Skin Allergies in Pets

How to Solve Your Dog's Skin and Scratching Problems

You hear them at night ..thump thump thump … see them in the park rubbing their face on the ground and some reinvent your coffee table as a back scratcher. If you are the owner of an itchy giant breed, (sometimes the size of a small horse), then the coffee table might just end up in the kitchen.  This is not only common to large breeds, but affects all breeds.

Skin Allergies in Pets

The itchy dog.

Many a dog owner’s nightmare and a vet’s source of frustration. In spring and summer the itchy dog is the number one complaint seen by vets. And unfortunately for the dog’s nerves, the owner’s bank balance and the vet’s success rate – it is a recurrent and often incurable.

Once parasites like mange and fleas were ruled out skin allergies are the most common reason for the recurrent itch.

Spring is in the air but so are pollen, grass seed and all things itchy. Dogs with skin allergies can be compared to humans with hay fever. The same allergens which make us reach for the Twinsavers and the  Allergex can affect our four legged companions. Add to that flea bite and food allergies and our pooches will be playing the guitar (with a back leg) ‘till the early morning hours.

To make the situation even more challenging we have to deal with our dogs not able to speak up. “So tell me Rover, did your ears start tickling after the bacon or was it the chicken pie?” Even if he could speak up I think he might play mute, because if he identifies the itch trigger it will be no more bacon for Rover.

As pet owners we need to be observant for specific warning signs and patterns:

  • Seasonal occurring itching may be due to environmental factors like pollens and grass seed.
  • When itching recurs throughout the year, the answer to the itch might be in the bag of food.
  • Itching which affects the front half of the body may also be food related.  
  • If the tickly spot is closer to the tail flea bite allergies are most likely the cause.
  • Some dogs with food allergies only have one symptom: reoccurring ear infections.

Veterinary medicine is still playing catch up to human medicine, and will most likely always be way behind. But it has evolved over the years with dogs going for MRI scans,  cranky hips get replace with state of the art prosthesis and chemotherapy is now a reality. But just like hay fever in humans, the itchy dog is still with us and treatment mainly directed at supporting the sensitive skin and eliminating the triggers.

So what can the dog owner do if he is one of the thousands of dog owners with an itchy companion?


  • Monthly flea control is essential. Even a single flea bite can trigger these dogs. The allergen is in the saliva of the flea. It is important to use a product with a protective effect and not just an instant killing effect.
  • Daily omega 3 supplementation. Most diets have sufficient Omega 6 content but lack Omega 3. It is important in dogs to use a fish based omega 3 which is high in EPA and DHA. Dogs are not that efficient to use ALA – the omega 3 which comes from plants.
  • If a food allergy is suspected a food trial with a hypoallergenic diet or novel protein is something to consider. Just remember to be effective the hypoallergenic diet must be fed exclusively. And YES a small bit of chicken can trigger the allergy in a chicken sensitive dog even if she is on a hypoallergenic diet.
  • Topical treatment can be considered to improve the skin barrier against contact allergens and moisture loss.  Allerderm may improve the skins ability to protect itself.
  • As a last resort some pet owners opt to do blood tests, to identify the allergens. A desensitisation vaccine can then be tailor-made for the specific dog’s allergy profile. Success with these vaccines is inconsistent. It is also an expensive and labour intensive process, but still worth considering if all else fails.

Future research may bring more relief to our itchy allergic dogs, but for now help them reach those itchy spots they can’t get to, support their skin with good nutrition, supplements and flea control.

It is now up to you to take action for your itchy pet.  Which one of these 5 options do you think will best suite your pet and your environment to help eliminate his skin allergies?  We suggest you start your elimination process from the top of the above list and move down.

Please let us know what you experience with your pet and how you actioned the situation.

Article written by: Dr Adel Ferreira





You Might Also be Interested in:

Owning a pet is a wonderful experience. Whether you have a dog, a cat, or another type of pet, they
Winter has settled in Cape Town with rain and icy temperatures. The township of Khayelitsha has an
Pet Luxury has been taken to a new level, at the Barkley Pet Hotel in America. Going away is always
Big Mistake No 14: Scolding Pets For “Accidents” People’s first response often is to shout at their
The question that we want to answer today is: "Why do some businesses succeed and some fail when all
CHILDREN Stimulates mental focus The most prevalent factor for kids to perform poorly in school is