How can I get my dog to stop scratching?
Original Question: My 7-year-old Yorkie keeps scratching and I notice that when we brush her hair, her skin crawls. We have taken her to our vet and put her on a full pill of Apoquel for a month which helped a lot. Now she is on 1/2 pill for the last two months and she is still scratching just as much. The vet also prescribed Omega oil 2 weeks ago but she is still scratching!! He doesn’t think it’s allergies. We don’t know what else to do. Help!! - Sonya
Thanks for sending in your question.
Skin disease can be a very frustrating thing to deal with as a pet owner, and allergies are especially tricky to figure out. In these cases, it is very important to make sure you have ruled out other causes of itching, especially external parasites like fleas and mites. Also, ensure any secondary bacterial skin infection has been cleared up – otherwise there will be an ongoing source of irritation. Your vet can help you figure these things out.
Allergy testing can be done, and typically requires referral to a veterinary dermatologist – this is the only way to diagnose allergies to a specific allergen. Allergy testing is only accurate for environmental allergies, such as pollens and dust. Immunotherapy (aka “allergy shots”) can be prescribed for your pet based on the results of the allergy testing. Food allergies can only be accurately diagnosed with diet trials – in which potential allergens are removed entirely from the diet for 1-2 months and the response monitored. Food trials require a lot of time and dedication for best results.
Many pet owners do not go so far as to diagnose specific allergies but instead, treat symptomatically. There are a variety of treatments available today that can make a dramatic difference in the quality of life of allergic pets. These need to be tailored to your individual pet – things like seasonality, home environment and underlying medical conditions will impact treatment selection. If the current protocol is not working for your pet, it is time to review everything with your vet and adjust things so that your dog’s itching can be addressed.
I hope this gives you some insight and direction.
Dr. Kim Hester
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