Indie's itchy problem

Indie is an eight month old dog who had been itchy for a couple of weeks. She had been scratching herself all over, but also had some small circular areas of hair loss on her head and neck. There are a number of causes of alopecia (hair loss) and pruritis (itchy skin). It is important to differentiate between these causes so that the appropriate therapy can be introduced.

Sometimes alopeica and pruritis can be caused by allergies. This is very common and especially prevalent at this time of year. Dogs can be allergic to a number of things such as pollens, grass, dust mites or food. One of the most common allergens is flea saliva, which is why it is very important to ensure that your dog has adequate flea control at all times. Often it only takes one flea bite to trigger an allergy. The dog can make things worse by scratching and biting and this can lead to infections.

Another cause of pruritis and alopecia can be infection. This could be either a bacterial infection or fungal infection (such as ring worm or yeast infections). Special smears and tape preparations can be taken to look for fungus, yeasts and bacteria. One type of fungal infection even glows bright green under a special lamp! A sample was taken from Indie and examined under the microscope and no bacteria or yeasts were seen.

Yet another cause of hair loss and itchy skin are parasites, the most common of which are fleas. A flea comb was passed through Indie's coat and examined for flea dirt (flea droppings) but none were found.

Mange is another common skin condition in dogs and is caused by small mites. There are two different types of mites that can cause mange. One is Sarcoptic mites, which cause the dog to be very itchy and are highly contagious. This can occur in dogs of any age and usually shows up on the ears, elbows and eyes as patches of scaly hair loss. These mites can be very difficult to find on skin scrapings. The other type of mite is Demodectic mites. These typically occur in young dogs or dogs that are immunosupressed. They usually have patches of hair loss that may or may not be icthy.

A skin scraping was taken from Indie and examined under the microscope. There were numerous small mites wriggling about on the slide. She had Demodex! She was started on Advocate which is used to treat fleas, heartworm, intestinal worms, ear mites and mange. She responded well to the treatment and is now much happier that all the scratching has stopped.