Persistent Scratching in Dogs – A Tip Sheet

Itchy Dog-

Consistent scratching can be stressful for both you and your dog. Scratching alone can lead to secondary infections or it can be a sign of a more serious issue. Here are a few tips that can help. As always, consult your veterinarian to make sure there are no contraindications with your pet.

  • Rule out parasites, especially fleas. Use a flea comb to check for fleas, flea eggs, and ticks. Should you find any, see your veterinarian for a safe and effective flea preventative and treatment. DO inform your veterinarian if you also have cats, as some preventatives and treatments can be very toxic to felines. Follow the instructions to the letter.
    • Vacuum regularly at home, including furniture. Launder your pet’s bedding weekly.
    • Consider using diatomaceous earth along the perimeter of your home and yard. Follow instructions carefully, while it’s non-toxic if consumed, it is harmful if inhaled. Diatomaceous earth can be found at many pet stores and lawn and garden centers.
    • Consider treating your yard with a product like Interrupt that contains beneficial nematodes that will consume flea larvae and other pests.
    • Parasites can vary by area. In some parts of the country flea preventative treatment is not necessary year round, while in warmer, humid climates it can be beneficial.
  • Check for rashes and fungal infections like ringworm. If found get your dog an appointment immediately. Ringworm is a HIGHLY contagious fungal infection and should be treated aggressively to avoid passing it back and forth among pets and humans. Mange is another skin issue that should be treated by your veterinarian. If anyone suggests using things like motor oil or coconut oil exclusively to solve mange issues. Run away. Quickly.
  • Bathe your dog using a gentle shampoo. This can ensure that you are removing any potential irritants from the coat. Dr. Bronner’s tea tree and peppermint formulas both provide a small amount of flea protection. Coconut based shampoos like Love Yer Dog and mild lines like Organic Oscar are also a good bet. Weekly bathing is typically the absolute maximum to avoid drying our your pet’s skin. In some cases, prescription shampoos can help to address skin issues. Avoid the following in shampoos:
    • Sodium Laurel or Laureth Sulfate (sulfates in general). Used primarily in lather production, lather is not necessary for effective cleaning. Sulfates can be irritating to skin and contribute to dryness.
    • Parabens – the jury is still out, but these anti bacterial agents may be harmful and aren’t necessary for good cleaning.
    • Phthalates – again, the jury is out on their safety in shampoos, but be on the safe side until we know more.
    • In general with non-prescription pet shampoos or when using human shampoos on your pets, stick with products with the fewest and most pronounceable ingredients.
  • What’s in your dog food? Dogs digestive systems can have a hard time processing things like corn, wheat, soy, and grains like rice. Consider a grain-free or limited ingredient diet to rule out food allergies. Most food sold in grocery stores and discount chains have ingredients that can be problematic for pets. Talk to the folks at your local independent pet food store who generally stay very up to date on developments in nutrition.
    Consider using a commercial raw diet as an elimination trial to test for food allergies before getting your pet a full panel allergy test. Try Primal Grinds for a few weeks to see if your dog improves. If so, food allergies could be the culprit. Reintroduce foods slowly if you can’t afford to keep your pet on a raw diet. If you decide to move back to dry, go with a limited ingredient option like Zignature.
  • Consider an omega fatty acid additive to your dog’s meal. Fish oils can be fantastic, we suggest rotating the type of fish on each new bottle. Sardine, salmon, and pollock oils are good options. Coconut, flax, or olive oils can also help. Supplements like Missing Link Veterinary Formula or PetKelp can also make a huge difference. You do want to make sure you check with the vet about how appropriate fish oils and supplements are for your dog, especially if your dog is diabetic or has thyroid issues. In some cases the additional iodine in fish oils and kelp might not be a good fit.
  • Thyroid problems can also cause skin issues. A blood panel should be considered to text thyroid function if diet and parasites have been ruled out. The good news is that medications for thyroid treatment are generally very affordable.
  • While some over the counter antihistamines are safe for use in dogs, absolutely, positively, consult with your vet BEFORE you administer them to your pets. While they can be a tool in your arsenal, there are serious side effects to consider. Some also can be purchased through your vet in a chewable form so you don’t have to wrestle a pill down your dog.
  • Just like humans, some dogs have serious allergies and may require medications like steroids to keep them managed. Allergy tests can be helpful and in some cases necessary to determine what is making your dog miserable. Talk to your vet about medication side effects and educate yourself on treatment options. Most vets are happy to make sure your pet is getting the right option. There is a caveat. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. We encourage a holistic approach and many allergy problems can be solved at home, but not all can. Look for articles from sources that involve science! Not all home remedies are safe. Some do work, but some waste money and can harm your pet. If you don’t like your vet’s approach, for example you feel that they dismiss all home remedies, seek out a vet who encourages the safe and effective ones, but knows when it’s time to use pharmaceuticals.*All products mentioned are those we have seen work with our clients or our own pets. We have received no compensation for their mention.



Dr. Young Is Now A Member of Worldwide Veterinary Service

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Jeffrey Young has joined the Worldwide Veterinary Service. This amazing organization sends relief packages, veterinary teams, and funding to areas most in need across the globe. Founded by Dr. Luke Gamble to assist well-meaning but frequently underfunded organizations in countries with a lack of available veterinarians, the organization seeks to improve animal welfare globally.

Drs. Young and Gamble have worked together on many projects, most recently Mission Rabies. To find out more about WVS and all the work they do, visit


Regular Vaccinations Keep Your Pet Healthy


Planned Pethood International is a proud supporter of Mission Rabies


Vaccinations are a key factor in your pet’s health. Keeping your pet up to date on routine shots can prevent major, life-threatening illnesses and expenses.

Vaccines Essential for All Dogs

Most municipalities require your animal be vaccinated for rabies. Rabies vaccines are available in one year and three year doses, speak to your veterinarian about which is right for your pet. Even if your pet is primarily indoors, accidents happen. It can be a bite from another animal, (feral cats, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, coyotes, and foxes all inhabit urban areas and have been known to bite pets); or a bite to another person or animal. On the off chance that your pet bites a person or pet and the bite, regardless of severity, is reported, proof of rabies vaccine will save your pet from quarantine and full rabies treatment which is lengthy and expensive.

Also essential for your dog is the distemper/hepatitis/parainfluenza/parvovirus or DHPP vaccine. All these illnesses are very costly to treat. Distemper is often deadly and dogs who survive can develop long-term neurological issues. It is carried by domestic dogs and wildlife, so your dog should be vaccinated as early as possible. Parvovirus can also be deadly and is transmitted through infected soil and fecal matter. Treatment requires weeks of hospitalization.

Puppies should have three rounds of DHPP vaccine spaced one month apart. After that, dogs should be vaccinated yearly. Most boarding facilities, day cares, and groomers require that your dog has had at least these two vaccines.

Other Vaccines for Dogs

Leptospirosis is a bacteria that is most common in areas with large amounts of standing or slow moving water; it is also transmittable to humans. Discuss with your veterinarian if a lepto vaccine is appropriate for your dog based on your activities.

Bordetella, better known as kennel cough is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection. If you dog goes to day care, grooming, or dog parks frequently, a bordetella vaccine may be in your best interest to prevent this upper respiratory condition. Many boarding facilities and groomers require that your dog be vaccinated.

Lyme Disease is significantly more prevalent in certain areas of the world than others and is spread by ticks. If you regularly take your dog on hikes, travel, or have found ticks in your yard, discuss prevention with your vet.

Canine Influenza is common in shelters and boarding facilities. Talk to your veterinarian to determine if your dog should be vaccinated.

The corona virus infects the intestinal tract and is most common in warm, humid climates.

Essential Vaccines for Cats

All kittens should receive two courses of the Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis/Calicivirus/Panleukopenia or FVRCP vaccine. After kittenhood, cats should be vaccinated yearly. This vaccine is sometimes called the feline distemper shot.

Feline viral rhinotracheitis and calicivirus are the most infectious upper respiratory infections in cats untreated, both can turn in pneumonia and cause severe complications. When vaccinated, cats may still show symptoms, but symptoms are considerably more mild and easily treated.
Panleukopenia or feline distemper is serious, can cause anemia, and can be fatal. It is highly contagious and therefore the vaccine protocol should be annual.

Like all mammals, cats can get rabies. Cats that are allowed outdoors should be vaccinated regularly and should they bit another animal or human, they require quarantine and treatment if vaccines are not up to date. Many jurisdictions require cats to be vaccinated.

Other Vaccines for Cats

Chlamydia is not uncommon in cats. If you do not keep your cat indoors, it is best to speak with your veterinarian about the vaccine.

Feline Leukemia or Felv, is a recommended vaccine for outdoor cats as is the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV vaccine. Both conditions are serious, contagious, and require a great deal of veterinary care. The good news is that indoor cats have a very low risk for developing either disease.

Bordetella can be contracted by cats as well as dogs. Owners of cats who are frequently boarded, who come into contact with foster animals, or who travel should speak with their veterinarian about a bordetella vaccine for their cats.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis or FIP is typically fatal in cats. While a vaccine is available, there is only one licensed manufacturer and the efficacy of the vaccine has not been shown to be particularly high. This vaccine is one that is most applicable to owners of catteries rather than most house cat owners.

The Bottom Line

Just like human vaccines, pet vaccines are life and cost savers. Serious reactions and complications are not common. If you have concerns, speak to your vet, however, at the very least rabies vaccinations are required by law for most cats and dogs, and the DHPP and FVRCP vaccine should be given to your pet regularly based on a schedule you and your veterinarian determine.



Common Spay and Neuter Myths


MYTH: It’s better to have one litter before spaying a female pet.

FACT: Medical evidence indicates just the opposite. In fact, the evidence shows that females spayed before their first heat are typically healthier and males have a greatly reduced risk of cancers and other complications  if neutered early.

MYTH: I want my children to experience the miracle of birth.

FACT: The miracle of birth is quickly overshadowed by the thousands of animals euthanized in animal shelters in communities all across the country. Most animals from a home bred litter will end their lives in a shelter. Teach children that all life is precious by spaying and neutering your pets.

MYTH: But my pet is a purebred.

FACT: So is at least one out of every four pets brought to animal shelters around the country. There are just too many dogs and cats—mixed breed and purebred. About half of all animals entering shelters are euthanized.

MYTH: I want my dog to be protective.

FACT:  It is a dog’s natural instinct to protect home and family. A dog’s personality is formed more by genetics and environment than by sex hormones.

MYTH: I don’t want my male dog or cat to feel like less of a male.

FACT: Pets don’t have any concept of sexual identity or ego. Neutering will not change a pet’s basic personality. He doesn’t suffer any kind of emotional reaction or identity crisis when neutered.

MYTH: My pet will get fat and lazy.

FACT: The truth is that most pets get fat and lazy because their owners feed them too much and don’t give them enough exercise.

MYTH: But my dog (or cat) is so special, I want a puppy (or kitten) just like her.

FACT: Your pet’s puppies or kittens have an unlikely chance of being a carbon copy of your pet. Even professional breeders cannot make this guarantee. There are shelter pets waiting for homes who are just as cute, smart, sweet, and loving as your own.

MYTH: It’s expensive to have my pet spayed or neutered.

FACT: Most regions of the U.S. have at least one spay/neuter clinic within driving distance that charge $100 or less for the procedure, and many veterinary clinics provide discounts through subsidized voucher programs. Low-cost spay/neuter is more and more widely available all the time. Planned Pethood’s spay and neuter surgeries start as low as $40. Click here to find low-cost spay and neuter services in your area.

MYTH: I’ll find good homes for all the puppies and kittens.

FACT: You may find homes for your pet’s puppies and kittens. But you can only control what decisions you make with your own pet, not the decisions other people make with theirs. Your pet’s puppies and kittens, or their puppies or kittens, could end up in an animal shelter, as one of the many homeless pets in every community competing for a home. Will they be one of the lucky ones?

Thanks to HSUS