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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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I cannot tell if my dog has fleas--he is a black cocker

Customer Question

I cannot tell if my dog has fleas--he is a black cocker spaniel---doesn't always itc --just goes through phases of it. right now she is laying on the floor resting---sleeps all night. my husbandand I don't have them on us????
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.

Good evening - I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed veterinarian who works exclusively with dogs and cats. I'm sorry to hear that Lola has been itchy, but I'm sure that I can help provide you information. There will be a delay of 5-10 minutes while I type up my thoughts for you. While you're waiting, if you're online and could reply with some answers to these questions, it would help me give you the most specific info possible:

  • On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst itching ever, how would you rate Lola's itching?
  • How long has she been itchy like this?
  • Does she currently have any hair loss or scabs?
  • Has the vet prescribed any treatments that have helped in the past?
  • Do you have any other dogs or cats in your home?

Thanks!

~Dr. Sara

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
no other cats or dogs--she is new to us---a week and a half we have had her--the gromer said it was dry ski so we bathed in her in tea tree oil shampoo. she sleeps fie but during the day she has phases of severe itching ----she is a black dog and her belly is pink no red marks or bites nothing jumping her skin--I went through with a fine comb
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
that's it
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.

The best way to tell if your dog has fleas is to get a flea comb at the pet store. Flea combs are combs with bristles so close together that when you comb over a flea it gets caught on the comb and you can see it. Flea combs are very cheap and easy to use. I comb every pet that I see while I'm doing their physical examination and I often find fleas on pets that I wouldn't have suspected of having them. Fleas are very good at hiding, so you want to make sure you get a flea comb like this one to check thoroughly for them:

http://www.chewy.com/cat/miracle-care-flea-comb-cats/dp/111498?utm_source=google-product&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=hg&utm_content=Miracle%20Care&utm_term=&gclid=Cj0KEQjwtaexBRCohZOAoOPL88oBEiQAr96eSO38jly21nP1r6J7D8SYaBQ4OpdwN2iIZajIzvDJ-xQaAnF_8P8HAQ

Also, fleas don't really like humans, so as long as there's a dog around, they won't bother you. The flea comb is a pretty good indicator of fleas though, so if you're not seeing any fleas or flea dirt then there may be something else causing her itching. I'm going to send this post and continue typing more thoughts - thanks for the replies :)

~Dr. Sara

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
should I shampoo her again?
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.

The vast majority of itching in dogs is caused by allergy. I will start out by saying that allergic skin disease is a life-long condition that can be managed but not cured. Often in the beginning the allergy is steroid responsive (ie: gets better with steroid treatment) and they may only flare up once or twice a year, but they get worse as they get older, flaring up more often. When I have pets who need minimal treatment to control their symptoms (like once or twice a year they need a course of steroids or they can be well managed on milder drugs like antihistamines), I usually stop there at controlling symptoms. I don't get into allergy testing and work ups unless the pet has pretty severe and difficult to control allergies.

Allergies can cause dogs to lick their paws and scratch in many places on their body. They can also lead them to get secondary infections with bacteria and/or yeast. Any secondary infections that may be going on, as these can make them much much more uncomfortable. Secondary infections are usually heralded by pustules (pimples), hair loss, greasy thickened or darkened patches of skin, and a yeasty odor. Treatment of infections is often accomplished by topical treatments, oral antibiotics, and sometimes oral antifungals. It’s important to realize that it takes 3-4 weeks and maybe longer for bacterial and yeast infections to resolve with appropriate treatment. It’s very difficult to say what a dog is allergic to without a lot of testing.

There are three broad 'flavors' of allergy: flea allergy, food allergy and atopy (allergy to things in the environment like grasses, trees, or pollens).

With flea allergy, the itching and hair loss is centered on the caudal dorsum (the top of the lower part of the back), thighs, rear legs, and hind end. It's accompanied by the presence of at least one flea, usually many. Just one bite can cause an allergic pet to become intensely itchy and develop secondary infections that can perpetuate the itching even after the fleas are gone. Obviously flea allergy doesn't improve until the fleas are controlled. If you'd like more information about flea control, just ask and I'll be happy to provide it.

As for food allergy, pets can become allergic to a diet late in their lives just like we develop allergies as we age. In order to check for/treat for food allergy, we do what is called a 'food trial'. This is where the pet is fed nothing but a strict hypoallergenic diet. I use Iams Response KO, Royal Canin novel protein or Anallergenic diets in my practice however there are a lot of good diets out there. A pet must be on this strict food trial for 3 months to determine if it's really food allergy. I really recommend a food trial for dogs when I suspect allergy because if you get a good response from the hypoallergenic food, then you can give your pet less drugs in the long run. It’s important to be consistent and not give any treats that aren’t in the diet plan. Anything that goes into her mouth could cause an allergic reaction, so if she eats it and begins to itch it will mask any positive response you will see from the diet trial..

There are a number of treatments for atopy (or environmental allergy). Usually a food trial is performed first before these. A dermatologist can test the pet to find out exactly what they are allergic to and make an allergy vaccine, just like they do in people. This is called allergen-specific immunotherapy. Some pets can be managed with antihistamines (like benadryl) when all of their secondary infections have cleared up. Some veterinarians (myself included) have had a lot of success with a drug called Atopica. Atopica is a maintenance drug to help prevent allergy flare ups, however it can be very expensive. Another allergy maintenance medication that has great potential is Apoquel, but it is very new to the market and so far extremely difficult to come by.

It's generally a good idea to shampoo a dog with a soothing oatmeal or baby shampoo at least once or twice a month. Rinsing with cool water can also help provide local itch relief just after the bath. Shampooing more than once to twice a week can dry them out more. Since she's new to you, it's going to be difficult to know exactly what allergy is causing her itching - it's like you know the first page of the book, but you can't know the ending until you've read the middle :)

For pets that are in good health and not on any other medication, a dose of 1mg per pound of body weight of benadryl can help quell the itching - it's a good idea to check with your vet first if she's got any other health conditions before giving it to her though.

I'll give you a few moments to read though all of that - please let me know what other questions I can answer for you!

~Dr. Sara

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My goal is to provide you with the most complete and accurate “five star” answer. If my answer isn’t what you were expecting, it’s incomplete, or you have more questions PLEASE REPLY to let me know what information you are looking for BEFORE giving me a negative rating! Thank you so much :)

Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.
Hi Kate,
I'm just following up on our conversation about Lola. How is everything going?
Doc Sara

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