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Dr.Fiona, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  Small animal medicine and surgery - 16 years experience in BC, California and Ontario
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Why does my Yorkie (Jackie) scratch so much I cant find

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Why does my Yorkie (Jackie) scratch so much?

I can't find a tick, flea, or mite on him.
His coat is beautiful (he doesn't pull at it). I bath him every two weeks with Oatmeal Dog Shampoo.

I have not changed his food (he eats Purina 1 kibble and Caesar dog dinners (when he eats, he's VERY) picky!

I just wish I could help him! It makes ME want to cry for him!
Hi there,

Welcome to Just Answer! I'm sorry to hear that Jackie is so itchy. My kids and I had a run-in with poison ivy 2 years ago and it gave me a whole new sympathy for itchy dogs...

I would like to try to help you and Jackie, but need a bit more information in order to better assist you.

Where on his body does he scratch the most?

If you look *very* carefully as the hairless areas around the groin and armpits, do you see any little tiny red spots like tiny pimples?

Is there any time of year that he tends to scratch more?

Is he less itchy in the winter time?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Where on his body does he scratch the most? He scratches his armpits and sides of his belly.

If you look *very* carefully as the hairless areas around the groin and armpits, do you see any little tiny red spots like tiny pimples? Well it does seem to be slightly pink, loves when I scratch him there, but "tiny red pimple"? Not really, don't see anything obvious.

Is there any time of year that he tends to scratch more? No

Is he less itchy in the winter time? I don't remeber for sure, but I don't think so.

Wish I could be more accurate for's just that he is so tiny 4.5lbs.

He's just a joy to me, if it's an allergy, or a 'critter', it sure is not obvious to me!

Ok, that is helpful, thanks!

And has he done this since he was a couple of months old,or has it gotten worse as he has matured?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
You know, now that you mention it, he has gotten worse as he has aged.

He came to this home at 12 weeks, Northern California coastal area.
Ahh... thanks for that information!

What you are describing in your Yorkie certainly makes me consider that he may have allergic dermatitis, which means that allergies are making him itchy.

Allergies could be to something in his food (eg corn, beef or OTHER things), to insects biting him, or most commonly to atopy, which is an inhalant allergy.

Dogs with allergic dermatitis can be VERY itchy and often need long term corticosteroids or immuno-suppressants like Atopica in order to relieve the itch.

Here are some links to further information about allergic skin diseases in dogs:

Dogs with atopy can be allergic to not only dust mites, but also to various plants that may be pollinating at various times. It is often very useful to keep a diary with an "itchy" rating in it to be able to determine what times of year it is worse. I'm not sure what plants you have pollinating now where you are, but it is really helpful to keep a journal.

Here are some links to further information about atopy:

So, when I diagnose a patient with atopy, I always start by warning people that we CANNOT CURE this! The best we can ever hope for is to control it. Anything that can be done to decrease his allergic tendencies should be done, and lots of little things may start to have a big effect.

What I suggest for dogs with atopy:

1. Bathing

It can be soothing to give your boy a *cool* bath in the tub, and apply a soothing colloidal oatmeal conditioner (I used Aveeno colloidal oatmeal treatment on myself and was suprised how much relief I got from it).

It sounds like you are already doing this, but be sure to use fairly cool water so as not to irritate the skin. Also, do use a conditioner after bathing.

Here is one example of a Conditioner:

After bathing, towel dry Jackie, and then keep him in a warm room snuggled in the towel so that you don't need to blow dry him at all.

2 Antihistamines

If your boy were my patient, I would evaluate him for being a candidate for being on antihistamines year round. They are safe in the majority of patients, and although they don't stop the itching the way prescription medications do, they do "take the edge" off and make future flare-ups less severe.

As with humans, some dogs do better on one type of antihistamine, and not on others. Often, we have to try a few different ones, giving each a trial of several weeks before knowing whether it helps, and before moving on to another. Common anti-histamines we use in veterinary medicine are Diphenhydramine (Benadryl here in Canada), chlorpheniramine and hydroxyzine.

Here is more about each, including dose:

With anti-histamine use it is really important to use them at the recommended frequency as they help PREVENT itchiness, but don't do as much at stopping it once it has started.

3. Essential Fatty Acids

Again, if he were my patient, I would put him on a dietary source of essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids) daily added to the food. Your vet would be able to provide these for you - some brands are DermCaps and EFA-Z.

These work in combination with the antihistamines to make each one more effective than either would be alone.

You could use a combination of evening primrose oil (for Omega 6 fatty acids) and fish oil (for Omega 3's). Extra strength fish oil is most useful - it provides approximately 600mg of combined EPA and DHA per capsule. You can find a listing of companies that make such a thing here: The omega-6/omega-3 ratio should be 5 to 10.

Here are some examples of combined Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids:

4 Air filter

I would also consider getting a HEPA filter for your house. In Canada, you can get these at hardware stores. For $100 - $300 (depending on the amount of space you want to have filtered) it removes tiny dust particles from the air, which is another thing to help your dog a bit.

Make sure that there are no pollutants in Jackie's environment. Avoid cigarette smoke, fireplaces, incense, hair sprays, air fresheners and other things with small particles that can be inhaled.

5. Quercitin

This homeopathic remedy works to inhibit mast cell's participation in the manifestation of allergy signs. This is similar to the way antihistamines work in Western medicine.

I have not used this myself, but my colleagues have used it and recommend it to "take the edge off." The vets I know who use it give 50mg three times daily in toy and small breed dogs.

Here is more:

6. Vitamin E

This can also be helpful when added in. The dose I use is about 5-10 IU per lb daily. So, in a 5lb dog, that would work out to 25 to 50 IU per day. You can purchase this at any pharmacy.

7. Probiotics

If your dog were my patient, I would put him on a probiotic. They are very safe and help a lot of dogs! It just helps to promote the growth of "good" bacteria and reduce the "bad" bacteria in a natural and safe way. This can help to decrease stimulation to the immune system.

You can use FortiFlora products which are available from your veterinarian, or you can use Culturelle which is available at pharmacies in the USA. For the Culturelle, a 5lb dog would get 1/4 capsule daily sprinkled on the food.

Here are links:

8. Limited antigen diet

Jackie may be allergic to things he is EATING as well as things he is inhaling. Because it is hard to know WHAT he may be allergic to, you may wish to discuss with your vet changing the food so he is on some different protein sources. If he has been eating beef, then switching to something that does NOT contain beef is a good idea. This could be fish, seafood, or anything else novel (rabbit, venison, duck, etc).

***In order to know that he cannot be allergic to it, the protein has to be one that he has never had before!***

There is nothing magical about any one protein source, it just has to be something that he has not had before. So, you have to check ALL the foods he has previously eaten and make a list of all the proteins he has been exposed to. Then you have to find a food that has NONE of those in it.

Also, he can have no other sources of food or treats (rawhides, chew toys, not even PB) while he is on the elimination diet – which is for 8 – 12 weeks! I strongly recommend a home-made diet so you know exactly what it going in to it.

The site, , has a section where you can get custom balanced recipes easily for your adult pets. You can put in the promotional code HOMEMADE at checkout and the recipe will be free. Just choose a recipe with a meat that your boy has never had before (goat? rabbit? venison?) and use that to make the food.

When you get to the payment/invoice type window, zero out the bottles of supplements (if you're going to buy them elsewhere), put the promo code in, and hit the "apply" button next to it. Then your invoice will recalculate and go down to zero if you only have one recipe there. You can continue on through the process without entering any payment info from there, and it will take you to the recipe for the pet you entered.

Finally, all home recipes for dogs need supplementation with essential fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins, and minerals. The amounts of these are totally dependent on the animal and the base diet. There is no universal "supplement" that covers everything appropriately.

If you do not feel up to making a home-made food, then another option would be a "hydrolyzed" protein food. These are available only through a vet. The idea with this is that the protein is broken down so that the immune system can no longer recognize it. So, to the immune system it is no longer a protein, and (theoretically) the body cannot become allergic to it. These are fairly new in veterinary medicine (just a few years old) and so far, I have not had dogs become allergic to it, so I am crossing my fingers!

Your vet would have a number of different brands of prescription foods that have these “hypoallergenic” diets containing hydrolyzed protein. You could contact your veterinarian to try one. There are prescription foods that your vet could provide that serve this purpose.

One of these is Royal Canin HP food:

9. Acupuncture

This has been reported to improve immune function in dogs. Your vet could refer you to a veterinarian trained in this modality.

10. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

My colleagues trained in this area use Tri Snake subsitute from Mayway. **Use the Plum Flower Brand.** Hua She Jie Yang Wan is the Chinese name of the formula from Plum Flower.

Here is a link:
and the company's phone number is(NNN) NNN-NNNNfor the company that makes them.

The dose is 1 pill given THREE times daily for a dog that weighs 5 lbs. Give them a week to work.

11. Herbs

There are veterinarian trained in alternative medicine and the herbs that they recommend are yellow dock, sarsaparilla, Xiao Feng San. These are dosed based on size - so a 5lb dog would get roughly 1/20th the dose of a human.

I hope that these things will help!

Any small thing that decreases your dog's allergic tendencies is good and with lots of small things we can hope for a big improvement over time! Fingers crossed for you!

I would definitely start with the food, the Omega 3's and the Hepa filter as these are quite easy to do. Also, you can use antihistamines which are available without a prescription. If this persists, then do see your vet as there are many prescription medications which are very effective at treating this.

If this has been helpful, please Accept my answer and leave feedback.

If you have more questions just click on reply and I will still be here to provide further information if you need it!

The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.


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