Spring has Sprung
The beginning of Spring always brings with it a flurry of activity from concerned pet parents emailing to ask for advice because their dog is constantly scratching. It stands to reason really – it’s the beginning of hay fever season, and if your eyes and nose are streaming from pollens, imagine how your sensitive dog must feel, especially after a romp down at the park, or a roll on the cool, inviting buffalo grass.
I need some sleep
Trust me when I say, ‘I hear you’ and ‘I empathise’. There is nothing quite as concerning, and let’s be honest a little annoying, as listening to your dog lick and scratch all night long. My 5-year-old German Shepherd Piper, has super sensitive skin, and normally around August / September she starts up with the scratching. I manage this problem by taking immediate action and my success rate of controlling it, without medication, is around 99%.
See your vet, and my two cents worth on steroids.
My first piece of advice to anyone is always this. If you see anything unusual on your dog’s skin, if your dog looks unwell in any way, then please make an appointment with your local vet.
I also need to point out here that personally, I don’t believe in giving steroids to my dogs for this condition. Steroids are a great way of reducing inflammation, pain and allergic reactions, but I feel they are simply a band aid. I have been able to manage my very susceptible dog Piper without drugs. I’ve done this by analysing the environment in which she lives and controlling the problem the moment it appears. In fact, the Organic Pet Pharmacy range contains products that were specifically developed because of Piper’s sensitivities.
As with all medication, steroids can be helpful and should you be prescribed this drug for your dog, please talk to a knowledgeable veterinarian about the associated risks and side effects of using them in both the long and short term.
My top tips
- Manage the problem immediately and bath your dog. Drag out the bath (or fill up the tub) and wash your dog like you mean business. This means using a very gentle shampoo, without synthetic fragrances such as my Organic Pet Pharmacy Calming Shampoo. Make sure you get your fingers down to their skin and give a good, firm scrub over every inch of the skin. As a minimum, I suggest washing once a week, ideally, twice a week if you have time.
Please, whatever you do, do NOT use human products on your dog. Likewise, please avoid products that contain synthetic fragrance or products containing SLS, SLES, DEA’s, PEG’s or petrochemicals. These will make your dog’s itching worse as they are full of chemicals and agents that will dry the skin out.
- Use a conditioner after bathing your dog.Whilst it might appear that your dog’s itching is directly correlated to spring and pollens, your dog could also be suffering dry, flaky and itchy skin from Wintery conditions. Our own skin suffers from dry indoor air, low humidity, winter winds and harsh soaps at this time of the year. I know my own skin starts feeling very average by the end of Winter. Using a good quality conditioner such as the Organic Pet Pharmacy Classic Conditioner after bathing your dog may assist by moisturising the skin once you have washed the irritants (such as pollen and dirt) out of their coat. Our conditioner contains beautiful oils such as Abyssinian Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Rosemary Oil and Grapefruit Oil which are hydrating and soothing for the skin.
- Blow dry after washing. This is crucial. You’ve just wet your dog down to his skin, and chances are the outside of his coat will feel dry long before the undercoat and skin has had a chance to dry out. Damp, warm environments can encourage some skin conditions and if you already have an itchy dog, you want to do what you can to minimise any chance of further skin conditions. Make sure you use a low heat on your hair dryer in a well-ventilated area.
- Brush your dog.The benefits of this are two-fold. Firstly, it will help encourage the production of natural oils from your dog’s skin. Secondly, as the days get longer, there is no need for that extra winter fur. Brushing once or twice a day will help loosen and remove the fur, meaning your dog doesn’t have to scratch it out. (If only it were that easy for us humans to shed our winter padding!)
- Make sure your flea treatment is up to date, as some dogs suffer very badly with flea bite dermatitis. Forthis I recommend speaking to your vet.
At this time of the year many of the Australian councils start spraying (*groan* often with glyphosate) for weeds & pests at your local park, and along the footpaths.
Unfortunately, your dog with his little, naked paws could be exposed to pesticides that can potentially irritate the skin between the toes and around the pads. If this is an issue, our Manuka Ointment can be used as a topical barrier to assist in preventing contact dermatitis. Just rub it into the pad and surrounding skin before you head out for a walk.
If it is already a chronic problem for your dog, itching can take some time to resolve. Chronic conditions often need a multi-prong attack involving a visit to your vet, changes as I’ve suggested above plus dietary changes. From my experience, 3 months of change will often bring about a reduction in the level of itching experienced by your dog.
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