Finally Autumn is upon us, and as much as I love the sunshine and warm weather of Summer, I am actually quite pleased it is all over. If you follow our blog or social media you may have noticed we have been a bit quieter than usual over the last few months. I feel like I owe it to you all to explain why, I also hope I might be able to help a few people who are having similar issues.
At the beginning of Summer we noticed that Hendrix had developed a red itchy rash around his mouth. It started off looking a bit like canine acne. We tried washing it with Hibiscrub in the hope that it would go away or calm down. It didn’t, it just got worse the more Hendrix scratched it, eventually making it bleed. We took him to the vets who confirmed that it was now infected and gave him a steroid injection, a weeks worth of antibiotics and a lovely cone of shame to stop him scratching it. In terms of what caused the rash, they couldn’t say. We were just told dermatitis. The cone was abandoned after about an hour as I have never seen a dog sulk so much, not to mention it was huge and he couldn’t navigate around furniture very well with it. The antibiotic worked a treat. By the end of the course it had all cleared up nicely and went back to pink in colour. He was left with bald patches where he had lost some fur but it was looking good.
That was until we stopped the tablets, and it came straight back! So another trip to the vets and a longer course of antibiotics was given. We were also given some steroid tablets this time instead of the injection. Once again the antibiotics got rid of the rash, however the steroid tablets did not agree with him at all. He got increasingly lethargic throughout the course of treatment and after a week I rushed him back into the vets after it took me over half an hour to get him up for his morning walk! We were advised to cut the steroids down, unfortunately you cannot just stop the treatment you have to wean them off them. It took until the tablets were completely out of his system for us to get our dog back, he started to play with us again and no longer acted like a zombie!
Now in the mean time, since the vets could not give us a conclusive answer on the cause of this problem I started to do my own research and investigate some more natural remedies for itchy dogs.The whole steroid incident had scared me and if this was a seasonal issue, which I suspected it was, I didn’t want to be drugging him up every summer, there had to be a better way to keep him comfortable. I reached out to our lovely doggy community on Twitter and they did not let me down. I was recommended either coconut or salmon oil as a natural remedy for pesky skin irritation. So off I popped to our local supermarket to buy a jar of coconut oil to give it a try. Luckily Hendrix liked the coconut oil so we started giving him a spoonful every morning with his breakfast. I actually noticed a difference so thank you so much to @wildpawpics and @DannySnuggles for all of your help and advice.
Another possible cause I discovered was Zinc deficiency which I found out is very common in snow dogs. If you want to read more then I recommend this article by the Snowdog Guru. We decided to try him out on some zinc supplements, we went for Zinc Gluconate 15mg from Holland and Barrett. He has one tablet every night before bed and again I noticed a difference. It took a while but now he seems to have more energy when out on walks and seems to run faster (I know it sounds silly but both me and my boyfriend noticed it).
Just when I thought we had managed to get on top of everything and he seemed happier and less itchy I caught him licking a certain spot for a good 5 minutes. When I investigated further I noticed a small red sore on his leg. Upon further investigation I found a few more so we took another trip to the vets. I tried explaining my concerns about zinc deficiency to the vet but she looked at me like I was talking nonsense. She also rolled her eyes at me when I mentioned what we had been doing with the coconut oil so I don’t think she was much of a believer in natural remedies. All she wanted to do was a blood test so I got a rough price and told her I would think about it. Once again I left with some antibiotics and another vet bill. We did as we were told and again the antibiotics helped to clear up the sores.
Once we had finished treatment we took him back for the blood test. When we got there we saw another vet named Jess who questioned why we had come for the blood test. She explained that in her opinion, a blood test probably wouldn’t help as Hendrix is a young, healthy pup and a blood test would only show if there was issues with internal organs, which she didn’t believe was the problem. I spoke to her about my zinc concerns and asked if the test would show if he was lacking zinc. She said it wouldn’t (even though the last vet said it would!) but if I wanted she could do a test to check his zinc levels. Finally someone was listening to me! We did the test, Hendrix was very brave when they took his blood, and I got a call about 5 days later explaining that his zinc levels were in the middle of the range that is considered normal for dogs. Now we haven’t stopped giving him his supplements as for all I know they could be the reason his levels are now normal. If they were towards the top end and I was at risk of overdosing him then I would have stopped them but he seems happy on the amount he is on.
So after all of this I am still unsure as to what exactly is causing Hendrix to be so itchy. I think it may be to do with the overgrown grass on the park we visit. He loves frolicking around in the meadow but I did notice that the patches on his legs that had been shaved for his blood test kept getting red after we went out. I am hoping this is all just down to a grass or plant allergy. Hendrix does not seem to be the only dog suffering from the long grass, a friend of ours has 2 white staffies which developed red spots on their heads, our husky friend Nymeria also got a red patch on her lip and our other husky friend Apache got a tick on his face. We have made several complaints to the council and finally went I went out this morning they had the tractors out to cut the grass. Paws crossed this means the end of all of our problems!
So our tips for dealing with allergies/itchy skin:
- wipe/wash the affected area with warm water after a walk to get rid of any allergens on the skin.
- A spoonful of coconut oil works wonders to calm skin and can also be applied directly to the affected area.
- Try to discourage your pup from scratching too much as this can lead to infection.
Thanks for reading (I know it was a bit of a long one) and I hope you have learnt something useful.
Loves and licks,
Emma & Hendrix