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D2005-49

Dear Daisy Dog

Helga Belle, my 9-year-old mixed-breed dog, scratches continually, especially during the fall and winter.

She has short hair, and she doesn’t have a rash. I tried many shampoos and sprays, but none helped. Do you have any ideas?

Daisy Responds

The two most common reasons dogs scratch every year at this time are fleas and allergies. A third possibility, though remote, is dry indoor air.

Let’s talk about fleas first. These pesky insects proliferate during late summer and fall.

To check for fleas, comb Helga Belle with a fine-toothed flea comb. If you see even one flea, you’ll know that’s the problem.

If the flea comb pulls out some tiny black specks, drop them onto a white paper towel, dampen them with water, and smear them with your finger.

If the moistened specks produce a red-brown streak, Helga Belle has fleas. The specks, called “flea dirt,” are flea feces, comprised of digested blood.

If Helga Belle does not have fleas, she probably has allergies.
Dogs allergic to fall/winter weeds and pollens frequently lick, scratch and chew their skin.

While allergic humans sneeze and rub their itchy eyes and throats, we dogs lick our feet and scratch our ears. Sometimes our bellies and armpits get red.

Seasonal allergies often respond to antihistamines prescribed by your veterinarian.

In an individual dog, one antihistamine may be more effective than another, so Helga Belle might have to try several before you identify the one that works best.

If you can’t find an effective antihistamine, ask your veterinarian about prednisone or cyclosporin. Other options are immunotherapy allergy shots and acupuncture.

If Helga Belle suffers from year-round itching, food allergy might be an underlying problem. Talk with your veterinarian about trying a prescription diet for allergies.

Finally, Helga Belle’s itchiness may result from dry indoor air. If that’s the case, feed her a high quality food and add an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, such as Derm Caps.

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