10 Effective Tips to Help Your Itching Dog Feel More Comfortable
Does My Dog Have Fleas?
If your indoor dog is suffering from more than a case of fleas, these suggestions will reduce the number of allergens around the house and make him breathe easier.
If your dog is itching and scratching, fleas are still the most common problem he might be facing. Look at his skin closely and see if you can find a flea or a black speck of "flea dirt." Take the dirt from your dog's skin and put it on a wet paper towel; if the paper towel turns red around the dirt it is actually dried blood that has been passed by a flea.
Over ¾ of the dogs that are presented for allergies are suffering from flea allergies, even though some have other problems.
Atopy (Inhalant Allergies)
What other problems? Atopy (inhalant allergies) is one of the most common reason dogs are taken in for skin evaluations. Some dogs are allergic to common household allergens like dust mites and cockroaches, some are allergic to molds, and still others are allergic to pollen and plant spores found out in the yard.
Skin testing does not work that well in dogs and blood testing is available but not reliable.
Food allergies are another problem affecting dogs but are a let loss common; if your dog is suffering from itching year-round almost 40% have food and inhalant allergies. Contact allergies are yet another problem but seen even less often than that.
Sometimes you can figure out what is wrong, but if you take the dog in for numerous trips to the vet and you still aren’t sure, how do you keep your indoor allergic dog more comfortable?
What Things Are Bothering My Allergic Dog?
Dust mite feces (poop)
Found in carpet, bedding, and in the air after dusting or vacuuming.
Found in kitchens, areas where dog food or water are available.
Found outside when the cool weather is over, this is also a problem in moist houses and those with house plants.
Found outside as soon as plants start producing pollen.
10 Things You Can Do to Help Your Dog
Veterinarians may not always be able to diagnose and treat this disease but are working on the best ways to keep your dogs more comfortable. You may have heard some of these recommendations from your veterinarian, but if you want to do everything you can for your friend, here are ten simple suggestions you should follow:
Keep Your House Cool and Dry
Keep your house cool (less than 65 degrees F/18 degrees C) and dry. Although this is not possible in all places or at all times of the year, keeping your house cool will slow dust mite production and decrease one of the most potent allergens your dog may be allergic to. Dry houses (less than 50%) also have fewer dust mites and mold.
Vacuum Once a Week
Vacuum your house at least once a week. This needs to be done thoroughly at least once a week, and the vacuum should use a HEPA filter. A lot of dust mites and some other allergens will be removed with a good vacuum, but since things may be worse when you are stirring up the dust you should also use an air cleaner that removes small particles.
Get Rid of Carpet
Get rid of your carpet and replace it with tile or hardwood floors. I know that a lot of people do not want to do this, but even vacuums do not pull up all of the dead skin and other dirt in carpets and the only way to keep a house really clean is by removing most of the food sources for the dust mites. Some vacuums just stir up the dust on the floor so if you want your house clean you have to get rid of that carpet; my house is tiled and without wall-to-wall carpet it is a lot easier to keep clean!
Limit Your House Plants
Get rid of your house plants. Some dogs are allergic to molds and, since they grow in the moist soil around your plants, this may provide some relief. Getting rid of plants is not always easy, but since they are such a great growing environment for mold this may really help your dog.
Keep Food "Sanitary"
Limit the amount of time the dog food is out and keep your kitchen clean so that cockroaches are not able to survive and flourish. There is not a lot of proof that cockroaches are a problem in dogs but they might be. We already know that cockroach dust causes a lot of problems in humans in poor households. Some studies have found that almost half of homes have cockroach dust even when cockroaches are not seen! (If you do happen to see one, however, you should spray your house or call an extermination service before even attempting control.)
Bathe Your Dog Often
Bathe your dog as frequently as possible. Every time your dog goes out he becomes covered in allergens, so frequent bathing will remove most of these and make him more comfortable. I cannot tell you exactly how often he can be bathed, however, but to do any good studies have shown that the bathing has to take place at least twice a week. If his skin is very dry, it cannot be done that often. Dogs with oily skin can be bathed a lot more often.
Wipe Your Dog Down
Wipe your dog's feet and muzzle every time he comes in the house. Dogs walk around in their bare feet and pick up a lot of allergens out in the yard. You cannot remove all of them by wiping the feet but your dog will be a lot more comfortable. (If he has short hair, wipe his whole body down with a moist paper towel to decrease the allergens brought into the house.) It also helps your dog if you wipe your own feet at the door!
Wash Their Belongings
Wash your dog's toys, towel or other bedding in hot, hot water. The water needs to be over 130 degrees F (55 degrees C) to kill the mites, and detergents are better than soaps. At least two rinse cycles have been recommended, and an added benefit may be that the mechanical action of the washing will also remove a lot of the allergens.
Freeze Toys After Washing
Freeze toys for at least 24 hours after washing. Stuffed toys should go from the dryer right to the freezer (plastic and rubber toys can go from the dishwasher to the freezer before being returned to the allergic dog). Keep them in there one day to kill any remaining dust mites.
Keep Food Sealed
Put your dog's dry food in a sealable container. This is not as important as some of the other steps (like removing carpet) but is so easy that anyone feeding dry food should be doing it. Instead of just ripping open the bag and leaning it against the wall, the food is stored in a container that keeps it dry and free of mites.
What Else Can I Do for My Itching Dog?
Even if you follow all of the steps outlined above, some dogs are going to suffer. Some of them will find relief with conventional therapy (like steroid injections and antihistamines) and still others will respond to the new alternative therapies being developed.
There are some new non-conventional therapies but they are not available in all areas so discuss them with your vet. You should read more about alternative therapies if you want to try other things to help your dog.
The most serious problem for allergic dogs in the home is:
- Loeffler A, Soares-Magalhaes R, Bond R, et al. A retrospective analysis of case series using home-prepared and chicken hydrolysate diets in the diagnosis of adverse food reactions in 181 pruritic dogs. Veterinary Dermatology 2006; 17: 273–279.
- Chesney C. Food sensitivity in the dog: a quantitative study. Journal of Small Animal Practice 2002; 43: 203–207.
- Sousa CA, Halliwell REW. The ACVD task force on canine atopic dermatitis (XI): the relationship between arthropod hypersensitivity and atopic dermatitis in the dog. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology 2001; 81: 233–237.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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© 2015 Dr Mark