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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 23827
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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Have a Bichon Frise That is 9 and I have a Golden Ret. that

Customer Question

Hi have a Bichon Frise That is 9 and I have a Golden Ret. that is 4 they both seem to eat at there feet lately and the Golden bites his butt until sometimes opening the Anal Gland Smell up! :-) We stopped giving them any treats with wheat except Greenies and no table scraps at all except meat. There Dog Food is Blue Buffalo Grain Free (I will list the ingredients at the end. Can you think of anyhting that may cause them to want to eat at there feet. Seems like it happens when they settle down and nothing is going on, like there board or something. Any help is appreciated. They both are otherwise healthy.

Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine), Tapioca Starch, Potatoes, Peas, Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Turkey Meal, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Potato Starch, Alfalfa Meal, Canola Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Potassium Chloride, DL-Methionine, Dried Chicory Root, Calcium Carbonate, Caramel, Choline Chloride, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Garlic, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Parsley, Kelp, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Turmeric, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Oil of Rosemary, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Copper Sulfate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3)

Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 months ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with your dogs. Excessive licking and chewing at the extremities is highly suggestive of both atopy (allergies to environmental allergens such as pollens, molds, dust, and dust mites, etc.) and food intolerance. Atopy is more common and when two dogs in the household are symptomatic in that manner, atopy should be considered as the most important differential diagnosis.

Environmental allergies are usually initially addressed with a glucocorticosteroid such as prednisone. In some dogs an over the counter antihistamine such as clemastine (Tavist) at a dose of 0.025 - 0.75mg/lb twice daily or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) dosed at 1-2mg/lb twice daily (maximum dose of 50 mg at any one time) may be effective. Antihistamines, however, aren’t reliably effective. Adding fish oil to the diet at a dose of 20mg/lb 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. The new cytokine antagonist oclacitinib (Apoquel) is likely to revolutionize how we address atopic dogs and should be discussed with their vet. Oclacitinib works as well as a steroid without a steroid's adverse effects. Please note that atopy, at least initially, should have a seasonality to it while a food intolerance should cause pruritis regardless of the season. Chronically atopic dogs may be pruritic year round.

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 a dog'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 your vet. There are many novel protein foods and a prototypical hydrolyzed protein food is Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d ultra. (I prefer the hydrolyzed protein diets because it avoids the possibility of my patient being intolerant to even a novel protein.) 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. The most common offending food allergens are beef, chicken, corn, wehat, eggs, rice, and soy and so your dogs' current diet may not be hypoallergenic for them.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.