Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "The Itchies" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

The Itchies

Second only to obesity the itchies must be the major health problem making dogs' lives miserable. The itchies, as is true of obesity, is "curable!"

The first thing to consider when dogs begin to scratch and chew on themselves is a flea problem. When I have suggested this to people the response is often "Oh no! I checked and MY dog doesn't have FLEAS!" Well, folks, if you can actually see those devils your dog has more than a flea problem - it has is an infestation.

Usually, fleas cause scratching and chewing around the tail - to start with. From there things escalate to scratching around the ears and head area and then the whole body gets a workout from the feet and biting at those nasty devils with teeth. "Hot spots" are places a dog has chewed at so intently that the skin begins to ooze from secondary infections and the itch that continues is not about to be eased by attention from teeth and nails.

If you missed the message with the telltale signs of scratching and chewing, and suddenly get a wake-up call when you see a bare patch that is really nasty looking, you must take immediate action. Clip the hair away from the edges. Clean the area with a soothing solution. Forget about ointments since Uncomfortable Olga will immediately lick off any such treatment. What you can do is give her an all over rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar, and then apply the sap from a sábila (aloe vera) plant leaf to the really inflamed area. Do the latter when you are putting her food down, about to play ball or will be otherwise occupying her mind to give the treatment several minutes to do any good. If these home remedies do not work you must seek help from your vet or things will get even worse.

THEN get serious about flea control measures. My favorite is still FRONTLINE. It is my favorite because of the nearly non-existent level of toxicity and the high level of protection from these really bothersome parasites.

Next on the list of causes of the itchies, is the abundance of grains in processed dog food. The grains considered most likely to cause dogs to get into scratching and chewing on their bodies are corn, wheat and soy. ALL cheap dog foods and just about every ingredient list of foods here in Mexico that I have read -- including high priced brands! -- uses, at the very least, corn -- often, it is the FIRST ingredient on the list! Not good, folks. Not good at all.

As compared to chewing at their tails as a starting place, grains are inclined to cause either a generalized itchiness or very often chewing on paws and front legs. Yucky ears (often a yeast infection) are frequently attributed to grains in food, but our vets (who learn about nutrition from dog food companies) almost always only take the step of changing the food from one manufacturer to another, and meanwhile medical treatment is used to treat the problem. Rare is the vet who suggests that more drastic moves are necessary.

If you have been able to rule out fleas and dog food, the bothersome skin problem requires further sleuthing. Are you bathing your dog weekly? Hmmm. Consider that as a skin drying probability. Show dogs are often bathed weekly to guarantee a beautiful presentation at show time, but measures to maintain healthy skin and coat can include such things as "soaking" the hair in oil to reverse drying issues from all that bathing. Not a reasonable solution to the itchies for most dog owners from what I can determine.

Do be sure that the shampoo you use is specific for dogs, does not - NOT - include flea killing agents, or any perfumes, or other such offending additives. Go natural! Do consider adding Vitamin E to your dog's daily diet. Add fish oils, some vegetable oils and animal oils, but get advice about what, when and how much!

Other environmental causes of itchiness can exist -- contact with "something" in rugs, grasses, cleaning agents used on floors and/or carpets, detergents used to launder bedding, garden sprays, etc. There are even problems with things dogs inhale - any polluting agent that causes a human to adversely react may indeed affect Snuffling Snoopy or Chewing Charlie. Having said all that certainly, my best advice is that rather than believe maybe the Martians are causing Marvelous Minnie to be bothered by a case of the itchies, do begin with fleas and food, and go on from there.

Whatever it is -- YOU are the best source for information to resolve the problem. Care enough to do so. When it comes to obesity -- keep in mind that every savory bit that you offer to Waddling Wanda shortens her life AND makes every moment of what she has more and more difficult, and painful to endure. So -- if you must, do give her that forbidden treat. Just accept responsibility for her every waking moment of pain.
[Please see Charlotte's Recommended Reading.]

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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