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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28931
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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My dog is very itchy. What could be the cause?

Customer Question

My dog is an 8 year old Ridgeback boxer mix and he is very itchy. I changed him to an allergen free dog food and it didn’t help. I give him extra omegas and vitamins and it doesn’t seem to help either. The general scratching I can take and isn’t so bad, but he won’t scratching his nose and has broken it open on the grass and carpet several times now. I am not sure if he is allergic to my cats, or the intense heat we’ve had. Its only been really bad this summer. He doesn’t have fleas, and the vet gave him prednisone and an antibiotic and told me to give him Benadryl.
I’ve had him a year and taken him to the vet 3 times overall. She knows him pretty well.
Submitted: 12 months ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 12 months ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with your BoxerX. Both atopy (allergies to environmental allergens such as pollens, molds, dust, and dust mites) and food intolerance are important differential diagnoses when facial pruritis (itchiness) is so severe. Atopy is far more common than a food intolerance and his poor response to the allergen free food would support atopy over food intolerance.

Environmental allergies (atopy) are usually initially addressed with prednisone whose dosing might have to be extended in his case. 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 you've seen. 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 his 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. His problem exacerbating in summer is another clue for atopy.

You also have the option of having him allergy tested - either by blood or scratch testing - and then giving him allergy shots or sublingual therapy. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.