How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Dr. Kara Your Own Question
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 14431
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
Type Your Dog Veterinary Question Here...
Dr. Kara is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

My dog has scab like itchy patches on the skin

Customer Question

My dog is suffering with scab like patches that are itching him to death. I have taken him to the vet and was told that this is a allergy and I had to buy these $10.00 a pill medication which did not get ride of the scabs but he did eat a lot more. Now he is back to his normal weight but his skin is with blackened areas and scabs, he is constantly licking himself????? What to do

Already Tried:
Meds., oatmeal baths benadryl, ointments, 2 vet visits any suggestions could it be an autoimmune disease? Would enzymes help I have him on a good dry food from a pet barn it is exactly like |Iams but cheaper

Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 4 years ago.

Hello, I'm sorry to hear about your pup.

Allergies are the most common cause of itchy skin. I'll give you an allergy rundown of likely causes for skin troubles. He may have more than one allergy given how symptomatic he is now. 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 late spring/summer and early 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, Advantage or Advantix are excellent but some dogs do react to the alcohol or carrier ingredients. Don't use over the counter products, especially Hartz or Sargents, as most are ineffective if not toxic.

Other allergens can be inhaled (like grass pollen, dust mites or molds) and you can use a combination of antihistamines and high doses of omega-3 fatty acids to help with those (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 part of his problem. Unfortunately given the mild winter most of the country experienced and early spring allergies will be much worse this year.

You can try

1) Benadryl (diphenhydramine only don't use the combo products as they can be toxic) at 1mg to 2mg per pound or one 25mg capsule per 25 pounds of dog orally every 8 hours. I see that you have tried Benedryl but don't know if you used a high enough dose. OR

2) Claritin (loratidine) at 5mg per 25 pound dog once or twice daily. OR

3) Hydroxyzine at 1mg per pound orally every 8 hours. OR

4) Chlorpheniramine at 4mg to 8mg per dog once or twice daily Some dogs do better on one antihistamine rather than another.

You'll have to see which one works. Most dogs respond to Hydroxyzine the best. Give each a week to 10 day 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.

Cool water baths 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 possible. Dogs with food allergies tend to lick and scratch their paws, face and ears the most, but any of the "allergy reactive areas" can be affected. You could try a true hypoallergenic diet like Hills z/d or Purina Veterinary Diets HA rather then the limited ingredient diet you have tried so far. 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. There may not be anything wrong with the food he is eating but if it has a protein or carbohydrate he is allergic to in it he will react

A secondary bacterial or yeast infection on the skin will cause him to be even itchier and with the scabs and dark skin you describe I suspect this is possible. These occur when a dog itches and bites himself and breaks the skin allowing the skin's protective layer to be broken and a secondary infection to thrive. These can be diagnosed with a skin swab and antifungal or antibacterial shampoos will help. I like a shampoo called chlorhexidene shampoo as it is antibacterial and antifungal and gentle enough to use daily if needed. You don't need to wash everywhere daily, just the affected areas. Make sure to dry his paws very well after bathing and rinsing. If these infections are present then oral medication (antifungals or antibiotics) may be needed to get it under control.

Cortisone ointment applied to the very itchy places 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. If you are interested discuss this medication with your veterinarian as it is a prescription.

If it's been a while since his skin was checked for parasites like cheyletiella or sarcoptes they should be looked for as well as both lead to very itchy skin.
Probiotics are very helpful for replacing good bacteria in the gut but don't help the skin much.

Autoimmune skin disease is possible. The best way to diagnose those diseases is via a skin biopsy, but he should have gotten better with the steroid therapy your veterinarian prescribed as autoimmune diseases are steroid responsive for the most part.

I know skin disease and allergies are frustrating. Most cases cannot be cured but I do think we can do a better job helping your fellow be less miserable.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

JustAnswer in the News:

Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.

What Customers are Saying:

  • It was so professional, so personally concerned (as we were) and you answered all of our questions. George and I are so happy that I found "JustAnswer" on my Google search -- you are now in my "Favorites" list! And, yes we do love our kitty - she makes our life complete! Bev & George Boca Raton, FL
< Previous | Next >
  • It was so professional, so personally concerned (as we were) and you answered all of our questions. George and I are so happy that I found "JustAnswer" on my Google search -- you are now in my "Favorites" list! And, yes we do love our kitty - she makes our life complete! Bev & George Boca Raton, FL
  • Wonderful service, prompt, efficient, and accurate. Couldn't have asked for more. I cannot thank you enough for your help. Mary C. Freshfield, Liverpool, UK
  • This expert is wonderful. They truly know what they are talking about, and they actually care about you. They really helped put my nerves at ease. Thank you so much!!!! Alex Los Angeles, CA
  • Thank you for all your help. It is nice to know that this service is here for people like myself, who need answers fast and are not sure who to consult. GP Hesperia, CA
  • I couldn't be more satisfied! This is the site I will always come to when I need a second opinion. Justin Kernersville, NC
  • Just let me say that this encounter has been entirely professional and most helpful. I liked that I could ask additional questions and get answered in a very short turn around. Esther Woodstock, NY
  • Thank you so much for taking your time and knowledge to support my concerns. Not only did you answer my questions, you even took it a step further with replying with more pertinent information I needed to know. Robin Elkton, Maryland

Meet The Experts:

  • Dr. Debbie

    Dr. Debbie

    Dog Veterinarian

    Satisfied Customers:

    Companion animal veterinarian practicing for over 10 years.
< Last | Next >
  • Dr. Debbie's Avatar

    Dr. Debbie

    Dog Veterinarian

    Satisfied Customers:

    Companion animal veterinarian practicing for over 10 years.
  • Dr. Andy's Avatar

    Dr. Andy

    Medical Director

    Satisfied Customers:

    UC Davis graduate, emphasis in dermatology, internal medicine, pain management
  • Dr. Scott's Avatar

    Dr. Scott


    Satisfied Customers:

    15 years of small animal, equine and pocket pet medicine and surgery.
  • Dr. Gary's Avatar

    Dr. Gary

    Dog Veterinarian

    Satisfied Customers:

    DVM, Emergency Veterinarian, BS (Physiology)
  • 's Avatar

    Satisfied Customers:

  • Dr. Bruce's Avatar

    Dr. Bruce


    Satisfied Customers:

    15 years of experience as a small animal veterinarian
  • Dr. Drew's Avatar

    Dr. Drew

    Dog Veterinarian

    Satisfied Customers:

    Small Animal Medicine and Surgery