Dog Skin Allergies – My Itchy Dog

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Have you had to deal with Dog Skin Allergies?

This is my first dog that I know of with dog allergies.

I’m sure our past dogs may have had minor allergies that went unnoticed.

However, Stetson’s dog skin allergies are very irritating for him and definitely require the attention of a vet.

Stetson and Linus are so different in many ways.

People often say they look like brother’s, but if you look closely or are accustomed to distinguishing the differences in two breeds you’ll know they do not have the same mama or papa.

Stetson is a pure-bred Black Labrador Retriever bred for the Guide Dog program and career changed just over a year ago.

Linus is from the shelter and is presumed to be an Australian Shepherd mixed with possibly a Chow, maybe some Lab, possibly some Husky…we really don’t know.

He may be a good candidate for one of those breed identification tests.

There are many other differences, but today I wanted to talk about the difference in their health and visits to the vet.

Our Aussie Mix Linus Was A Healthy Boy. Black Dog walking with Golden In Background
Our Aussie Mix Linus Was A Healthy Boy

Our Healthy Aussie Mix Rescue Pup

When we first picked up Linus from the shelter he was very sickly and tired.

He was covered in fleas, anemic, had a stomach infection, worms, and basically didn’t want to move his first couple days home.

We cleaned him up, got him meds from the vet, and ever since he has been a very healthy dog.

UPDATE: Our beloved Linus passed on May 7, 2018. He was 13 1/2 years old and will always have a place in my heart.

Our Not So Healthy Lab

Stetson came from a sterile environment and was perfectly healthy when we picked him up.

He did require the regular vaccinations (Linus went through the same series of vaccinations), but that’s where similarities ended.

Stetson has had at least four trips to the vet for ear infections, four trips to the vet for his dog skin problems, and two trips to the vet for injuring his foot.

While I don’t consider this a lot of visits it’s a steep contrast compared to Linus’s yearly checkups.

Dog Skin Allergies

That brings us to our visit with the veterinarian the other day for Stetson’s latest run in with his dog skin allergy.

As I mentioned earlier Stetson has already been to the vet several times for this dog skin condition.

In response we changed his food to Natural Balance Duck and Potato Allergy Formula.

We thought that helped, but later this summer realized Stetson’s skin was red and irritated again…thus our latest visit to the vet.

Here’s what we were told about Dog Skin Allergies and Stetson’s condition.

  • No ear infections which commonly occurs from allergies – good news!
  • Red irritated skin and scabs are a result of allergies and bacteria setting in as a result of allergic reaction
  • Could be mites – Derby had Demodex also known as mange not long ago which was very nasty.  After looking under the microscope the vet said she didn’t see any mites, but they could still be causing the allergies
  • It’s probably not from his food since we have him on Natural Balance Duck and Potato Allergy Formula
  • The most likely culprit is fleas. We’re not diligent about giving Stetson flea medication only applying his Frontline plus during the warmer months.
  • She said it could be, but most likely wasn’t ring worms. She checked under a black light and didn’t see ring worms.

She concluded that the skin allergies were most likely caused by fleas and recommended we keep Stetson on a strict flea prevention schedule.

She started us out with a flea and mite medication just in case the mites were causing Stetson’s allergies.

We went home with a topical medication called ProMeris and antibiotics called Cephalexin to clear up Stetson’s skins.

UPDATE: More recently we’ve used Frontline Plus topical medication to keep the fleas and ticks at bay.

She Stetson should be clear of his allergies within a couple weeks and if not we have to head back to the vet.

Stetson our allergy dog - black lab sad eyes
Stetson our allergy dog

Eeeeekkk…and the vet bill was almost $200…lucky for us a couple months ago we won a $200 gift certificate to our vet at the Orange County Super Pet Adoption at the Irvine Animal Care Center, but it really got us to thinking is it time to go Pet Insurance for Stetson and Linus?

Are you dealing with dog skin allergies?

If so, how do you treat it?

I’ve also actually heard that my aunt treats her dogs with simply a mixture of vinegar and water.

I’ll have to check in with her and find out how that works and report back.

UPDATE: We wrote a follow up article that goes over the many remedies we tried with Stetson to try and clear up his allergies. Guess what? There’s a happy ending here. Check out: Dog Skin Problems – 10 Remedies To Help Alleviate An Itchy Dog

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35 Comments

  1. I have a pitbull with environmental skin allergies. I switched her diet to grain free food and every morning I give her a capsule of fish oil (1,000mg) and I add virgin organic coconut oil (about 4 tsp) to her food. They recommend 1tsp per 10 lbs. But you should build up to it a little at a time. Do not feed all at once. Once in awhile I add a raw egg to her food as well. I also apply coconut oil topically to her skin when she gets a rash. It has really helped. Except make sure you put it on areas she can’t lick because they do enjoy the taste. I also bathe her using Vita-soothe aloe and oatmeal shampoo, but I add neem powder (you can find at Indian supermarkets) and neem oil (you can find at natural food stores). I add about 12 drops of neem oil to her shampoo and about 1/2 tsp of neem powder everytime I bathe her. Neem oil smells bad but the smell will not linger on your dog. I also use neem oil on her skin topically but she hates it, but it does help her skin. To rinse her I use an oatmel rinse. I soak the oatmeal for a few mintutes in warm water and I add 1 tsp of coconut oil. When the oatmeal is soft I blend it and add warm water to it as well as 1/2 cup of milk and soymilk. Add just enough water to get her wet and rinse her afterwards. I do not use just plain water when I bathe her. It’s a lot of work, but it has really helped. I’ve noticed a lot less itching and she’s worth it.

    1. It looks like your doing everything right for your baby Luisana, pitbulls and bulldogs are known for their over abundance of yeast, try giving him probiotics to balance out the yeast in his system, also you could try the neem shampoo at hennahut.com or the Sulfadene medicated shampoo that has sulfa in it to kill yeast.

  2. If you or anyone else are dealing with dog skin allergies, try Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength shampoo.

    My dog suffered for years and I spent thousands of dollars trying to get him relief. We saw top vets, tried different diets, allergy shots, everything. Though an allergic reaction or a flea bite might start the problem, the skin gets worse because of a yeast or fungal infection. The vets seem to focus on dishing out antibiotics or antihistamines, even steroids, but none of those are gonna break the cycle of what’s happening to the skin.

    It was pure dumb luck that we tried this medicated shampoo but I’m very grateful that my dog got to live the last half of his life without being miserable. His skin went from being red, smelly and almost weeping to drying up, healing and his coat grew back in. I started by shaving the fur surrounding the affected area. I would give him a bath and allow the shampoo lather to stay on him for at least 5 minutes. Then I’d rinse him off and shampoo him again, leaving the suds on for a shorter period of time. Then I’d rinse him really well and dry him completely with a towel and a hair dryer. From what I remember it seemed like day and nite, but I’m sure we repeated this process more often initially and then less as his skin cleared up and his coat was growing in. I’ll admit that I am nervous about posting this info online cuz I’d hate for any dog to have a negative reaction to the shampoo, so please test it out on a small area first & run it by your vet. Ask your vet about testing for yeast or fungal infection. But I promise you, we tried EVERYTHING before this and the poor guy suffered for many years. Wearing a cone was a daily routine for him. It was not until we tried the stupid dandruff shampoo that he was able to become a normal dog again. .

    1. We have a six year old rough collie who has had skin issues for at least the last for years. His annual shots always caused him great distress for several days. We used frontline and when that didn’t work for the fleas we tried advantix, but he still would have so many bites and hot spots, that we discontinued the treatments and just used flea comb daily. We used Organic Apple cider vinegar for the hot spots, which helped alot, but he still had flaky skin and fur coming out. We gave him a bath two weeks ago with head and shoulders clinical strength shampoo. We used about half the bottle and kept it lathered for 10minutes before rinsing. His skin has no sores and he has not been itching. This is the only thing that has worked for us. It did seem to slightly discolor his white, but that’s a small price to pay to see him feeling so much better. Thanks for letting us know about this. It sure worked for our collie.

      1. Hi Dianna,

        I’m glad your dog is feeling better. Thanks for letting us know that the head and shoulders clinical strength worked for you.

        Take care,
        Colby

  3. Hallo. I’ve posted that I feed my 9-month-old Lab a raw diet on another page on this website. But I want to post it again because it amazes me that so many people (me included before I started feeding Snowie raw food) think that they do not know how to feed their dog. We think that a pellet is the best thing, and if we dare venture out and feed our dog regular food we think might do him or her harm! Who has been feeding us this rubbish information? 40 years ago my parents cooked up a pot of food for the dogs and that is what they ate. And they lived happily until they reached the ends of their lives. Then, in recent time, we’ve been persuaded by vets and dog food companies that we are clueless when it comes to feeding our pets, and if we don’t feed them pellets, we will do them grave harm. Well, I was chatting to a pharmacist who has now left the chemist business and entered the lucrative dog food and supplies business, and he told me that vets are no longer service providers but are now retailers, and they make a LOT of money from selling dog food. So it’s in your vet’s best interests to sell you a bag of pellets otherwise its their livelihood on the line. You just need to decide whether your dog or vet’s livelihood is more important. The only vet I have met who insisted that raw food is best is a vet who did locums and did not run her own business, so she had no vested interest in selling dog food.

    It is SO easy to feed raw. I buy raw meaty pork bones, raw chicken carcasses, raw chicken necks, and raw chicken wings, and I feed Snowie a mix of these over a month. He gets 900 gm of meat/bones per day, divided up in the day: for breakfast he gets a raw chicken carcass (300 gm), for lunch a raw meaty pork bone (300 gm), and for dinner some wings, or necks, or another carcass (300 gm). I also add raw veg and fruit to two of his meals, eg chopped raw spinach, lettuce, celery stalks and leaves, raw green beans, cooked butternut, pear and apple cores and the ends of strawberries (after we’ve used them for fruit salad) etc (NO bread, rice or potatoes) and I also add a TINY amount (a sliver) of garlic and a splash of flax seed oil, on occassion I also add a raw egg or some plain yoghurt, and I add some water just to mix up the juices and encourage him to eat the veg. I can tell you, he needs no encouragement to polish the bowl clean! And I love the fact that it takes him a while to eat his food cos he has to chew the bones. The raw meaty pork bone keeps him occupied for about 30-45 minutes, and then he continues to gnaw on the bit of bone that is left the rest of the afternoon. This has saved my furniture and garden a lot of damage! And it gives me time to work and do other things other than entertain him. And after a meal, he is sleepy and needs to rest from all that chewing. And the bones in his food makes his poos small and hard — they pop out like bullets when he poos and are so easy to pick up. And subsequently his anus is very clean and he has no anal gland problems.

    Why would you want to spend so much money on canned and bagged food when a raw diet is easier and healthier, and in some cases cheaper? Since being on the raw diet, Snowie’s eyes are clearer (they used to be oozy) and he scratches less. He did have some fleas a month ago and chewed his skin where they bit him. I did put on Advantix — although now I read that Lori says this is really bad. He really inflamed his skin by chewing away at the fleas, so I will investigate the alternatives to the chemicals for keeping fleas off him.

    Regarding buying the raw food, I buy it once a week at the dog club where we go for dog training. It’s sourced by a dog trainer so I know he’s getting the right kinds of bones, but there’s nothing stopping you from going to your butchery. I’m vegetarian so I have no clue when it comes to dead animal parts, so it’s easier to trust the dog trainer’s choice of meaty bones.

  4. I bought my dog a doggy life jacket at petsmart, it is stiff enough that he cant turn aroung a chew on his tail or back end, and he also cant scratch his ears or ribs, but he can still go potty, move and sleep comfortably, and go in and out the doggy door. I put in on him when I can’t be there to watch him, like when I go to work. I also bought him probiotics by GNC called “ultra mega digestive health complex” and also “seasonal allergy support” made by Vets Best. I feed him Natures Domain salmon and sweet potato grain free dog food and I sprinkle fresh chopped chicken on top twice a day with his 2 pills above, I wrap a piece of chicken around each pill. For his itchy spots I use “burn Jel” because its has lidocaine in it which numbs the itchy spot, it also has tea tree oil which is an anti-bacterial agent and vitamin E. I wash him with sulfodene medicated shampoo which has sulfa and coal tar for itching. I have been doing this for about a month now and he hardly bites or scratches lately, he still does once or twice a day, which is not nearly as much as he used to.

    UPDATE:
    I don’t use the GNC Allergy Support anymore because even after I thought he was getting better he had another breakout with hives, so now I’m trying Nuvet to boost his immune system, and I don’t sprinkle chicken on his food anymore, I give him freshpet dog food sprinkled on top of his Natures Domain dry food, it was getting hard to give him his pills so now I stick them in a bite of frozen yogurt, and I ordered a Thundershirt for him to replace the doggie life jacket thats falling apart. if the Nuvet doesn’t work then I’m going to consider the Atopica as a last resort.

    1. Hi Barbara,

      It sounds like your doing a lot for your dog and his allergies. We’ve been doing the same for Stetson. The two things that have worked I really don’t like using. Our vet has prescribed Prednisone which relieved Stetson’s itching and cleared up his skin, but our vet said that it’s only temporary and not a long term solution plus it made Stetson thirsty and he was peeing a lot. The second was Atopica which made Stetson nauseous. Thanks for all the tips! We’re still trying to come up with a best solution for Stetson and if we find something that really works we’ll report back here on the blog.

      Take care,
      Colby

    2. Barbara, Your dog is going to continue to itch and have problems regardless of what you are doing unless you change his diet. Dogs are carnivores they cannot digest vegetables most have allergies to them. Kibble is loaded with garbage (additives, preservatives, carbs and a lot of other junk) You are probably making matters worse with trying one thing after another instead of eliminating the problem.

      Prednisone will only mask the problem just like pain pills do but it will not clear up anything, it will only cause major secondary problems! As soon as you stop the prednisone the problem will return.

      Vaccinations are the no 1 cause of allergies and skin issues in dogs!

      1. Thanks Lori, I have changed his diet several times in process of elimination trials, I have tried only chicken for a few months, then only beef, then grain free canned expensive dog food with duck, turkey, venison, buffalo, pork, all with limited ingredients for allergy prone dogs. All that along with Enzymes and probiotics to help digest in case it was the food that he had the problem with, and even “red” krill oil suppliments. I’m convinced its not a food allergy, but probably an environmental such as pollen, the vet said he has seen many dogs allergic to arborvitae’s and the neighbors on each side have them all down our fence lines. So now I use the natures domain salmon and sweet potato grain free dog food, with freshpet fresh refrigerated dog food sprinkled on top, they both have limited ingredients. The dog just turned 4 years old and he’s been having this problem a little over a year and a half now, but hasn’t had any more vaccinations since he was a puppy until last month when I took him in for severe hives and redness inside his ear flaps, then the vet insisted he get a booster because of the outbreak of Parvo he has seen lately, and his new exposure now because of his visit to the vet that day. I am going to try everything I can before I resort to drugs that will harm his kidney’s and liver, my husband gets angry with me for not putting him on the Atopica because he said “its not the quantity of life but the quality” but I don’t think he is suffering in any way as long as I keep him calm, clean, happy and take care of any hot or itchy spots immediately until I can find a more permanent solution other than damaging drugs!

        1. my Pekingese also has allergies and was scratching and chewing himself raw, now its a whole lot better, he just scratches and chews a couple times a day instead of continually all day. I put him on NUVET and also PROBIOTIC PEARLS to balance the yeast that causes the ear infections and makes him feel itchy. I got him a doggy life jacket to keep him from scratching, its poofy enough that he cant scratch his ears or chew his rear, but he doesn’t have to wear it anymore. I put BurnJel on the itchy spots because it numbs the itchy skin. I wash him with SULFADENE medicated shampoo (same active ingredient as head & shoulders) every 3 days to keep the allergens off his skin and coat and prevent skin infections. I have been doing this for 4 months. The last time he had a flair up I gave him just one of the prescription pills he had left called “SIMPLICEF” and used a little ear ointment he still had called “MOMETAMAX”. I also give him grain free food.
          https://www.happydogfood.com

          1. The active ingredient in the Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Shampoo is 1% selenium sulfide. It’s not the normal product but it is an over the counter product. It comes in a normal sized shampoo bottle, which was plenty for my dog who was 70lbs at the time. I noticed it when walking through the grocery aisle and that it said for “seborrheic dermatitis”, which was how one of my vets described Bear’s skin condition. Previous to using this, Bear was on a special diet, got all sorts of supplements that did nothing, he got allergy shots, steroids, oatmeal baths, you name it – we tried it all and he was miserable til we used that shampoo. He had this problem for years and I spent a lot of money trying to find some relief for him. After his skin cleared up we went back to some Purina brand kibble, stopped all the shots, meds etc. and his coat was great. If you’re in the same situation, ask your vet if it’s worth a try.

          2. Hi Marc,

            Thanks for telling us your story. Yes, as you said for those of us who’ve tried nearly everything to relieve our dogs itching any suggestion is worth a shot. As you said though it’s best to consult with your vet before starting any new treatments.

            Take care,
            Colby

          3. Thanks for telling us about your Pekingnese and what you do for his skin allergies. Hopefully he’s feeling less itchy. Stetson has been chewing on his paws a little bit so I might try washing his paws on a regular basis.

  5. I bought my dog a doggy life jacket at petsmart, it is stiff enough that he cant turn aroung a chew on his tail or back end, and he also cant scratch his ears or ribs, but he can still go potty, move and sleep comfortably, and go in and out the doggy door. I put in on him when I can’t be there to watch him, like when I go to work. I also bought him probiotics by GNC called “ultra mega digestive health complex” and also “seasonal allergy support” made by Vets Best. I feed him Natures Domain salmon and sweet potato grain free dog food and I sprinkle fresh chopped chicken on top twice a day with his 2 pills above, I wrap a piece of chicken around each pill. For his itchy spots I use “burn Jel” because its has lidocaine in it which numbs the itchy spot, it also has tea tree oil which is an anti-bacterial agent and vitamin E. I wash him with sulfodene medicated shampoo which has sulfa and coal tar for itching. I have been doing this for about a month now and he hardly bites or scratches lately, he still does once or twice a day, which is not nearly as much as he used to.

  6. Carbs and kibble are two of the reasons dogs get allergies. Kibble is not species appropriate food and dogs never need carbs or dairy products in their diet. Sadly most vets are not educated on canine nutrition or they would never recommend or sell the kibble that they do. Bottom line, dogs are carnivores they eat meat, not dried up extruded hard pieces of chemical laden, artifical colored pieces of kibble that contain grains and garbage not fit for human consumption. For what little education vets do get while in school, guess who educates vets on canine nutrition? Money making dog food companies. Ironic isn’t it? As for dry dog foods labeled holistic and all natural, well there is nothing holistic or natural about the process the food goes through to become dry dog food/kibble.
    Flea and tick products along with heartworm medications and vaccines can cause allergies and skin conditions not to mention cancer, seizures, and in some cases death.
    Dogs that are fed a healthy species appropriate diet very rarely suffer from ear infections, yeast, and allergies. However some dogs, even very healthy dogs on a good diet can suffer from environmental allergies i.e. pollen, grass, floor and carpet cleaners, household cleaners, air fresheners, candles etc. Use natural cleaning products and if using harsh chemicals to clean your floors always rinse floors with a hot water and vinegar solution before allowing your pets on the floors. Steam cleaning is an excellent way to clean up harmful bacteria without harming your pets. Your aunt is correct rinsing with vinegar clears up flaky skin, and repels mosquitos, mites, fleas, and ticks and soothes dogs skin that are suffering from allergies. A few drops of organic apple cider vinegar in your dogs water is also very beneficial to their health. Bathe more frequently when the pollen is high or at least soak a towel in vinegar water and wipe down your dog after being outside for prolonged periods or walking in the weeds or high grass.
    I have been a dog owner for most of my life and I have been working with rescued dogs for 25+ years now and have learned a lot through trial and error.
    My first suggestion would be to do a lot of research and get your dog on a raw diet it truly is the best thing you will ever do for your dog.
    *Helpful info. on raw feeding here,
    and here,
    My second suggestion would be stop the use of all chemicals and pesticides on your dog for fleas ticks and heartworm. There are too many natural things you can do for your dog to keep risking their health with harsh chemicals and pesticides. These topical treatments that some vets push go into your dogs blood stream and cause a whole host of problems for your dogs. The fleas may be killed but now your dogs are at risk for cancer, seizures and some pretty nasty skin problems. There are many lasting effects form flea, tick and heartworm products. Never, ever use any Hartz flea and tick products or Bio-spot.
    *Read here for more info. on the dangers of flea and tick products,
    Here are some natural flea and tick preventatives,
    Read here for the truth about heart worm preventatives,
    My third suggestion would be to stop yearly vaccines they are unnecessary. Have titers run on your dogs instead if your vet is pushing for yearly vaccines. Rabies is the only mandatory vaccine in most states and that should only be given every three years. Also if your dog has suffered any allergy symptoms, seizures, skin conditions, or tumors at the vaccination site check to see if your state will issue a rabies exemption some states do. I lost dogs to rabies vaccines, lepto vaccine, and distemper vaccines, as well as had adverse reactions in my dogs to flea products, heart worm products, and food recalls so I do speak from personal experience in all the fields I have mentioned. Educate yourself on these matters and confront and discuss them with your vet you owe it to your dog to do whats best for them. Only you have their best interest at heart. Never let a vet talk you into doing something that could potentially harm your pets I made that mistake too many times.

    1. @Lori thanks for all the great advice. I’m going to check out the rawfeddogs.net site and see what I might be able to do to relieve Stetson’s allergies. I also like the recommendations for natural flea and tick preventative. I usually don’t worry too much about flea’s and ticks, but last year we had a flea outbreak in my house which was quite miserable. I ended up using Advantage on the dogs and bombed the house, but next time I’d like to try the natural products as I hate putting advantage or frontline on my dogs. I’m also going to check into the vaccinations. I have heard similar horror stories about vaccinations. Thanks again for all the advice!

  7. I have a labrador alsation mis breed, her name is Cayla. I struggle with skin problems. I have tried everything, from changing her diet, cooking for her, cortisone injections and tablets, antihistamine, and any lots of different shampoos for sensitive skin. I have even tried all sorts of home remedies recommended by friends. The cortisone helped for round about a year, but now it doesn’t make a difference. My poor baby is itchy all the time and now has large bald spots where the hair has been falling out. She defenitely does not have fleas because I check and treat her regularly. Her dachshund brother and sister has no skin problems at all. If there is anybody who has some advice for me, I would really appreciate it.

    1. @Lizl thanks for visiting our website. Our vet recently prescribed Atopica which worked very well for Stetson. However, we had two problems with the Atopica. First, it’s very expensive. I believe it was costing me about $200 a month. Second, it made Stetson nauseous every time he took it and he regularly vomited shortly after taking his pill. I’ve heard that some dogs have issues with it and some do not so you may want to ask your vet if it something that might work for your dog. Good luck with your dog. I hope he starts feeling less itchy soon.

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