Wednesday

Canine Summer Itch




It is so nice to lie in bed early on a summer morning and take in the sounds of the new day...for some people, that early morning reverie can be interupted by the sound of your dog scratching. Thump, thump,thump on the floor is an annoyance to say the least!
Dogs are 'itchier' in summer.The heat, humidity, pollen, grass , and fleas can contribute to your dog being much more itchy than in winter. You know already how to stop fleas so let me address some other things.
Thinning out the coat can be of some help. I said thinning the coat, not shaving it. Shaving the coat makes the undercoat grow in much thicker.Then it begins a cycle where you shave it again, only to have it thicken up even more. Some dog show people will shave a young dog before starting his show career or between his puppy show career and adult campaign if he has very poor undercoat and needs a nice thick one for the show ring.
Shaved dogs are more prone to developing skin cancer and their natural hair actually helps regulate their body temp. This is why dogs shed in summer and grow thick coats in winter. Nature already designed them to take care of the seasons so a major change by you isn't necessary.
If you are one of those people who just has to help nature along anyway, or the loose hair in your house is driving you mad,use a Furminator or take your dog to the groomer and request a Furminator treatment. This treatment just hurries along nature and does no permanent damage to your dogs' coat. It will look thin though!
For short haired dogs, use a Zoom Groom in a circular motion to remove excess hair or as I mentioned in a previous post, that infamous rubber dishwashing glove can be used to go over your shorthaired dog in a circular motion to catch those tiny hairs that want to adhere to your clothes furniture and everything else.
Just like you, your dog is less itchy when he isn't as hot. But often it takes more than keeping your dog cool. If you dogs' coat looks sparse, he is overweight, itchy, and not as active as you think he should be,a thyroid test at your vet may be in order. Thyroid medication is very inexpensive and can do wonders for a dog with thyroid issues. I should say, from much personal experience that sighthound breeds,particularly Afghan Hounds have readings that are lower than other types of dogs and for them, this is normal. Kelp or Solid Gold Seameal helps sighthounds and other breeds who may have a slightly low thyroid, but not an actual clinical problem.
Fungus infections thrive in summer because of the heat and humidity and this too, can be a cause of scratching for your dog. Ringworm comes to mind, but number one would be ear fungus infections. Using the 50/50 mix of apple cider vinegar and alcohol and wiping out the ears and ear flaps with a cotton ball daily has helped my dogs a lot. My dogs have all had long pendulous ears that just seemed to trap moisture. The alcohol helps evaporate the excess moisture and the vinegar restores a normal ph making it more difficult for unwanted organisms to set up house in the dogs ear.
For some dogs, spraying the skin with apple cider vinegar diluted ¼ to ¾ cup chemical free water helps calm itchy skin. My mom uses a powder that contains eucalyptus and she swears by it.
Years back when I injured Puffs' back, he was overdosed by an incompetent vet at the emergency clinic with the drug Decadron....I can still remember seeing her draw the drug up into the syringe and as I realized she was about to dose him many times over what a dog of his size required,I couldn't stop her fast enough.
''You are going to give him Cushings disease!'' I screamed.
The vet replied as she punched in the needle, and I QUOTE,'' Oh hell, he will be dead by then.''
Well contrary to what she and other vets believed, he didn't die and he did get well. Now we have to deal with auto immune issues because of the Decadron overdose. You may know the drug Decadron as Dexamethasone.
As of yet no signs of Cushings disease but boy does he have allergies now. He can scratch so much you would think he would lose his mind. So for summer we go off the organic chicken based diet and substitute lamb and rice,real lamb and rice, not the psuedo ones at the store that also contain egg, or beef and sometimes chicken. The manufacturers can call it lamb and rice if lamb is the main ingredient.
But by adding other ingredients it defeats the purpose of feeding a lamb and rice diet for the sake of allergies....(sometimes we also feed the Vegan canned food by Pet Guard available at Wholefoods as the grains it contains are very low inflammatory unlike some other brands).
Anyway, I feed California Natural Lamb and Rice because it is a genuine lamb and rice product. And another thing I add to his diet that I feel is of utmost important for his summer itch is Evening Primrose Oil. I give 500 mg a day because he is small. I can definitely tell the difference when I don't give this, so at this time of year I am very faithful about it. And for Puff, it really helps. He licks it right out of a spoon and reminds me if I forget to give it to him.
If nothing seems to help your dogs' itching and scratching you may want to ask your vet about a RAST test. It is expensive, about 500 dollars, but it will identify the cause of your dogs allergies such as the new wall to wall carpet you installed ( a big factor in many dog allergies).Sometimes though, an itchy dog really just needs a good bath. Believe it or not, I have seen more unnamed skin conditions corrected by bathing in a quality shampoo every 4 to 7 days. A professional dog handler once told me she thought it was because dogs get itchy when they are dirty just like people do....something to consider.
Publishers Note : since posting this we no longer feed commercial dog food. The above mentioned foods are still excellent but if you really need to control your dogs diet to combat allergies see our post on homecooking based on NRC guidelines.