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My dog is itchy and has no fleas

Our customer asked:

Hi hope you can help me please. I have a 5 year old Labradoodle who is currently constantly scratching and moulting for England. He has always had some dandruff but not thought much about it. Last week he had to go to the Vets and received treatment for what the vet described as a "hot spot" under his chin, which resulted in him being sedated, having his beard removed and open skin treated. This is now all clear but he continues to scratch and scratch and more hair falling out. No bald patches. I have checked and checked for fleas and see no sign of them. I am reluctant to return to my vet at present as I am still not convinced that they were not the cause of the "hot spot" as it only appeared after they had groomed him. He eats only Royal Canin Labrador Retriever dry food and wondered if there is anything I can give him which may ease this problem.
In your experience is there any history with poodles or labradors and skin problems? His dad was a standard poodle and his mum a chocolate labrador. Bathing regularly is not really an option as he is a very large dog in frame and weight. He is flea treated every month with stronghold. Please help.

Our reply:

From the history it is very likely that your dog has allergic skin disease. This is commonly caused by inhaled allergens or certain foods. It is indeed likely that the hot spot was triggered by grooming, but the underlying cause would be the skin allergy, so it is not really the fault of the groomers. He is probably on the verge of that sort of thing all the time, and scratching excessively in one place will sometimes set off a hot spot.

The dandruff may mean that there is a complicating skin infection (yeast or bacterial). Ideally this possibility would be assessed by your vets with skin samples and cultures, then treated accordingly.

It would be possible for you to try and sort this out yourself, but I would have to suggest going to your vets. If you want to see what you can do at home, you should:

1. Continue with rigorous flea control (Stronghold is fine).
2. Add an oil supplement to the diet (Yumega Plus is a good one, but there are several on the website).
3. Trial an exclusion diet, to assess if a food allergy has developed. This means that for at least 6 weeks you need to feed a diet which does not contain any ingredients which are found in the current food. Other than that you provide water and nothing else at all. About 40% of all dogs with your sort of history will get better and stop scratching if you do this. The others may have an inhalant allergy ("Atopy"), or other complicating factors. Suitable diets would be Purina HA or Hills z/d.

Ideally talk to your vet and make a plan, but you would do no harm and might sort it out by following the above. If the new diet works, then other foods can be added in future. Get back to me if you wish.

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Tuesday 15th January 2013