Hi All. Am new on here and hoping to gain some advice for our much loved Marshall!
Marshall is a two year old male Blenheim Cav. We have had him for about three months and for most of that time he has been scratching a lot. Most of his itching is on the sides of his stomach area, behind his ears, and around his bum (he licks here mostly). He has some pigmenting on his skin in these areas as well (dark in colour).
I have consulted the Vet but no success. Here is what we have tried so far:
- spraying a tea tree oil spray to the itchy areas and brushing in
- spraying a cider vinegar mixed with water concoction
- changed his food to a dried sensitive skin type (Barking heads all natural brand)
- removed one of his beds and blankets which was mostly polyester
- anti histamines prescribed by vet
- bathing him twice a week in DermOpt shampoo for pets
He is a very happy dog and is not sick etc. Just has a constant itch but doesn't seem stressed about it. Any tips or advice based on experience greatly appreciated.
When my Tess was doing this, it turned out to be a severe flea allergy. My regular vet didn't figure it out--ended up at a dermatologist. We resolved it after several months using ant-flea medications and an oral drug to reduce the swelling and itching. She had scratched herself raw in several places.
What you're describing sounds like an allergy of some sort. It sounds like you've done quite a bit already. You don't say how long since you've done all the changes. Perhaps give them several weeks, and then head to a dermatologist for a consult.
Welcome--would love to see pictures of your boy.
This could possibly still turn out to be an allergy, but I am afraid, as too many of us know here, that these are also potential signs of syringomyelia, a widespread disease in the breed (it's predicted that about 70% of cavaliers eventually have it, though not all are symptomatic). Anytime there is regular scratching and a vet cannot resolve the problem or find any obvious reason -- and the diagnosis of 'allergies ' doesn't seem to get to the source of the problem -- then it generally is time to ask for a referral to a neurologist to begin with a clinical assessment.
The most common misdiagnosis of SM is allergies which leads to cavaliers remaining untreated for SM for an average of at least two years, according to one of the leading SM researchers.
Many vets are unfamiliar with SM. They also generally do not have the skills to accurately assess neurological discomfort and pain, as this requires specialist knowledge.
The most common places for dogs with SM to scratch is around the head, neck and ears, along the sides, and to be irritated at the hindquarters. Sometimes they scratch without actually touching the body (air scratching) which is particularly indicative of SM though not always present.
I think you are at the point where you will want to read up on Sm, consider the various potential symptoms, and consider finding a neurologist after discussing this with your vet.
You and your vet should probably start with researcher and neurologist Dr Clare Rusbridge's page of SM information:
I have some information -- though detail is out of date -- at www.smcavaliers.com
We have information and links to videos pinned at the top of the SM and MVD forum on the board, here.
You can get much detailed information as well as a list of neurologists at www.cavalierhealth.org
Note that some treatments for allergies will mask the symptoms for SM, which can delay a correct diagnosis.
It may or not be SM, but it could well be a food allergy. Our Sophie does not scratch if she is fed a raw meat diet, and it has to be a very simple type without all the extra berries, potatoes, etc. Sooner or later, any of those special limited ingredient kibbles make her scratch like mad. I think it's the potatoes they use in the grain free ones. She has pulled hair off the top of her rump and gotten infection, even, from kibbles. So, no matter which food you are feeding, keep in mind it could still be a food allergy.
Good point -- it can be very difficult to determine a food allergy and I think is best done with a vet either very familiar with this or a specialist. UC Davis Vet School has recommendations for elimination diets and they must be very strictly followed for many weeks (there's a link to their info in the Health Library section here). If there is a food allergy often just switching to a commercial 'sensitive' diet (which typically are not proper elimination diets for food allergy dogs anyway) is not going to be adequate.
Agree that a properly balanced raw diet can be helpful but this is best done with supervision. A recent study showed that most raw diet as proposed in popular websites and even some of the 'bible' raw feeding books are nutritionally deficient and this could be especially true if lots of items are eliminated from that diet. And a lot of the commercial raws have a lot of faffy ingredients as you mention, Waldor!! Elimination diets are slow patient work.
At the same time a clinical visit to a neurologist can quickly tell whether there are neurological deficits/discomforts/pain that a vet and owner cannot see, and could save months of trying costly elimination diets and throwing away bags of food. That's why personally at this point, I'd opt for a neurologist exam (without scans at this point, just a clinical exam to see whether to even pursue the continuing possibility of a food allergy).
Rose (one of her nicknames is "Itchy Spaniel", to give you a hint of what we have gone through, lol, poor baby dog) has food allergies, and that's where she scratches too. We had to do a process of elimination with her, starting with grains. Then we picked a grain free, and also starch free (except for pea and tapioca starches) that had a main meat ingredient that was not a common allergen (no chicken or beef). We picked Turkey. The allergies improved, but by rotating a bit of canned 96% meat food through her diet (I believe it was 2 weeks each), we discovered that lamb, tripe, beef and turkey were okay (we haven't tried rabbit yet), but chicken and, of all things, buffalo, sent her to itching in short order. We switched her recently to a food that has no chicken (not even chicken fat), and she is MUCH improved, and her allergies don't get set off as badly if she does, for instance, grab someone's popcorn when they're not looking :P . She does tolerate oat bran just fine. She could not be on any of the "allergy diet" labeled foods that we have here, or she wouldn't have any hair left. I really marvel sometimes at what is in those foods, after having to do some research on Rose's allergy issues. It takes a while, but it was definitely worth it for everyone's quality of life in this house! ;)
OH, I don't know if you can get it where you are, but there is an anti-itch shampoo and spray that does wonders for Rose. Here it is: http://eqyss-online.stores.yahoo.net/16ounmicmeds1.html
I also suspect that she has a flea allergy, as one flea can send her into a tizzy (thankfully we haven't had an out and out flea issue in many years).
I don't have any experience with SM, but here's pretty much all I know about food allergies- hope something helps ;) .
Good point and glad you mentioned this, Karlin. I supplement Sophie's pre-mixed raw diet with a daily vitamin supplement. Even that has been a learning curve. Once I added these daily vitamins, bought online from a specialty site, her UTIs disappeared. I began with the vitamin supplements four years ago. This vitamins came from a site who has the mixed at their formula, and the business owners feed raw to their own dogs.
Originally Posted by Karlin
This past Spring, I got lazy and instead of re-ordering online, I bought some decent-looking vitamins from the local pet stores. My mistake was that I administered them once a day, per product directions, as they were meant to supplement commercially enriched dog foods. She developed a UTI a week or so ago and the light went on in my head, when the vet said add Vit. C to make her alkaline urine more acidic. Duh! I probably should have been giving the multi vits twice a day to the raw food, as the raw was not already enriched!
I immediately re-ordered the same vitamins by which she has done so well, and will stick with them forever.
waldor, do you mind telling me what the name of the vitamin you use is and where to order it? I'm interested in a good vitamin for my 3 girls. Thanks in advance.