The problem: Skin irritation
Sporting Gun|October 2021
Despite two courses of steroids, my young labrador is still incredibly itchy. Will it subside in the winter? JAYNE ABBOT, MELROSE
JAYNE ABBOT, MELROSE

Since your vet has prescribed steroids, I must assume that they think your dog is suffering from some type of allergic skin disease. It would seem, however, that unless the dose has been inadequate, the lack of response to this treatment puts the diagnosis in doubt. But let’s take a look at itchy dogs in general. It must be said that itching, or pruritus, is simply a clinical sign that something is not right. Setting aside those few dogs that scratch due to boredom or anxiety, there are three main causes – though I may be in danger of oversimplifying the problem.

Allergic skin disease

Also referred to as atopy, allergies in dogs are common, often inherited (so always beware the itchy mum when choosing a puppy) and can be difficult to diagnose accurately, as many dogs are allergic to multiple items.

This category can be subdivided into:

Food allergy – Humans with food allergies will vomit and have diarrhea. Affected dogs itch. Owners often mistakenly look to incriminate newly introduced foods as the cause, but it is usually regular dietary components that are the culprits. Blood tests can help to pinpoint allergens, but often it is best to feed novel proteins and carbohydrates (salmon and potato, for example) or hydrolyzed foods for a period of two months, with the exclusion of everything else.

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