Itchy Dog – Things to Pay Attention to at Home
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM
It is miserable for everyone in the family if you have an itchy dog with irritated skin and it can be a very frustrating disease that leaves you feeling helpless. However, there are some things you can pay attention to at home that will help us figure out what might be going on! In order to help determine the underlying reason for skin symptoms, history is everything so this paper touches on some things to pay attention to at home so that we can discuss it to help with the diagnostic process at your veterinary visit.
The Symptoms: Where on your pet’s body does the most scratching/licking/biting occur? Have you noticed hair loss, increased redness, scaliness, spots or bumps, crusty scabby patches, or open sores? Are your pet’s eyes irritated? Does your pet sneeze/cough or sound wheezy? Have you seen fleas on your pet?
Travel History: Has your pet been out of the state in the past several years? Has his environment changed in the past six months? Did your pet react differently to different environments (such as, was he more or less itchy or irritated when you were living or visiting a different state?)
Diet History: Have you changed your pet’s food in the last year? What types of snacks or treats does he eat on a regular basis? Have you ever noticed a difference in symptoms, coat quality, or bathroom habits with different foods? It is helpful to bring a list of the brand names and types of food and treats your pet has been eating.
Medication History: The medication history includes monthly flea and heartworm preventions, any supplements or over the counter medications, any shampoos or topical products, and any medications prescribed by a veterinarian. What type of flea and heartworm prevention do you use, and has it changed or stayed consistent over the last year? Do you ever miss doses? Do you notice that your pet is itchier around the time it is almost time for the next dose? Have you noticed any changes using certain shampoos or topical products? How often do you bathe your pet? If your pet has been prescribed medication previously by a veterinarian – what was it, how long was it used, and how did your pet respond?
Seasonal History: Does your pet’s itchy, irritated skin occur only at certain times of the year or are you seeing these symptoms all year? Are some seasons better than others? Does it seem like your personal allergies flare up around the same time as your pet becomes itchier?
Whole Body History: There can be multiple organs involved with allergies, including the ears and eyes and anal glands. When the skin symptoms are bad, do you also notice your pet shaking his head, pawing at his eyes, and/or scooting on his rear? Have you noticed other bodily changes, like weight loss/gain, personality, appetite, or urinary changes? Is your pet up to date on vaccines?