It comes on like a storm. You think it’s rolling thunder, but it’s really just your dog in the other room pounding the floor with their leg. The thumping gets louder and more determined as your dog tries to scratch an itch they can not satisfy. Maybe the thunderous scratching stops, or maybe it works it’s way in to a super storm of itching frenzy….the gurgling muzzle!  For some it’s like fingers on a chalkboard. It’s a combination of chattering teeth, deeply exerted guttural breaths, and a flopping muzzle. It isn’t pleasant. After a long sleepless night of turmoil you’ll wish to wake up in a land where troubles are far behind you.

It would be great if you could use the Wizard’s magic to end the Wicked Itch. Unfortunately, the only escape is often a long and windy path with lots of dead ends. Then, just when you think you’ve reached a solution, it reveals itself as another wrong answer. You may feel that your journey is never-ending. Don’t fear though, there are others looking for the way to end the itch and you may find success by following their lead.

Yellow Brick Road winding through the forest, Beech Mountain, NC

Beware! It’s a path coated in pollen!

The First Step

They say the first step is always the hardest. That’s true for itchy skin too, because the first step is: identify the source of the itch. The source may be what you think, or something else entirely, but you have to start somewhere. Begin with some simple observations: when is the itching the worst? Night? After eating? Spring time? Here are some key categories to help you identify the source of itching.

INTERNAL

Internal sources of itching are best described as anything your pet ingests. These could be things that you know your pet is getting like food, treats, and pills. But it may also be some unknown elements like treats from the neighbor, dumpster diving, litter box cruising, or yard munching. Internal concerns are often the easiest to address because you can go into lock down. You can change food, and treats. You can address the neighbor, hide the garbage, and move the litter box.

EXTERNAL

External sources for itching are categorized as those items that you put on your dog, or things with which they come in close contact. Shampoos, sprays, topical medicines, and perhaps even their bedding can be identified as external influences of itching. Discovering these sources can be achieved by wiping them all out for a month and adding each back in over time. You should make key observations each time a product is added back in.

ENVIRONMENTAL

Environmental sources will be your worst nightmare because these are influences that come from the world around your pet. They are often things that you can do very little about. Fleas, mosquitos, gnats and other biting bugs may not live in your yard, but one or two bites can send your pet into the itching storm. Likewise pets can react negatively to pollen, dander, and dust. Environmental sources can lead to misdirection on your path to discovering the true source of the itch. More on that in a bit.

The Journey Begins

I'll get you my pretty.

The Wicked Itch swoops in!

These next steps could have you fumbling all over the place, but have heart you will eventually gain your footing and be back on the road to a peaceful home. The first thing you should do is reduce exposure to the things you feel are leading to the wicked itch. If you feel that it’s something in the food, try an elimination diet. This is a diet that is as simple as possible. More  than likely it is a diet that uses novel proteins. Novel proteins are identified as proteins that your pet has not been exposed to in the past. Examples could be: kangaroo, or pork, or millet, or tapioca. There are other approaches to diet that may help also. These included foods that are  grain free, gluten-free, raw, or homemade. The good news is that changing the diet may eliminate the itch all together, end of story.

If however diet did not stop the wicked itch, then your story is not over. Discovering many of the other itch influences can mimic the path to discovering a food allergy. In a word: elimination. If you find that a change in food is not helping you may find that you need to eliminate more factors. You may need to stop using your pet’s regular shampoo. You may need to change their bedding type. Perhaps you may even alternate topical medications, and other medications if possible. Essentially you want as little possible to influence your pets system. Then you can add these items back in over time. If after including an item you see flare up in the wicked itch, well then this could be the source of the problem for your pet.

Moving Forward

Still wandering aimlessly? Perhaps you will need to enhance your pet’s system to help combat the itch. Like oiling a rusty machine, there are supplements and medications that can help your dog’s body resist the itch. This is the part of the journey where you will meet lots of characters. You will find a wealth of opinions on how to enhance the system. Your friends and neighbors, your pet’s groomer, your pet care specialist, and even this blog will give you multiple ideas about how to move forward. Take your time, explore these options. In the end everyone would like to see the wicked itch disappear.

For your consideration:

Imagine there is a bubble in your dog, a bubble of immunity. At its fullest this bubble will fight off negative health issues (like itchy skin). However if the bubble is reduced then these negative health issues can manifest. The bubble grows and shrinks daily. If something combative enters the system the bubble goes down. You can help the bubble by adding supplements that support a healthy system. You can also help the bubble by removing influences that reduce the bubble. Consider your pet’s diet. If they are on a high carbohydrate food their body has to work extra hard in processing it. Inversely if they are fed a diet with more protein their bodies are can work less on the digestion and potentially more on immunity.

Is It Over?

Take that flying monkeys!

There’s no place like home!

No. Far from it. Here is the most winding, sometimes circular, part of the path. As mentioned earlier there is the influence of the environment. Sometimes your dog’s body changes can be in sync with the changing environment. Here’s an example: It’s early spring and your dog begins to itch. Then you spend the whole month seeking relief for your pet. You try shots from the vet, shampoos, supplements, and food changes. Heck, you even change the bedding and clean it with purified water and perfume-free non-soap cleaner. Yet, nothing seems to work. That is, until you try something around mid to late-spring. From this point your pet is relatively itch free. You may believe this recent change has done the trick. That is until the following spring when surprise, surprise the itch is back. Spring brings a number of environmental changes, not the least of which is grass pollen. If your pet’s itch coincides with early spring, then there is a good chance your pet is having an allergic reaction to this pollen. And it might not just be pollen. It could be bug bites, mold, or any number of things that come and go during the year.

No Place Like Home

Thankfully your pet has you. They do not need to vanquish the wicked itch on their own. You can help with changing the status quo. You can help by adding support to the system. You can help by being a keen observer of when the itch arrives. Then you can help provide the proper relief. Maybe the use of sprays, or an occasional pill will subdue the wicked itch? Ultimately it may mean that you need to find ways to live with some light itching. Perhaps ear plugs at night? For you, not your pet.

The End

Along the road you will no doubt pick up some great tips from fellow travelers. Like this one – Did you know? The one thing that can really reduce an itch manifested by pollen is to regularly rinse your pet. With water. Just water. [cue: the screaming itch]

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