What can I do for my dog’s itchy skin?

Original Question: My dog has had a skin condition since he 4 months old that is so itchy that he licks and chews until he bleeds all over his body. He has tried several prescription medications and allergy elimination diets. His dermatologist feels he has a genetic skin disorder inherited from overbreeding of Bichon Frise’s. The only thing that controls his itching is daily methylprednisolone 4 mg. He has been on this since 4 months old except while trying other medications or injections. He has had to increase his dose over the years to maintain non-itchy conditions. He has some crusty spots on him that are dry and he still licks in spite of the drug. He has started to show some symptoms of Cushing’s such as a distended belly, panting, increased water drinking, etc. but has not been tested extensively to confirm that diagnosis because his regular complete blood count test results are not high enough to warrant it although his liver enzymes are a bit elevated. I want to know if there is any natural treatment I could try for him to lessen his dependence on the steroid or get him off of it or if there are natural supplements that could help him reduce his likelihood of getting Cushing’s. I already feed him an organic non-gmo diet and he gets daily exercise. - Joyce

What can I do for my dog’s itchy skin? Sep 18, 2018

Hi Joyce,

Thanks for your question.

Sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this frustrating problem.

The fact that you have been working with a dermatologist means that you must have done all of the cursory diagnostics. This is someone who is much more qualified and experienced than I am in treating skin disorders so it would be odd if I were able to direct you in a positive way that they haven’t already tried. However, I have had success with similar cases that have previously been seen by a dermatologist so you never know.

I would first assume you have been through the standard tests such as skin scrapings, tape preparations for yeast, reviewed a thorough diet history, attempted elimination diet trials, possibly been through a biopsy, and possibly allergy testing. I assume you have tried treatments such as topical omega 3 for dogs, omega 3 fatty acid supplements, trials on the recently licensed anti-itch and anti-allergy medications, antibiotic trials, shampoos, etc. If any of these diagnostics or treatments have not been attempted, then you could speak to your dermatologist about it.

The one idea I would alert you to is the role a bacterial infection skin infection in dogs could be playing. It is common to find a secondary bacterial infection present and it can actually be creating a larger problem than the allergies. We’ve recently found many bacterial skin infections that are resistant to the more common antibiotics. This is sometimes overlooked and what is more important in your case is the fact that Cushing’s disease might be present. This condition will reduce the immune system’s ability to fight infection and may be preventing a positive response. My recommendation is to determine whether Cushing’s disease is indeed present or not first. At the same time, I would recommend that you perform a skin culture and sensitivity test. This is where a swab is taken of the surface bacteria and it is grown in the lab to identify it and indicate which antibiotics will be successful in eliminating it. It is not a commonly run test and could result in the answer you’re looking for. The impact of the Cushing’s disease could also be eliminated through treatment and may help resolve the problem.

I hope some of this helps. Good luck.

Dr Clayton Greenway

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What can I do for my dog's itchy skin?
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What can I do for my dog's itchy skin?
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I want to alert you to the role a bacterial infection skin infection in dogs could be playing here. It is common to find a secondary bacterial infection present and it can actually be creating a larger problem than the allergies.
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Healthcare for Pets
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