Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Itchy-itchy, Scratchy-scratchy

The Twitterverse seems to be full of Zuko's Shiba friends really struggling with allergies. Reports come in from everywhere and for some Shibas, there seems to be no relief in sight.

Wide open spaces are awesome - for allegies!
I decided to log all the remedies I've been seeing, in order of "extreme" nature of the treatment.
  • Raw food diet: Taro the Shiba reported scratchy ears that had no cause that could be found. Switching to a raw diet cleared up the issues and landed him a spot as a customer testimonial. For Zuko, we have had him on a raw diet almost since we first had him. He was a super-scratchy puppy and switching to the raw diet seemed to alleviate most of the itchiness. 
  • Supplements: Omega-3 supplements have been widely suggested by many Shiba owners and other dog (and cat!) owners as beneficial. Our breeder also recommended Vitamin E and kelp. The kelp isn't easy to find and can be pricey - but a small bag goes a long way. We use Pet Kelp. Zuko gets a small sprinkle of it with his breakfast, along with some Vitamin E drops I found in the humans' drugstore.
  • Cleaning Shiba feet / legs and paws after going outside: This is probably a really extreme measure even though it sounds simple (Insert sound bite of a Shiba screaming: don't touch my feet!!!!!).  There are packaged wipes for this or just a damp cloth can make a difference. Zuko has a melt-down if I even think of touching his feet so we don't usually bother with this. I have heard a few owners say it makes a huge difference, especially when there is visible pollen on the ground. 
  • Hot spot / anti-itch sprays: Again - queue the Shiba Scream for most of us on this one. My favorite product is Earthbath Hot Spot Spritz. It seems to help the itching but also tastes nasty enough that Zuko is less inclined to lick obsessively at times.
  • Flea / tick allergies: According to the National Shiba Inu Club of America, flea allergies are one of the number one health complaints for Shibas. This is complicated by some dogs have an allergic reaction to Frontline or Advantage. Our friend Princess in Orlando switched to Comfortis to help with an allergic reaction to the topical flea and tick prevention methods. Staying up to date on flea and tick control can make a huge difference for your Shiba.
  • Benedryl: I blogged about the dosage of Benedryl here, and also recommended finding the dye-free pills. Hot pink dye just can't really be good for anyone suffering allergies (human or canine). This isn't a sure-fire fix for many dogs and has a the soporific side effect. 
  • Atopica: The Misanthropic Shiba has been having success with this medication, but it appears to only be available in Canada. More info can be found on their website.
  • Colloidal Oatmeal bath: Again, this should not be "extreme" but how many Shibas can be bathed without drama? Also - too many baths will reduce their natural oils and possibly complicate the situation. You don't always need suds in a bath, just something to soothe the problem. I cheat on this one. A good Shiba mommy would probably cook oatmeal and make this from scratch. I buy the Aveeno packets. Always good to have on hand for people and puppies.
  • The last resort - Prednisone and corticosteroids: The can have wide-ranging side effects and most vets will discourage their use unless there is just no other way. This is actually true for human allergy sufferers also - an emergency shot of this stuff is avoided in all but extreme cases. Last summer Zuko went off the deep-end suddenly with his allergies and scratched his muzzle raw. The vet gave him an injection and he was on pills for several days after. He peed more often and was grouchy as heck the whole time. Not something I want to go through again.
Over at the House of Two Bows, they have made some interesting discoveries about hypothyroidism and the symptoms. It appears to have similar characteristics to those of allergies and they have started Bowdu on thyroid supplements. We are all watching to see how it goes for the little guy. The lesson from this is just don't assume it is allergies! 

What have I missed? Please comment and share your success stories with allergies and what you've learned to avoid.

-- Posted by Zuko's mom


  1. Gosh, glad to see (I think) that my shiba's not the only one that freaks out if I try to spray anything on his feet. He will reluctantly let me massage liquids onto his sore spots, but only if the smell isn't too pungent.

    Two other "extreme" measures I would add --

    ** The Cone. We had to resort to this when he just couldn't stop himself from licking, and it did allow his fur on the upper parts of his feet to grow back, but he can still reach his paws if he tries hard enough. And that still must be monitored, because Bowdu wants to chew his own feet bloody. BLOODY!

    ** Washing sheets, bed covers, cushion covers, etc. in the house in hot water every week. Uhm, most of us are unable to do this regularly. We managed to cycle through and do it every other week for a while, but we just don't have the energy to keep up with this schedule. It's a good idea anyway if you suspect a flea infestation, and not just allergies.

    Other food supplements: Apple cider vinegar is supposed to help as well. And in one of the articles that I read, Omega-6s supposedly can offer benefits too, not so much for decreasing inflammation associated with allergies, but for increasing barrier health ("thickening" the skin, in a sense, to make it more impervious to allergens). Actually, a whole range of Omega 3/6/9s are supposed to be good (I looked at some prepared dermal support supplements, and saw that they had a descending amount of each of these) but I heard that Omega-3s are most readily absorbed by dogs.

    I really hope these thyroid supplements help, too. I ran into an American Akita that had tested hypothyroid earlier in life, and still suffered from some allergies later. So it's not like knowing the thyroid health of your dog will eliminate allergies altogether. I think the whole point though, with knowing Bowdu's thyroids are messed up, is understanding why his immune system is out of whack. If we can recondition his body and get his immune system back up to normal, hopefully he will be less plagued by allergies.

  2. Oh, Atopica is available in the US, but it seems prohibitively expensive to me. Try http://www.atopica.com/. I think it's about $3 a pill? I've heard a couple people say that it really does work, though. One person (not a shiba owner) said it DIDN'T work, and their dog also had to be on anti-nausea pills at the same time because it made her so sick. After two weeks, they gave it up.

  3. Many times skin allergies lead to scratching which leads to broken skin and yeast infections which lead to more scratching. Try adding probiotics to the diet (or double the dose during itchy months).

    Probiotics are also especially effective with ear infections which are often yeast infections but get treated as bacterial infections by mistake.

    Omega-3s are best from FISH oil as fish oil has a natural anti-inflammatory in it (according to Snick's vet). Grizzly Salmon Oil has always been a big hit at my house.

    Oh, and re: the paw cleaning: When we lived in Manhattan, I always wiped the dogs paws after walks (icky sidewalks, you know). I never had a problem teaching foster dogs to tolerate this as well. A QUICK swipe of each foot with an unscented baby wipe works well.

  4. Wow! Thank you everyone for the additional info and input. This is such a tough one for us as Shiba owners since allergies are hard to pin down. Please keep the insights coming!

  5. Wow... Thanks for this post!

    We wipe Shio's feet with baby wipes whenever we come into the home. He's gotten use the routine so there's little fuss now. But we do it more because he tracks so much gunk from the streets into our home than because of allergies.

    Hot spot sprays did not help Shio so we scrapped that idea. The anti-itch band-aid was a terrible idea (basically lemon juice and cayenne pepper in a band aid) so I wouldn't recommend that.

    We have narrowed it down to seasonal allergies so we just monitor the amount of scratching and give him one children's benadryl if it looks like he's suffering and that helps.

    And sometimes, when he looks like he's having a real good time biting his legs, I help him scratch and he licks me out of appreciation. :)

  6. This sounds super-obvious, but being really stringent on flea control is definitely a first step in helping an itchy dog get comfortable.
    Think of the last time you yourself were bitten by a flea, a mosquito or midgey... just because the animal has buzzed off doesn't mean the bite stops itching!
    You can expect your dog to itch and scratch until the flea bites have healed, this can take about a fortnight.
    One flea can bite a dog many times.
    If you have a dog that is super-sensitive to flea bites, you might consider using Comfortis (a new, natural, and very safe flea 'tablet') with a meal every fortnight rather than the usual standard monthly dose, to ensure your beloved fur friend is flea-free!
    all the best, Dr. Rob

  7. Kaiju just went through a very itchy week. We put a giant cone on him so he couldn't lick those spots raw. We did put some ointment, too. We also wiped his feet every time we came back from outside (Kaiju does not seem to mind too much). We have been ready with Benedryl, but we have not had to use it so far.

    Hoping that was the end of it, but from what I've been reading (here and everywhere else), it sounds like it could get so much worse at any point in his life...

    Fortunately, we have you and other bloggers documenting and sharing their experiences. It helps so very much. Thank you for this write up. I will bookmark it.

  8. Poor Kaiju! One thing that can also make a difference is a 100% grain free diet in addition to the raw diet. We switched out all grain and sweet potatoes and it seemed to help.

  9. Just a thank you to all the Shiba owners for their input on itchy scratchy Shibas!!!! It all helps so much to see what others are doing for this prolbem.

  10. Missing Link Skin & Coat powder is the most amazing stuff I have used on my Shiba Inu! I give it to my Shiba Inu Haru at the start of her blowing her coat, makes the process go faster and so much easier. It is an all natural vitamin boost, check out the ingredients. My little girl loves it! I give it to her with her scrambled eggs in the morning because you have to give it with food to help absorption and help digestion so for those two weeks she gets a nice treat of scrambled eggs and missing link which is her favorite! She also always everyday gets a fish oil vitamin as well as brewers yeast all year around so does my Old English and my two cats, they all take them as treats and they are all wonderfully healthy.
    Also when we take her outside her yard I wipe her feet off with a mild solution of tea tree oil and water, same with my Old English Chopper, it helps kill bacteria, any parasites, ikcy worms, and keep pollution off their precious feet.

    To keep bugs at bay in their yard I sprinkle Eco Smart Granuals all around their yard and works great! Keeps the nasty fleas and mosquito away and so many other nasty bugs...but safely and does no harm to the earth. They also have a concentrated hose hook up too.

    My little ones only get fed veggies fresh from the garden for treats, I stay away from the commercial products for treats. My Haru does not do well with treats, she gets black spots on her skin when she gets treats ( which is a know Shiba Inu reaction to food allergies ).
    Hope I help someone

  11. Hi!

    My 3yo shiba, Ludo, has been excessively biting where his leg and tail meet. I bathed him about a week ago and brushed him A LOT (maybe too much in that area). I think this is just itchy skin? He lets me touch the area but needs to bite it directly after. I am not sure if it is dry skin or what but the biting has been going on for a week! Any feedback is appreciated!!