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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 33263
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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My chihuahua is just over a year old. Since the end of March

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My chihuahua is just over a year old. Since the end of March he has scratched himself bald from the waist up. He has seen the vet regularly but nothing seems to help. So far he has had a skin scrape, which was clear. Three weeks on antibiotics, Piriton every day, Fuciderm, bathing with Malaseb every couple of days. I think it happened after I had him neutered but the vet wants me to take him to a dermatologist. Poor little dog has suffered so much, I'm crying as I wrote this. I have put him on Forthglade food which he loves. I have wondered if I should take him to another vet but don't want to upset my present one. Is there any advice you could give please.
Thankyou, Valerie

Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. Skin scraping is important and presumptive antibiotic therapy is reasonable but there's so much more that can be done.

I’m sorry to hear of this with Scooby. Pruritic (itchy) dogs are suffering from an allergic dermatitis the great majority of the time. Allergies to flea saliva, environmentals such as pollens, molds, dust and dust mites, and foods should be considered. In many instances, a concomitant pyoderma (bacterial skin infection), yeast infection (Malassezia), or mange mite (Demodex or Sarcoptes) might be responsible.

Scooby's vet can check a sample of Scooby's skin surface (a cytology) for abnormal numbers of bacteria and yeast. Pyoderma is treated with a minimum of 3-4 weeks of an antibiotic in the cephalosporin class such as cephalexin (Keflex) and yeast is addressed with ketoconazole for at least a month.

Our dermatologists tell us to apply an effective over the counter flea spot-on such as Advocate - as you've done - or a fipronil-containing product such as Frontline, FiproGuard or PetArmor even if fleas aren’t seen. Dogs can be such effective groomers so as to eliminate all evidence of flea infestation. Dogs who remain primarily indoors can contract fleas because we walk them in on us and flea eggs and larva can remain viable in your home for months. As the weather warms, egg hatches are common. In severe cases, an anti-allergenic prescription corticosteroid such as prednisone will work wonders for dogs allergic to the saliva of the flea. If you have other pets they may have fleas as well but may not be allergic to the flea’s saliva.

Environmental allergies are usually initially addressed with prednisone as well. In some dogs an over the counter antihistamine such as clemastine (Tavist) at a dose of 0.025 - 0.75mg/lb twice daily or chlorpheniramine (Piriton) dosed at 2mg twice daily may be effective. Antihistamines, however, aren’t reliable as you've seen. Adding fish oil to the diet at a dose of 40mg/kg daily of the EPA in the fish oil might synergize with antihistamines to provide better anti-pruritic action. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are antiinflammatory but may take 8-12 weeks to kick in. (Oclacitinib - a cytokine antagonist - has been released for use in dogs suffering from allergic dermatitis. It's likely going to revolutionize how we address dogs such as Scooby. Unfortunately, it's difficult to obtain because the manufacturer underestimated the demand for this drug. Please speak to Scooby's vet about Apoquel (oclacitinib).)

In addition, has allergy testing been discussed with you? We can identify which allergens offend Scooby and then produce a desensitizing serum ("allergy shots") designed just for him. This testing is only appropriate for environmental allergens - not foods - which is discussed next...

Food intolerance/allergy is addressed with prescription hypoallergenic diets. These special foods contain just one novel (rabbit, duck, e.g.) animal protein or proteins that have been chemically altered (hydrolyzed) to the point that Scooby's immune system doesn't "see" anything to be allergic to. The over the counter hypoallergenic foods too often contain proteins not listed on the label - soy is a common one - and these proteins would confound our evaluation of the efficacy of the hypoallergenic diet. The prescription foods are available from Scooby's vet. There are many novel protein foods and a prototypical hydrolyzed protein food is Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d ultra. A positive response is usually seen within a few weeks if we’ve eliminated the offending food allergen. Food intolerance can arise at any age and even after our patient has been eating the same food for quite some time.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Dr. Michael Salkin and other Vet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you Dr Salkin, The Vet has delayed putting Scooby on Hills z/l until all other possible causes have been eliminated. He is suggested seeing a dermatologist at Cambridge next. A bit expensive for me but I will consider it. Getting there is a problem for a 77 year old with AMD!
I have been giving Scooby a tsp of Yumega a day in his food, which I hadn't mentioned previously.
Thank you for your informative reply. I think we have done most of the things you suggested. My Westie doesn't have any fleas and my groomer would report it if she found any evidence of them.
I don't know what the next step will be. I just want to stop Scooby driving himself mad with itching. Apart from that he's quite happy, affectionate, bossy and eats all his food. Just that one little problem!
Thanks again for your reply.
Kind regards,
Thank you for the additional information, Valerie. I never argue with seeing a specialist but I do understand your logistical dilemma! Yumega contains flax seed oil which isn't assimilated or metabolized by dogs to any appreciable extent. It does contain salmon oil, however, which like other fish oils can be helpful in dogs such as Scooby. I would prefer that you administer a pure fish oil which I dose at 40mg/kg daily of the EPA in the fish oil product. You should be able to find the amount of EPA on the label.

I don't see the reason for delaying institution of a presumptively hypoallergenic diet which is likely to be the first thing the specialist prescribes. You would know if it were helpful within the first few weeks. If it didn't help, you could still go see the specialist.

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Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it. I'm going to check back with you in a month for an update. Feel free to return to our conversation - even after rating - prior to my contacting you if you wish.