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Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 30360
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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What can I do to get our golden retrievers skin back to

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Hi. What can I do to get our golden retrievers skin back to normal. He itches/scratches ALL the time and we have given him the cortizone from the vet numerous times but I hate giving it to him all the time. He is almost 10 now and I do not want to stress his kidneys. He has been dealing with this for about 6years and now his skin is black on his chest, under his neck, hi private area is dark black and he use to have beautiful skin. We have had golden's before but they NEVER had a skin problem. Can you please tell me how to help him? I am attaching a pic. Thank you.

You're speaking to Dr. Michael Salkin. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm currently typing up my reply. Please be patient. This may take a few minutes.

I'm sorry to hear of this with Buddy, Chuck. Thank you for the pic. It demonstrates post-inflammatory pigmentation as well as chronic changes in the skin termed lichenification (thickened, leatherly) and elephant skin (self-explanatory). It's common to find a heavy population of yeast (Malassezia) in this black skin as well.

You've asked a symptom question but the answer is anything but simple. Most important, you've going to need to find a vet who doesn't simply throw a glucocorticoid (steroid/"cortizone") at such a patient which will only worsen the bacterial and yeast infection I would expect to find in Buddy's skin. Thje most expedient manner in which to address him is to have a specialist veterinary dermatologist (www.acvd.org) attend to him. I'm going to post my entire synopsis of the pruritic dog for you so you can see all of the things I need to consider in such a patient. Take you time perusing it. There's a lot of information to absorb. After perusal, please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Pruritic (itchy) dogs are suffering from an allergic dermatitis in the great majority of cases. Allergies to flea saliva, environmental allergens (atopic dermatitis) such as pollens, molds, dust and dust mites, and foods should be considered. (Paw and extremity licking indicates both atopy and a food intolerance and so it behooves vets to distinguish one from another.) In many instances, a concomitant pyoderma (bacterial skin infection), yeast infection (Malassezia), or mange mite (Demodex or Sarcoptes) might be contributory.

Buddy's vet can check a sample of Buddy's skin surface microscopically (a “cytology”) for abnormal numbers of bacteria and yeast and skin scrapings can be taken in an attempt to find mites. Pyoderma is treated with a minimum of 3-4 weeks of an antibiotic in the cephalosporin class such as cephalexin (Keflex) plus antimicrobial shampoos containing either chlorhexidine or benzoyl peroxide and yeast is addressed with ketoconazole plus shampoos containing either ketoconazole, miconazole, or clotrimazole for at least a month.

Our dermatologists tell us to provide one of the newer prescription products available from Buddy'svet even if fleas aren’t seen. Over the counter products containing imidocloprid (Advantage, e.g.) or fipronil (Frontline, e.g.) may be ineffective because many populations of fleas have developed resistance to those chemicals. Consider products containing a different class of insecticide such as Bravecto, NexGard, Simparica, Comfortis, and Vectra. Dogs can be such effective groomers so as to eliminate all evidence of flea infestation. Dogs who remain primarily indoors can contract fleas because we walk them in on us and flea eggs and larva can remain viable in your home for months. As the weather warms or you turn on heaters at this time of year, egg hatches are common. If the area between the edge of Buddy's rib cage and tail (the “saddle” area) is particularly excoriated, a flea saliva allergy should be the most important differential diagnosis. In severe cases, an anti-allergenic prescription glucocorticoid (steroid) such as prednisone will work wonders for dogs allergic to the saliva of the flea. If you have other pets they may have fleas too but may not be allergic to the flea’s saliva. Be sure to treat your premises with an over the counter area treatment spray that contains an insect growth regulator (IGR) such as Siphotrol Area Treatment Spray containing the IGR methoprene. The IGRs don't allow flea eggs and larvae to develop into adult fleas and so the life cycle of the flea is broken.

Environmental allergies (atopy) are usually initially addressed with prednisone as well. 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 oral immunotherapy using the cytokine antagonist oclacitinib (Apoquel) is likely to revolutionize how we address atopic dogs and should be discussed with Buddy's vet. Oclacitinib works as well as a steroid without a steroid's adverse effects. The new injectable immunotherapy with the monoclonal antibody IL-31 should also be discussed with his vet. 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 Buddy'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 Buddy's 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.

We need to consider seborrhea in such a patient as well. This is skin disorder of keratinization and maturation. It's a diagnosis of exclusion of the above mentioned skin disorders and can be suggested by skin biopsy.

errata: (steroid/"cortizone")

The prescription foods are available from Buddy's vet.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you for the in depth response. Buddy went for 6 years with perfect skin and he has never had a flew problem. One summer we used a commercial yard company to treat for chinch bugs and mole crickets ( we usually spread it ourselves) and that's the summer his skin started changing color and he started itching. We have never been bitten by fleas form him and never infested from buddy. We bath him regularly and use a calming oatmeal shampoo and use an anti itch spray to try to help him. We have also used Benadryl when the cortisone is out which gives temporary relief. We cannot afford to spend a lot of money on treatments and have spent a lot already. I just hate that he has to go through this and we keep trying to find just the right thing to help him. I was trying to think of a topical ointment or cream that would help him that he cannot lick off. We also thought about trying some of the dog food from pet smart that are SO very different from the regular dog foods we buy. Buddy eats purina dog chow. Any suggestions?? Thanks again. (. Buddy's coat is beautiful on the top of his body. His tail, his head, his upper coat are just gorgeous. This is ALL underneath. The strangest thing.

Topical ointments/creams will be impractical for such an extensive skin condition. Instead, bathing him in an antimicrobial shampoo containing chlorhexidine + miconazole, ketoconazole, or clotrimazole twice weekly should be helpful. You should be able to find such a shampoo over the counter by googling. Malaseb is a good choice but usually requires a prescription from an attending vet. As for foods, if you want to see if a food intolerance has arisen, please note that food intolerance/allergy is best 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 Buddy'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 his vet. There are many novel protein foods and a prototypical hydrolyzed protein food is Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d ultra (a hydrolyzed protein diet is my preference 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 my patient has been eating the same food for quite some time. You might find such a food at PetSmart. Look for a hydrolyzed protein one. If you can't find a hydrolyzed protein one look for a novel protein one containing a protein Buddy never ingested before. Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Dr. Michael Salkin and other Dog Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you

Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience. You can bookmark this page for ease of return.

Hi Chuck,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Buddy. How is everything going?

Dr. Michael Salkin