, or has no chemicals at all in the ingredient list, or has no preservatives except Vitamin E or C as preservatives, then the food is not really "all natural." If it is a commercial food such as Beneful, Wild Blue or Wilderness, it can say one thing but really contain something else. How? Because of pet food labeling laws and the fact that most dog foods on the mass market are made from the cheapest ingredients on the docks that day. Yes, 90% of pet food has imported ingredients.

The ONLY way you will really know if she has a food intolerance is to put her on a strict NOVEL protein diet for a month minimum. You can tell in three weeks if your dog is doing better or worse on a specific food.

Now that means you need to buy a controlled food such as Hills Z/D which is an ultra- hypoallergenic food or a food such as Waltham's Rabbit and Potato or Venison and Sweet Potato.

Your dog needs to be on a food she has never eaten before with ZERO treats, ZERO human food, etc for a full three to four weeks. If her condition clears up significantly, then you know that she is having problems with her past food. If there is no improvement, or very little, then it's not necessarily a food issue.

Fleas, dry skin, dry temperatures, wool rugs, cigarette smoke, wood stove smoke, these are all things that can cause inhalant allergies in dogs and that causes itching, chewing and major skin infections. These things are MORE common than food allergies.

My suggestion would be to start the novel trail elimination diet, add some melted coconut oil to her food daily (about a teaspoon only) and see how she does in 3 weeks.

As I said, this will give you a good starting point. In the meantime double check her for fleas (she picks them up outside when she potties or you can carry them in- either way they will find her!) and also look around the house for things that could cause these skin issues.

Pick up any wool or nylon carpets or rugs. Throw out all treats. Get her started on the novel protein diet and keep notes on what happens.

It hope that this helps her. It's a start. When you get some answers from the elimination diet let me know.  

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 42 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love. I also Teach Veterinary Technology to working technicians who are studying to take their California Tests to become Licensed Technicians. They have to take both the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Exam) and the California boards.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.


Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 1500 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

Awards and Honors
Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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