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Itchy feet, belly, tail.

Species: Dog
Breed: Lab Mix
Age: 2-5 years
I live in MA with my dog. We went to NY (an hour north of NYC) at the very beginning of August, to visit family. While we were there, she began to itch quite a bit. I gave her Benadryl for about 3 days (50 mg - she is ~50 lbs), which didn't seem to help much at all. It just made her sleepy, but no less itchy.

We have been back in MA for a week now, and she has not gotten better. The itching is making her miserable, and I don't know what to do. I stopped using the Benadryl because it was not helping. She seemed to be getting better towards the end of last week (after discontinuing Benadryl), but then over this weekend she became worse. Her haunches are now covered in scabs. I cut the fur away to try to avoid hot spots, and none have developed yet.

She is scratching/chewing incessantly in the following places: chest, paws, haunches, stomach, back - towards tail. Her nipples have become quite inflamed, but I think it is from scratching, because when I put socks on her hind paws while we were sleeping, the inflammation went away. She is spayed.

I currently have to put the e-collar on her while I am away/sleeping so she won't chew herself raw. I also put Aquaphor on her haunches, where the scabbing is quite bad (my vet has told me Aquaphor is safe, and Honey does not ingest it). This has definitely helped with the scabbing.

The e-collar definitely helps and the inflammation is really reduced. Her scabs are almost healed, but as soon as I take the cone off, she tries to chew whatever she can get to, so I know the cause of the itching is still present. She is also shedding more than usual.

I was at the vet the day before I went to NY, and Honey's blood work and physical exam were normal, for whatever that is worth.

Also, in the past couple of days I started her on a fish oil supplement (Iceland Pure), but I don't expect that to provide immediate relief.

She is on Frontline Plus, which I applied the day before we went to NY. I have not found fleas on her, but I have read one flea bite can cause an allergic reaction. She is a pretty allergic dog in general, and does have food allergies, which have been under control for the past 6 months.

I have ordered Advantage II, because it has been recommended to me to try something other than Frontline Plus. I was wondering if it is safe to apply the Advantage II this week? I gave her Fronline Plus on 8/1/2012. Also, how long do I need to wait after bathing her to apply Advantage II? I gave her a bath this afternoon, before realizing fleas might be the problem.

I can't go to the vet before Wednesday (8/15). I would prefer to avoid the vet altogether, because this has been quite an expensive summer for us (Honey needed emergency surgery in May for an abscess), however, I will absolutely go if I have to - either Wednesday or Thursday this week. I need some relief for her at least until then. This dog is my world and it is just killing me that she is suffering.

Does this sound like flea allergy dermatitis, or could it be something else? Honey was quite itchy when we returned from NY earlier in the summer, too...however she was better after a few days.

What do you recommend?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Aw, the poor kid. She sounds so uncomfortable!

It certainly does sound like there is some type of allergy going on. Without seeing her though it's hard to say whether this is a flea allergy or an environmental allergy.

This time of the year is usually the worst for seasonal allergies. Often it's impossible to find out what a dog is allergic to. It could be some type of grass or pollen or who knows what!

I think it's a great idea to put the Advantage II on her just in case of fleas as they are common at this time of the year too. I do generally find that Frontline works well...but there may be parts of the country where it is not as effective as it once was. And yes, you can safely put on Advantage now even though she had Frontline earlier.

I'm guessing though that this will end up being a seasonal allergy.

I do not find that Benadryl does much for dogs with allergies. In very mild cases it can help somewhat but it usually isn't terribly effective. I have found that almost every allergic dog needs a small dose of steroids. Some people get very defensive when I talk about putting their dogs on steroids, but it really is the best way to get relief. If your vet prescribes steroids then they will start off at a moderate dose and then keep reducing the dose till we see what the smallest dose is that works for Honey. At the doses that we use for allergies, steroids are very safe.

If she has a lot of scabs, she may have a secondary skin infection. If this is the case then the vet will prescribe some oral antibiotics as well.

There are other more rare things that can cause itchiness such as sarcoptic mange or ringworm but these seem very unlikely in comparison to allergies.

I wish I could give you an at home cure, but it sounds to me like Honey is crying out for steroids!

I hope she feels better soon!

Dr. Marie

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for your reply. I will try to get her into the vet on Wednesday. The good news is that after the bath I gave her today (Magic Coat Medicated Shampoo) and the aquaphor I have been using, the scabs are basically gone. I am hoping I caught that in time to prevent an infection. The bath has also seemed to have relieved the itchiness quite a bit (I know that is only temporary, but it is nice to see her quiet for now).

The reason I am somewhat suspicious of the flea allergy is that she bites and chews at the base of her tail a lot (on top), which is what my family's dog did when she had fleas last year. Also, my sister in NY told me (after I got back to MA) that they switched my family's dogs from Frontline to Advantage because they had gotten fleas on Frontline earlier in the summer. So, my worry is that the fleas in NY weren't completely prevented by the Frontline I had on her.

Also, it happened very suddenly. One day she was completely fine and the next she was itching all over (this is not an exaggeration). Do seasonal allergies set in that quickly? Will the vet be able to tell the difference between a flea allergy reaction and seasonal allergies?

Thanks again.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

That's great news that she's got some releif!

And yes, biting the top of the base of the tail can definitely be a sign of a flea allergy, so I think you're on the right track there.

Any type of allergy can hit pretty quickly.

The vet likely won't be able to tell which type of allergy it is...but the treatment is usually the same.

Hope all goes well!

Dr. Marie.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.