Allergies - Anyone who owns a dog who has allergies knows how frustrating it can be. Allergies are not cured, but managed. Making the correct diagnosis and using a multi-faceted approach to treatment can usually help the affected dog be much more comfortable

Allergic Dermatitis - Allergies are one of the most common causes of skin conditions. They are encountered in pets, especially dogs, as often as we see them in humanoids. The main difference between us and pets is that allergies in pets tend to cause skin conditions.

Allergy and Atopy Treatment in Dogs - This article will help you better understand allergy treatment in pets. Treatment options for atopy, food allergies, and contact dermatitis will be discussed.

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from the berner-l

My 2 Berners are increasingly itchy and scratchy over the past week or so. The groomer said there were no fleas present when she gave them their regularly scheduled bath last Monday. There are no obvious hot spots or anything irregular on their fur or skin. They are on Frontline Plus every month; our 3 cats are on Advantage. No changes in the environment or in their diet. Any ideas??? They are miserable and so are we! Judi

Food allergy or intolerance can be a culprit when it comes to itchiness but I would be very surprised if it was the case here as both dogs are affected.

Do you take your dogs in your neighborhood for walks? maybe they came in contact with a pesticide or some kind of gardening products or maybe the culprit is in your own backyard.

Have you started using a different soap for your clothes or a different hand cream? Maybe both dogs are reacting to it.

Lots of silly ideas I know but worth investigating :)


Cindy & Moka Bear, Cambridge, UK

The vet diagnosed flea allergy dermatitis. Even though we could not find a single flea! She said even one bite can set off this dramatic reaction in sensitive dogs. The tip-off for her was the scratching pattern and the fact that there was no hair loss. Apparently fleas are becoming increasingly resistant to flea medications. Both dogs got a shot of prednisone, and began taking Comfortis; she instructed me to switch the cats to Frontline. What a difference! Almost immediately, all scratching ceased. We are happy although a bit uncomfortable with administering all this poison.

Thanks again for all the help and advice, Judi.

In an article that I read (IVIS veterinary type), it stated that only about 30% of allergy/skin issues are resolved with fish oil alone. Given that it may be a relatively inexpensive solution for 30% of dogs, it is certainly worth trying, but understand that it does not help the majority of dogs with serious dermatological problems. Oil can be given to dogs with no skin issues to keep the coat nice as well. My 5 BMDs do not have any skin problems, but I still give them oil daily to keep a shiny coat -- works great, but be careful to keep the dose low enough to avoid and GI issues.

It is also important to remind folks that the pH (acid/alkaline composition) in canine shampoos is different than the pH in human shampoos, so you do need to buy a canine shampoo because because canine and human skins have different pH. A group of us often go together to buy a 4-gallon carton from one of the catalogs (e.g., Pet Edge, Ryan, or KVvet). We each take a gallon -- it is much cheaper than buying it through the local retain store. I have used All- Systems and found it to be good for my dogs, but there are many good shampoos out there now.

If your dog has persistent skin problems, best go see a derm vet. If you are in the Western PA area, I can recommend the new PIttsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Clinic north of Pittsburgh on I-279/79 -- My husband's son had a rescue GSD with chronic (really horrible) skin issues. Having exhausted all options, they decided to fork over the money to see the allergist. I asked him to keep me posted -- they have had amazing success with testing/innoculation of allergens -- the dog is doing very well and this was certainly not the case before they saw the specialist. I currently have a BMD with hemangiosarcoma being seen by Dr. Newmann (the region's first veterinary oncologist -- she is young, bright and had BMDs as a child). I am working to get several of the specialists to write an article for The Alpenhorn Health issue.

Nancy Melone, Ph.D. Mars, PA

My 2-1/2 year-old Berner, Hannah Anna, has seasonal allergies. At my vet's suggestion we tried giving her 2 "Skin Formula 3V Caps" per day. These are manufactured by DVM Pharmaceuticals and contain Omega 3, vitamins A,D and E, per day. These are available from your vet, pet store or through K-V Vet. K-V Vet is substantially cheaper other sources. My vet said that in about 30% of the cases this seems to work. Moreover, it is less upsetting to the dog than more drastic measures (measures similar to what humans must go through to desensitize - testing, injection -- a routine that my vet said is relatively expensive and must often be repeated in dogs, etc.). My bias is to try first the methods with fewer side effects.

It seems to help Hannah' scratching, paw licking, and discoloration on paws. It helped enough that I was not about to move to the next level of therapy. A side benefit is that Hannah's coat has also taken a turn for the better. At first, she would eat the capsules as though they were treats. Now, I just cut the tip and dizzle them on her food. This probably will not work in your friend's seemingly more severe case, but it may worth a try. His/her dog might be in the 30% for whom it does help.

If both dogs have become extremely itchy at the same time, I'd wonder whether they may have picked up sarcoptic mites (ie: scabies) somewhere. Sarcoptic mites live just below the surface of the skin but finding them on a scraping is hit or miss. If sarcoptic mites are suspected, most vets will treat even if a scraping is negative. Revolution (selamectin) or ivermectin in higher dose than that for heartworm prevention are preferable to the old miticide baths. Fleas are the most common cause for itchiness, but if it's really bad and you don't think fleas are the cause talk with your vet about sarcoptic mange.

Thanks for posting about the possibility that sarcoptic mange could be the itchy culprit. Many years ago, my 3 dogs started scratching - a lot! First I tried oatmeal shampoos/conditioner and a thorough flea check both to no avail. I believe it was fall when this ocurred and my then Vet suggested food or seasonal allergies and suggested Benadryl for a few days. The dogs were more restful, but still scratching. It was hard for me to think that 3 adult dogs with no history of this just happened to develop allergies at the same time. I demanded scraping for mites and as you said, even though we found none, my vet treated the dogs with Ivermectin. W/in 24 hours , the itching subsided and stopped in a couple of days. Just my experience......

She might only need to use it one time and then use the fish dog has bad allergies and even with fish oil, had to have allergy shots and we had to bathe him once a month in the Selsun Blue with Aloe per instructions from his doggie dermotologist. So there can be a need for both...cheryl in okc

Our 10 month old who has been on Neutro lamb &rice dry dog food 2c twice a day with some treets, has been expierencing some bouts of diahera. He starts with formed then loose stools. He has been on bland and flagel stool samples checked by Vet and he has been checked also. After he finishes his course of medicene we have put him back on Neutro and it starts again.

Has anyone had similar problems like this?

Nutro has had numerous recalls and problems w/ their food. I am involved in a lawsuit against them. I would not trust what they put in their food, IMO.

I would try the Wellness Core as someone else suggested, or any Wellness variety. Wellness does have a line called Simple Solutions which is good for allergies and GI problems.

Simple Food Solutions

I fed Wellness Sweet Potato and Fish to my Beren dog (died last Sept at age 9+). That poor boy was plagued by allergies that got progressively worse as he aged. I found that particular kibble helped some, and keeping him away from all wheat products was key.

My Newf boy, now age 3, is starting a few of the same patterns. So I'm working in a bag of this kibble , trading with Chicken Soup (which he loves), but I'm finding I'm fighting diarreah with him too. Canned pumpkin served in a heaping spoonful while feeding Wellness seems to do the trick. No more diarreah (although it takes a couple of days for it to work completely through the system.)

sometime ago I posted that My Bernese was scratching her self to death. I have her on Frontline plus, but she has developed a case of Staph, and does so every year. I took her to the vet, her regular vet was not there. This vet told me it was probably caused by fleas and I told him I am using her frontline plus every 3 weeks instead of 4. I suspect a flea immune thing going on with this frontline He gave a shot of Naxell and one of steriods. She went that whole week as bad or worse than she was. These shots did not help. I had a lead of a holistic vet somewhere in the Slidell, La. area, but unfortunately I have lost all my mail. Can ANY one recommend a great Holistic vet that can possible give us some help. I am very close to the university, but I don't feel comfortable going there, as I tend to think they keep you coming and coming,etc. Regards, from Louisiana patricia Kuehne with beautiful 5 year old Baghira from Switzerland.

Disclaimer - this is mainly for the newbies - people new to the breed and/or this list. If you are a 'seasoned' Berner owner, you probably already know the information contained herein. However, you may know someone for whom this email is relevant. If this is the case, feel free to forward this to anyone and everyone whose dogs could benefit. I am not a scientist or a vet, however common sense goes a long way and I am a big believer in the relationship between good health and a healthy diet, both in people and dogs. A couple years ago, I wrote a college paper on dog food. One point of my paper was the importance of reading ingredients, So while I had a few minutes, I read the label of a well known commercially accessible dog food.

What follows is my analysis:

The main (largest percentage - first on the list) ingredient is ground yellow corn. Dogs are primarily meat eaters. Meat should be number one on the list. The tenth ingredient is sugar; generally not healthy for people or dogs and can cause kidney failure in dogs, esp over long term use. The sugar is added to make the food taste better. I know my kids prefer candy to 'real food' but I only give candy as an occasional treat; not in every meal. The main meat source in the food is 'chicken by-product meal,' secondary meat source is animal fat (what kind of animal-the label doesn't say?), and tertiary meat source is 'meat and bone meal' (again, what kind of meat?). The definition of the primary meat source, which I found on the Internet said, "Chicken by-product consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice." My dogs sometimes snack on flies (don't tell PETA) so I don't think chicken by-product would gross them out, but I certainly think there is value in a healthier meat source, like Beef or Chicken or Lamb (not meal - but real meat).

The food contains whole wheat flour. A family member recently tested allergic to wheat and there seems to be a correlation between intake of wheat and panic attacks - weird, but true. In dogs, wheat allergies can cause skin problems, including hot spots, yeasty ears, and digestive issues. Perhaps it could affect temperament in dogs as well - that would be an interesting study?

Some other 'good' ingredients, such as vegetables, which make the food appear "healthy", are surrounded by preservatives and 4 types of food coloring, including Red 40 and Yellow 5. Food coloring?? Last time my dogs ate, I'm pretty sure they didn't analyze it first to see if it looked appetizing or colorful. They just ate it. I remember hearing that Red 40 was temporarily removed from the US market due to concerns about increased risk of cancer. Red 40 and Yellow 5 are colorings banned from use in foods in Great Britain and Canada. The food does have folic acid, biotin and Vitamins A, B-12, D3, E, and garlic oil, but unfortunately, the poor protein sources make this bag of food a poor diet choice for dogs.

If you are going to feed kibble to your dogs, please consider a serious review of the ingredients. Don't rely on commercials on TV or just grabbing what looks good. I know plenty of people who eat junk food all the time and feed their kids the same, but if you are not one of those people and you care about what you put in your body, please consider the same courtesy for your pets and read the label.

Actually, it is quite common with food allergies that neither antihistamines or steroids help very much - and sometimes not at all. A food elimination diet must usually be used for at least 8 weeks as it frequently will take that long before the symptoms resolve. If you get some improvement in that time, but not completely, you should continue for another 4 weeks. Then, reintroduce the old food and see if the symptoms return - if so, you have definitive proof that she is allergic to something in that food. Return to the elimination diet, then gradually start adding in other foods individually and watching for a response - in this manner you can try to determine what exactly she is allergic to. If you feed her something she is allergic to (such as when you reintroduce her old diet) you will usually see a return of symptoms within a week.

Also, just because a pet has been eating the same food for a long time does not rule out the possibility of allergies. Most allergic pets will develop new allergies, and a new food allergy generally takes about 6 months to develop, though it can take longer. So, if you feed a dog a new food and they immediately (within the week) start showing problems, then they probably already had the allergy. (Skin problems and itching are usually signs of allergy; GI problems such as diarrhea, vomiting or gas may be allergy but more commonly are signs of intolerance - not necessarily the same thing; one involves the immune system, the other doesn't.) But if they've been on the food quite a while before showing signs, then they've likely developed a new allergy. Some derm vets I know recommend finding 2 different diets that work (different ingredients) and rotating those diets every 4-6 months to try to minimize the chances of developing an allergy to them.

Okay, about a food eliminination diet - you need to feed a novel protein source and a novel carbohydrate source - ingredients that the dog has ideally never been exposed to at all if possible. If that's not possible, then something that they may have only had once or twice as a treat. You cannot give anything else - no treats, no meds that contain food flavors (both Heartgard and Interceptor are out, and I think Filaribits is flavored as well, so are many of the pet vitamins), nothing! I usually recommend using whatever they are eating for their diet as treats - you can either take a canned diet and make balls, or a dry diet and grind it and add water then make balls or squares, and bake them for a good treat that most dogs don't realize is the same as their regular food. The best elimination diets are homemade - this way you have no question about what's in the food. There are also several commercial diets, both canned and kibble, that can be used for elimination diets, but all that are acceptable that I know of are veterinary diets. None of the generally available diets (what you can find in a grocery store, pet store or feed store) will work - at least none that I have seen, and I check regularly. Even the ones that say hypoallergenic and are "lamb and rice" or "venison and potato" or whatever, when you read the ingredients list, they ALL have something else in there, even is it's low on the list. Anything other than your chosen meat source or grain source is unacceptable, so the generic "meat meal" or "meat by-products" are not going to work.