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10 tips for dogs with delicate skin conditions

Skin problems are one of the most common problems seen by vets. Our resident Zoe shares her top tips

Skin problems are one of the most common problems seen by vets. They can also be one of the most frustrating conditions to treat.  This is because it can sometimes be very difficult and expensive to get to the root cause of a skin condition.  Often dogs can be allergic to food, fleas, grasses, pollens and even house dust mites.  Food allergies are probably the easiest to solve providing you can pin point the exact ingredient that your dog is allergic to.  If your dog has an allergy to grass or house dust mites it can be impossible to stop them coming into contact with these things so management rather than cure is the aim.  This article aims to help you if you have a dog with an ongoing itchy skin condition.

1.    Treat for fleas

Flea allergies are one of the most common causes of allergic skin disease in dogs.  Often if your dog has an allergy they will be allergic to more than one thing.  It is very easy to prevent a flea allergy by regularly treating your pet with a good quality flea treatment.  Mark in your calendar when the next treatment is due and make sure you treat your dog regularly and on time.

2.    Avoid the allergen

This is easier said than done.  However, if you think your dog has an allergy to grass, keeping off freshly cut grass or walking along footpaths rather than through fields can help.  For dust mite allergies spray your house once or twice a year with a home flea spray and wash your dogs bed weekly.  Food allergies can be diagnosed by feeding a novel protein and carbohydrate for 6-8 weeks.  If the skin improves and flares up when you reintroduce your original diet then you know that food is playing a part in the allergy.  Your vet can also do blood tests to try and pin point what your dog is allergic to so that you can try and avoid it.

3.    Add in an essential fatty acid supplement

Omega 3 fatty acids play a key role in health of the skin.  Dogs with allergies often have a higher requirement for these EFAs.  Using a supplement like Yumega plus or Viacutin can vastly improve a skin condition.  They can take 4-6 weeks to work so keep it up for this length of time.

4.    Shampoo with a prescription shampoo

Shampoos can really help with ongoing skin conditions.  If your dog has an allergic skin condition they will often be predisposed to ongoing bacterial or fungal infections.  Malaseb shampoo is a prescription shampoo designed to treat bacterial and fungal skin infections and used once to twice weekly can really help.  There are now also shampoos that can help improve the health of the skin so that allergens cannot leak through and cause a reaction.  Allermyl is one of these shampoos and is definitely worth using if you have a dog with an ongoing allergy.  If you have a dog with scaly dry skin try sebomild, or for a dog with itchy dry skin Episoothe is a great conditioning and de-itching shampoo.

5.    Treat infections early

Dogs with allergies will often scratch themselves raw and will then introduce bacterial infections.  Bacterial infections themselves make the skin itchy and will therefore exacerbate the condition.  If your pet’s skin looks very red and sore then it is better to have a vet check sooner rather than later.  If left, bacterial infections can become very deep, necessitating long courses of antibiotics.

6.    Try an anti-inflammatory spray

If your pet just has a localised itchy spot, then Cortavence, an anti-inflammatory spray can help.  This is a steroid spray, but it is not absorbed into the general circulation so has fewer side effects than taking oral steroids.  


7.    Change your dog’s diet

Often dogs will have more than one allergy so it is always worth trying a change of diet to see if this helps a skin condition.  Go for a really good quality food, ideally with a new meat source that your dog does not normally eat.  James Wellbeloved and Burns produce diets that are often better for dog’s with skin conditions.  You can also try a prescription diet like Hills d/d or Royal Canin Skin Support.

8.    Use CLX wipes

If your dog has itchy feet, then this is often because they are allergic to something that they are walking on.  Using CLX wipes when you come back from a walk to wipe in between the toes can really help.  The wipes are quite big so you can cut them into four to do all the feet and to save you money.  

9.    Antihistamines

These are not as effective in dogs as they are in humans.  However, some dogs will respond a little so it is worth trying them for two weeks to see if your dog responds. There are several different types of anti-histamines so it’s worth trying three different types, each for a two week period before ruling them out.  Anti-histamines such as Clemastine, Diphenhydramine, Chlorphenamine (Piriton) and Atarax are some of the more effective anti-histamines to try.

10.    Ask your vet about Apoquel

This is a relatively new drug which has been shown to be very effective at reducing itch in your dog.  The manufacturers state that side effects are rare, and certainly compared to the side effects of long term steroids this seems to hold true.  If you have tried all of the above and your dog is still scratching madly then it may be time to consider some more long term medication.