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Dogs/Shitzu, itching


We live in Thailand and have a 3year old Shitzu girl. Periodically she has terrible itching problems over weeks, mainly back, tail end, feet and chin. No apparent parasites.
We (Vet) tried special flea&tick treatments, "no chicken meat" diets, mites, she had ear fungus which was treated and seemed to help. Vet thought this spreads via claws to skin. Then after a few weeks it starts again. During that time she leaks around eyes and belly, turning her fur red.Anti hystamines don't help much.
This usually stops after 3 weeks or so and then returns every few months.

I feel sorry for her, she sleeps with me and itches all night. I don't want to start a massive antibiotics venture that the Thais love so much without actually knowing what is wrong.
Your advice would be much appreciated.


Hi Marco,

I really wish I could help you, but until the cause of the itch is identified, you will only be treating the itchy symptoms, not the actual problem, and the itching will always return.

In dogs, food allergies account for just 10% of all allergies, it's the third most common allergy, well behind fleas and atopic allergies (also called atopic dermatitis). Atopic dermatitis is the result of a dog becoming too sensitive to one or more allergens in the environment:

• House dust mites
• Pollens
• Mold spores
• Occasionally foods

If it hasn't yet been done, your vet should do a skin scrape test to check for microscopic skin mites, called "demodex", or demodectic mange. This is treatable once the presence of mites are confirmed.

You didn't say if you are in the habit of bathing your dog on a regular basis. Bathing a dog too often will dry it's skin of it's natural oils, and cause itching. If this is the case, stop bathing your dog!

As far as cutting Chicken based food out of your dog's diet, that isn't a hypoallergenic diet. Your dog still could be having a food allergy. When you try a "food trial" to see if the dog has a food allergy, a hypoallergenic diet is fed for a set period of time, usually 8-10 weeks (or longer). The traditional food trial uses a "novel” source protein and carbohydrate, meaning you must feed your dog something she has never eaten before. These days there are grain-free diets containing Fish, Duck, or even Buffalo as the protein source to choose from. It's impossible to guess at which ingredient might be the cause of the problem. There are "over the counter" dog foods that are available for this purpose, or you can buy a hypoallergenic diet from your vet's office. I realize you're in Thailand, so you might not have the dog food brand options to choose from that are available in the USA. If your vet can't provide you with a hypoallergenic diet, get back to me and I'll suggest homemade options.

During the food trial, is important that that no unnecessary medications be given. No edible chew toys (such as rawhides or bones) should be given. Treats must be based on the same food sources as the test diet.

You've said you've tried antihistamines, but you didn't say which one. Dogs have individual reactions to antihistamines, some dogs will respond better to one than another. It is best to try more than one antihistamine before giving up on them to control itching. Ask your for vet for dosing information. Along with an over the counter antihistamine, some dogs with allergies are helped by an Omega 3 Fatty Acid supplement. The best source of Omega-3 for dogs comes from cold water fish such as Hoki and Salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids can also come in liquid or capsule form, which can be added to a dog’s food. Like other "nutraceuticals", an Omega 3 Fatty Acid supplement would have to be given daily for at least 6-8 weeks before results may be seen.

You said you didn't want to give your dog antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to control skin infections associated with scratching. The itching leads to scratching, which damages the skin. The damaged skin is easier for bacteria to grow in. The bacteria then contribute to the itching, leading to more skin damage. As this cycle progresses, deeper and deeper layers of the skin are affected, sometimes leading to systemic bacterial infections that can even be fatal. When these antibiotics fail, it is necessary to culture the skin lesions to identify which antibiotic might be appropriate in an individual case. You should reconsider your position on the use of antibiotics.

In addition to the oral medications, you can apply Witch Hazel, or 100% pure Aloe Vera gel directly to your dog's itchy areas the itch to help cool and soothe skin irritations. Neither will hurt your dog if they're licked off.

Another thing to try for itch relief is to fill a bath with two inches of cool water and Epsom salts (about a quarter-cup per 1 quart of water). Let the dog stand in the water and soak his feet for a minimum of ten minutes. It's important to dry your dog's feet, use a blow drier for this (rubbing them dry will aggravate the itch). Alternatively, you could also soak your dog's feet in a Baking Soda solution - 4 tablespoons baking soda to 1 quart cool water.

When itching can not be adequately controlled by one of the above methods, vets usually turn to a corticosteroid, such as prednisone. Though these medications can have serious side effects when used for the long term, cortisones can be the best drugs to make an extremely itchy dog comfortable.

I hope I've been a help.
Best of luck,



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To date, I've owned 7 dogs, all of which have lived into old age. Having cared for them in all stages of life, I feel I can offer sound advice to other pet owners, and people considering getting a dog. I am knowledgeable about the AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds, training and exercise, caring for sick and elderly pets, feeding, as well as many holistic treatments pets can benefit from. My only request is that you write me using standard English and punctuation.


My life experience in this field is more like "on the job training" rather than an actual degree in animal welfare. You may benefit from my experiences over the past 30 years. Aside from the dogs I've owned, I'm also involved in "breed rescue" and have fostered several dogs, all of which have been adopted to wonderful "forever homes". I find helping people who want a dog very rewarding.

Real life experience, based on over 30 years of dog ownership.

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