If you dog has an itch to scratch, take him to your vet

  • Jack, a male Jack Russell terrier, is about 3 years old and weighs 22 pounds.

    Jack, a male Jack Russell terrier, is about 3 years old and weighs 22 pounds.

  • Jewel is a female Boxer mix, about 3 years old and weighs 52 pounds.

    Jewel is a female Boxer mix, about 3 years old and weighs 52 pounds.

By Ellaine Kiriluk
The Buddy Beat
Posted7/15/2012 6:29 AM

Summer is here. We get to spend more time playing with our dogs outside. Nothing is more fun than watching our dogs play in the water, run up and down on a beach or paddle in a pool or lake to retrieve a floating toy.

I took my dog, Kasey, to a lake to play fetch in the water. We both enjoyed the summer afternoon. But despite giving him a bath with a medicated shampoo afterward, he couldn't stop scratching and licking. Something from the lake was affecting.


I took him to the veterinarian for help with his skin problem. Clinical signs associated with itching can be mild or severe licking, biting, scratching, rubbing and twitching skin.

"Scratching can quickly lead to skin damage, bleeding, hair loss, scabs and secondary skin infections with bacteria or fungi organisms," writes Dr. Karen Todd Jenkins, VMD, on HealthyPet.com, the website of the American Animal Hospital Association.

Elsewhere on HealthyPet.com, Dr. Brett Hinsch reminds us that skin is an organ, just like the liver and kidneys.

"The skin functions as a barrier to protect the body from infection caustic substances, ultraviolet light and dehydration," he writes.

The following is taken directly from HealthyPet.com, which lists some of the common diseases of the skin and conditions affecting the skin:

• Allergies -- reaction to an allergen, a substance that causes sensitivity. Most allergens are inhaled and a few are contact. Some allergens are found in food, including corn, wheat, soy, beef and dairy products. The first signs of allergic reactions are biting, rubbing the skin, scratching, biting or licking. These can lead to infection characterized by pimples and red bumps. It is important to get professional help as soon as possible due to the discomfort.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

• Fungal infections, including ringworm.

• Bacterial infections -- common infection but usually secondary to underlying diseases such as allergies. Treatment may include either oral or topical antibiotics.

• Ectoparasites -- external parasites, including ticks, fleas and mites. The parasites break the barrier formed by the skin and allow bacterial infections to occur and may lead to allergic conditions.

• Hot spots -- occur as our pets try to relieve themselves from pain or itching. Treatment for hot spots include thorough cleaning, topical and systemic antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

• Irritant contact dermatitis -- diagnosis based on history of contact and clinical presentation. Treatment is washing the exposed areas to remove the irritant and, if itching is present, steroids are given for a short period of time. Preventing re-exposure is important.


• Secondary skin diseases -- such as hypothyroidism are diagnosed via clinical testing, e.g. biopsies, blood tests and X-rays for the underlying disease.

Dr. Hinsch reports, "Treatment of skin disease may include steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines, topical drugs, antifungal drugs, shampoos and rinses, dietary supplementation, or modification and surgical removal of masses.

"In some cases, therapy must be continued for months, and even for life."

Consult your veterinarian when your dog is scratching, biting or licking. They depend on us to help them feel better.

• Contact The Buddy Foundation at (847) 290-5806; visit us at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights; or online at thebuddyfoundation.org.