I have a three year-old Yorkie. For the last year, he’s been scratching and scratching like crazy. I’ve tried switching his food, changing his shampoo, vitamin sprays, everything. I don’t know what to do! Please can you help my poor Yorkie? He’s losing hair in a few areas on his legs. Thank you so much!

Sincerely,
Camila Ponce
Boca Raton, FL

Dear Camila,

I would love to be able to just give you a quick answer to your problem. Unfortunately, itching is one of the most complex problems that vets face. The three big categories of itch are food allergies, inhaled or contact allergies, and parasites. There can also be secondary infections that need to be treated before you see relief. Your vet can do a skin scrape and prescribe an antiparasitic protocol to rule out parasites, and medications for secondary infections.

Since you say the itch has been going on for a whole year, food is the most likely culprit. In short, it is often not as simple as changing foods. You should be using hydrolyzed diets that are only available from a veterinarian. You need to feed one of these diets for 6 weeks, being careful to prevent your dog from eating any other foods during this time, including treats! If you see an improvement in the itch while feeding the special diet, that gives you a diagnosis of food allergy. Then you can decide whether to continue the expensive food or try to find a commercial food that also relieves the itch. If the itch does not improve on the hydrolyzed food, you can be comfortable that food is not the allergen. For these pets, the options are blood testing for allergies or trying to control the allergy with antihistamines or steroids, which you should discuss with your vet

-Dr. Weaver

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