Itchy, Scratchy Dogs

Over the years, several of our dogs have suffered from serious skin disorders.   Each time, one or more visits to the veterinarian were necessary.


With Ginny, my beloved Harlequin Great Dane, those vet visits were reversed.  Our wonderful veterinarian, Janet Childs, DVM, came to our home.  Ginny appeared to have many allergies – or sensitivities – and something was always causing her to break out into severe hives.

In 1985, little was known or suspected about dogs having food allergies.  Ginny ate a Purina food with chicken and knowing nothing about healthy, natural dog food versus the grocery store brands like Purina, it never occurred to me that her diet could be the culprit.

My big girl endured allergy testing and 2 ½ years of twice weekly allergy injections, before I accepted the fact that they weren’t helping.  The tests had shown Ginny was allergic to several varieties of grasses and trees, most of which grew on our property.  Back then, they didn’t test for food, because such tests were unreliable.

It was only after I ceased the injections that I began watching what she ate.  I switched her to another brand with lamb and rice as the main ingredients.  Almost immediately, I noticed an improvement in her skin.  The rashes cleared up and the hot spots decreased dramatically in the summer months.

At least, I can take comfort knowing that in the last 5 years of her long life, Ginny was blessed with better health and fewer skin rashes.

Gator, our over-sized Weimaraner, has struggled with skin problems for 5 or 6 years.  With each flare-up, we conduct a food trial for several weeks, trying new dog foods.  Gator’s rashes are often accompanied by gastro-intestinal distress.  We have determined that the dog’s problems are most likely diet-related, but we still don’t know the cause.  He is now on a grain-free diet, and the hives are rampant once more.  We continue to struggle to keep our boy comfortable and find the root of his problem.

Canine skin issues have been the main topic of discussion lately on a couple of pet-friendly groups on Linkedin and has provided many similar stories from participants.  The stories and problems varied, but the consensus was that no one knows for sure how to cure those ugly, painful, itchy skin issues, though many offered suggestions.

Fiona Robertson of New Zealand operates Newflands Fish Oil Products that are made using all natural New Zealand resources.  She says, “Our oil is human grade, not industrial, which is the grade used in some pet foods and other companies’ supplements.  We have excellent quality, which equals pure oil with excellent results.”

“Also, we are species specific, so you know exactly what you are getting and where it is from.”

Fiona told me that they have received very positive feedback from veterinarians who are using the products on clients.

It must be good, since 10 or more veterinary clinics in New Zealand are using her products.  Newflands is searching for a distributor to market the oils in the United States.  I expect I’ll be among the first to try them on my own pets.

Other suggestions I read or received weren’t necessarily backed by professional opinions but were equally interesting.  One dog owner said she gives her dog 2 Omega 3, 1200 mg. fish oil pills a day, plus Claritin because it’s a non-drowsy antihistamine.  She also wipes off the dog’s underbelly and paws when she comes in from the yard.  She feeds her dog Avoderm Dog Food.

Some contributors brought up protein as a potential culprit and suggested the food trials that I use with a meat like rabbit or duck as the protein source.  Such novel proteins are good choices, because the dog hasn’t likely been exposed to them before.

One professional in the pet industry said she once helped treat a dog that was found to be allergic to human dander.  Another person suggested that root vegetables, like sweet potatoes or carrots, keep yeast alive in the dog’s system.  Sugars in the vegetables “feed” the yeast in the dog.

Most everyone agreed with my belief that some ingredient in commercial pet foods cause many of the skin problems we see.

Someone recommended doTerra Pure Therapeutic Grade Lavender Essential Oil Bath for relief.  Others said that Atopica brings relief to itchy dogs.  Yet another suggested an herbal salve including herbs, such as rosemary, beeswax and comfry root.

Dr. Al Plechner, DVM, added his thoughts to our string of comments.  He believes that allergies and food sensitivities come from a hormone antibody imbalance.  “Changing food, supplements and shampoos may be all good and fine for temporary relief for the patient, but please realize that without identifying and correcting the hormone antibody imbalance which is causing the allergies, the day may come when your pet can tolerate NO foods, shampoos or supplements.”

Scott Bullock, managing director at Advanced Rural, Ltd, in Wiltshire, United Kingdom, is dedicated to the UK Pet/Agricultural Industries.  Scott agrees with Dr. Plechner that we pet owners “must get to the crux of the issue.”

He goes on to say that we can wash the dog in Fido’s Emu Oil Shampoo.  According to Scott, “It’s great and well-tested throughout the world.  This product has worked on numerous occasions in my experience and would recommend it to anyone with this sort of problem.”

I don’t know if that product is available in the United States, but I’m definitely going to look for it.

Ideas were many, and we pet owners must keep trying to find the cause of our animals’ suffering.  If any readers have other suggestions, please add your comments below.


One thought on “Itchy, Scratchy Dogs

  1. Karen Anderson

    Laney Poire, the Executive Director with Crowley Museum and Nature
    Center will be hosting an interesting talk/open discussion/cooking demo concerning raw, home cooked and commercial foods for our Canine Pals health on Feb. 23rd, Saturday from 2 to 4 pm. $ 15. at the
    Crowley Museum and Nature Center in the Folk School classroom.
    A quick note about Laney – She is a New College Grad and earned her masters degree from Goddard, VT in comparative nutritional therapeutics, clinical and holistic, and specializing in the
    rebalancing of diets. In Seattle, WA she worked with vets and emergency clinics making custom therapeutic diets. She has also manufactured and sold therapeutic diets and has been working with Vets and Rescue Groups here in Sarasota, many of which I’m
    sure you are familiar with. There will be a short power point presentation as well as open discussion during the demonstrations in the beautiful Crowley Folk School Screenhouse which is a comfortable outdoor classroom and kitchen. Your dogs, on leash, are welcome to join us. (please, one well behaved, per person)
    Please consider joining us for this program and also see what else
    Crowley has to offer. There are some fantastic things going on in the
    “Old Florida” pristine woods! Hopefully there will be more of these programs as the discussions evolve and more people become interested. Feel free to invite anyone/everyone that is interested in the health of our animals.
    If your ‘re not familiar with Crowley Museum and Nature Center yet,
    please take a look at the Web site.
    Go to; – Folk School – Register – The classes with
    dates and times are listed there as well as directions.
    Call me if you have questions and
    hopefully I can answer them for you!!
    Hope to see you there.
    Karen ( Gus, Spinone Italiano and Carrie Rose, Lab )
    Home 941 924 4133
    Cell 941 374 3766
    At the Crowley Folk School on the Museum and Nature Center’s Campus. Inside scoop on Pet Foods.
    Commercial Pet Foods – Home Cooked Diets – Cooking Demonstration
    Includes taste-testing and doggie bag for one, on leash, well-socialized behaved dog per participant. $15.


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