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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
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Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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My dog appears very itchy, he wont stop scratching, hes licking

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My dog appears very itchy, he wont stop scratching, hes licking his backside constantly and keeps licking his paws. He has not got fleas and he has just been wormed. He had his yearly injection 2 weeks ago which was the first of the new 2 stage yearly injection. He appears agitated and can not relax. He is a west highland terrier and the vet says he has very good skin with no problems. He is takeing piriton as recommended by the vet 8mg. Please can you tell me,would the first stage of his 2 yearly injections be the cause of this constant itching and strange behaviour
Hello, my name isXXXXX and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I am very sorry to hear that Prince is so itchy and is licking his feet and backside.
I don't believe that his vaccines could be related to his itchiness, I think that the timing is coincidental.

Allergies are the most common cause of itchy skin. Outdoor plants, dust mites, mold spores and other indoor allergens are all possible allergens in the air which could explains why he is so itchy.
Dogs that have one allergy often develop several with time. The effect of multiple allergies aren't additive, they actually compound one another.

Even if you don't see fleas I do recommend using protection, if only during the spring, summer and fall months. They are the most common allergen and it only takes one bite a month to make an allergic dog scratch so I recommend using flea prevention even if you never see one again. Frontline Plus, Advantage II or Advantix are excellent. Don't use over the counter products, especially Hartz or Sargents, as most are ineffective if not toxic. All pets in the home must be protected even if they don't show symptoms, otherwise they serve as flea reservoirs for the allergic pet.

Allergens that can be inhaled (like grass pollen, dust mites or molds) and flea bite allergy can sometimes be controlled with a combination of antihistamines and high doses of omega-3 fatty acids (they also help with the symptoms of flea allergy). In combination fatty acids and antihistamines work synergistically, much better than either one alone. If his symptoms worsen seasonally I would think that inhaled allergens are a big part of his problem.
You can try:
1)Benadryl (diphenhydramine only don't use the combination products with acetaminophen or decongestants as they can be toxic for dogs) at 2mg to 4mg per kilogram of body weight or one 25mg capsule per 7 to 12 kilograms of body orally every 8 hours.
OR 2)Claritin (loratidine) at 5mg per 12 kilograms of body weight once or twice daily.
OR 3)Hydroxyzine at 2mg per kilogram of body weight orally every 8 hours.
OR 4) Chlorpheniramine (Piriton) at 4mg to 8mg per dog once or twice daily.
Some dogs do better on one antihistamine rather than another. You'll have to pick one give it a week trial and if it isn't working try another. Be aware antihistamines can cause sleepiness or hyperactivity in some dogs. These side effects do wear off with repeated use.
Omega-3 fatty acids are fish oil products. 3V by DVM or Derm Caps ES are good brand name products. Use the high end of the dosing schedule for your pup's weight. I recommend a dose based upon the EPA portion (eicosapentanoic acid) of the supplement as if we do that the rest of the supplement will be properly balanced. Give him 20mg to 40mg of EPA per kilogram of body weight per day. For example an 8 kilogram dog could take 160mg to 320mg of EPA per day.

Cool water spot bathing of the most itchy areas with an oatmeal shampoo or chlorhexiderm shampoo (which is antibacterial and antifungal) and a conditioner with an antihistamine may help. The water rinses off allergens and the cool temperature soothes itchy skin.

Food allergy is very possible with him as food allergic dogs often have very itchy feet and perianal areas. Dogs can develop allergies to any protein or carbohydrate so even if he is only fed one thing that can be what he is allergic to. Dogs with food allergies tend to lick and scratch their paws, perianal area, face and ears the most, but any of the "allergy reactive areas" can be affected. Limited ingredient pet store diets may not be restrictive enough. The trouble with "limited ingredient" or "low allergy" pet store brands is that the same machinery is used on multiple lots of food without sterilization cleaning in between. So for example even if a food says it has salmon and rice if the previous batch had beef and corn then you will get traces of those ingredients in your bag of food. Not a big deal if your dog isn't allergic but a waste of money thinking that the food was hypoallergenic and not good for your dog if those happen to be allergens for your dog. The veterinary brand true hypoallergenic foods are more expensive because it isn't cheap to thoroughly remove all traces of a previous food mixture from the machines used to process food but I believe they are worth it. You could try a true hypoallergenic diet like Hills z/d or Purina Veterinary Diets HA. No treats, flavored medication or bones while on the diet and it must be used for a least 12 to 16 weeks to see the full effects.

Cortisone ointment applied to the very itchy places (as long as they aren't raw) twice daily may help as well if needed. Some sprays have alcohol which can be painful on raw skin and lead to more inflammation. I don't like oral steroids but topicals directed at the problem areas can be very helpful and are less likely to cause side effects.

Another option if the antihistamines and omega 3's aren't enough is a product called Atopica. It suppresses the immune system a bit so it decreases allergic symptoms but it doesn't have as many harmful side effects as systemic steroids. Another option is a brand new drug called Apoquel (generic name oclacitinib) which interferes with the allergic pathway. It works very quickly to stop the symptoms of an allergy. Most dogs are reported to be much more comfortable in a day or so. If you are interested discuss these medications with your veterinarian as they are prescription products.

It is possible that with all of his licking and chewing he may have a secondary yeast or bacterial infection on his feet now. Either of these would make his feet even more itchy. Your veterinarian can take a skin swab and look at the debris under the microscope. Depending upon what is found he may need a course of oral antibiotics or antifungal medication.

If it's been a while since his last exam parasites like cheyletiella, demodex or sarcoptes mites should be looked for as well as all lead to very itchy skin.
Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you very much for your very helpful reply. I will mention all said to princes vet nxt week when he goes back for his part 2 injection. Over the last 2yrs I have noticed strange behaviours in prince, which have both scared me and worried me greatly. He appears as if he is halusinating or seeing things which are not there,with this he will not leave my side and settle this seems to happen more on a evening or night,he pants as if he is in a lot of pain and is scared to be on his own. I have taken prince to the vet on several occaisions regarding this,and after examinaition the vet has always said he was fine, and given him a pain and antibiotic injections saying he would be fine in 24hrs. I will insist on a course of blood tests to be taken next week,which have been asked for before and always deemed unnesersary. I love my dog so much but sometimes are guility of worrying for nothing, but are often up all night with prince when he has bad episodes of the above. I have been told that as dogs get older they can suffer with neurological brain problems which can be made worse after yearly boosters. I would be greatful if you could tell me your thoughts on the above behaviour because from what you have told me so far,is much more than any vet has had the time to talk to me about in the past. Please excuse my bad spelling, and I wait in antisipaition for your kind thoughts. Thank you.

You are very welcome, I am glad to help.
The episodes that you are describing sound like anxiety related episodes. Because their hearing is so much more acute then ours it is possible that he is hearing things that you cannot, or he is feeling changes in atmospheric pressure.
The other possibility is that your fellow over did at play or exercise and is experiencing muscle soreness. Because he loves you and trusts you so he clings to you for comfort and because he thinks you will help him, or at least comfort him.
I would try to pay attention to what else is going on around him when these episodes occur or what he did earlier in the day.

It is true that dogs can suffer from age related dementia, just like people can. I do not believe that vaccines play a part in that. I do believe however that we were vaccinating our pets too frequently and for too many diseases that their lifestyle may not expose them to. For example if ticks aren't a problem in your area then it isn't necessary to vaccinate for Lyme disease.
The new guidelines for vaccines recommend a core set of vaccines, distemper, parvo virus, adenovirus and parainfluenza every 3 years and Rabies every year or every 3 years depending upon state law. The other vaccines should be based upon your dog's lifestyle and possible exposure.
If your veterinarian is insisting these core vaccines still be given yearly then that is something I would want to discuss with them and ask why. Here is a link to a webpage written by the University of California at Davis veterinary teaching hospital that discusses vaccine protocols and the reasoning behind them that you might wish to read and discuss with your veterinarian:

I think that screening blood work when a dog is young is important to have a baseline normal for that dog. Then if a dog gets sick later in life we have something to compare his blood tests at that time. As dogs age, just like people screening blood tests are important to watch trends and pick up disease processes early on. It is important to evaluate them based upon the physical examination and how the dog is feeling in general but the information we get can be invaluable.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Dr Kara. Everything you have said has made a lot of sense,and I now have a lot more questions to ask princes vet next week. Prince is slightly overweight for a westy being 11.5kg so I will look into changing his food to one of the brands you mentioned in hope it will stop his itching and licking. I will also look into stoping the piriton and trying another to suit. I will insist on blood tests,and swabs of feet. Hopefuly is health will get better and I can have my best mate back soon. Thank you very very much, I have found your answers to be extremely good and educaitional. Thank you.

You are very welcome. Please let me know how things go for Prince. Allergies can be a struggle to control, especially if he has several, but I do think we can get him feeling better then he is now.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Dr Kara. We have changed Princes food, We have used Fontline incase of fleas ticks etc, but he seems no better infact I would say he is getting worse. He goes to see his vet on Thursday, so I will ask for bloods to be taken and swabs of his feet etc, and will let you know how he gets on. I find it strange that all this has come about since he had his yearly booster, but you say its not likely to be that that's causeing this problem. Its the first time he has had this new 1st part of 2 injections so I will also question this when there. I thank you again for your help, and will let you know any outcome. Capt Drew Sandall

Capt. Sandall, I am sorry to hear that Prince seems to be getting worse, how frustrating for you and him.
It is possible to have an allergic reaction to a vaccine but then we see facial swelling, hives and maybe difficulty breathing along with feeling itchy. In his case because you didn't report any hives or facial swelling an allergic reaction to his vaccine is much less likely. I think that the timing is coincidental, though it does sound like his immune system may be in overdrive right now, reacting to allergens and building an immune response to the vaccine. He may need a short course of oral steroids to get things calmed down and him more comfortable.
As far as food allergies those allergens can take weeks to clear from his body, we often don't see any improvement for a good 6 to 8 weeks even with a great hypoallergenic diet and no further exposure to the allergen. He may still be reacting to something he ate weeks ago. I know that is difficult to wait for the allergens to clear, but we cannot make things happen any faster.
Please do keep in touch and let me know how he progresses, thank you, Dr. Kara.