DEAR OLD TRAINER: Rufus, a Golden mix, and Sam, a Poodle/Schnauzer mix, are scratching worse than ever this year. We just put flea liquid on them a week ago and it seems like it makes them scratch even more. Any idea on what could be causing that and is there a way to stop it?
Iris, San Jose, Calif.
A: Constant scratching is now the most common complaint vets get, and there are a number of things you can do to solve the problem. Here are some of them.
First, stop using liquid flea medications. They contain chemicals listed as carcinogens by the EPA, chemicals so toxic they may cause rashes and itching and, in the worst case, skin cancer. Shampoo your dogs to remove as much as you can and throw away any you have left.
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Tick collars are even worse. The instructions of the most popular flea and tick collar contain this warning: “if the collar touches your skin wash with soap and water for 20 minutes, then seek help at your poison control center.” And yet they are left on dogs for weeks. If you have any, get rid of them.
Once you throw away the chemicals, take your dogs to the vet to make sure there is not some type of bacterial infection.
If that is ruled out the next most common cause of itching is allergies. If your dog licks his paws and lower legs he has allergy problems. Several of my dogs suffered every summer until my vet advised giving them human allergy pills. I bought Equate allergy pills at Walmart (I don’t accept free handouts, I buy anything I use) and gave each dog a pill morning and night. They worked like magic for my pack and a number of readers have reported the same success with their dogs.
Kibble can cause skin irritation if it is poor quality. Do some research and find the best quality you can afford. Or drop me an email and I’ll send you the results of a year of research I did on the subject and save you the time.
Bathe your dog at least once a week in the summer. Don’t make a big production of it. Just call him over to an outside hose and run cool, clean water through the coat, using your fingers to make sure it gets down to the skin. Your dog will feel better, smell better, and scratch less.
While he is wet, apply a mixture of half apple cider vinegar, half water to his back and belly and anywhere else he has a sensitive spot. Continue to apply the mixture every couple of days during the spring and summer.
Give your dog a summer haircut. Many dogs, especially older dogs, have a hard time shedding their winter coat. They scratch and scratch trying to get rid of it. A summer cut eliminates that problem.
You should inspect your dog’s skin every day for ticks and skin problems, and a haircut makes it much easier. If you see a red spot or red area on the skin, apply hydrocortisone cream twice a day until it is gone
You never know what may be causing constant scratching so try all the above, one by one, until you find the solution.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.