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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello. This is my first post here and could really use a veteran dog owner, or veterinarian's, guidance. Our dog is not the first in our family. After our last one passed away it took a while before deciding to welcome a new family member. We adopted Chopper from a local, well-respected no-kill shelter. He was a 11 weeks old when we met him and just turned one in June. He was born at the shelter. To the best of the shelter's, our vet's, and my own research, we think he may be a staffordshire (pit) mix with cattle dog, blue heeler, or some shepherd dog. He is a great dog to our three kids and loves to play.

Unfortunately, we are dealing some sort of skin or allergy condition that makes him act out because he is so itchy or irritated. This started in February, when he was about 8 months old, and we attributed the scratching to the dry winter air we have here in Missouri. By mid-March the weather was warm and he had gotten worse. We visited the vet and she tested him for mange. It was not mange. She prescribed a steroid and antibiotic for ten days. Within 24 hours of his first dose he was a super happy dog again. The next two weeks were amazing. Unfortunately the redness and scratching returned 3 or 4 days after his last dose

We had a second round of this same treatment in mid-April and had the same results: worked great for two weeks, then nothing.

We changed shampoos to an oatmeal based version and changed to a grain-free diet. We also started him on fish oil and an anti-histimine (loratidine) After two months, no change. Our vet decided to give him one more round of the steroid and antibiotic in late-June. This time it worked great for about a week after his last dose. But here we are at the end of July, and my poor dog has been dealing with this for five months.

Our vet recommended we take him to an animal skin clinic. I called the only one in town and was given the breakdown of the processes. They want to change to a prescription diet for a few weeks and then do skin prick testing for three rounds. All of this will take months and cost well over $1000. I love my dog, but I just don't have that kind of money.

I am really hoping that someone here has seen this before and found a solution. I have provided some pictures of our dog for everyone to see the redness. I am also posting some pictures of him with my kids just so you can see that he is loving, playful, and not kept in any harsh, negligible conditions. Thank you in advance for any advice I receive.













 

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Kind of spooky, reads just the postings i've been putting online. Typical of alopecia in hypothyroidism, the moth eaten appearance, identical to ours.

Do yourself a favor, get a blood panel done - and request a T4 carrier to test his thyroid. Our pup spent 3 years going through this, eating himself to death - finally diagnosed hypothyroid after 4 vets. Hypothyroidism is the primary issue with him, allergies secondary. If I had my time back, I would have requested a few days of synthroid as a test - it won't hurt the dog - 100 mcg is a typical dose.

And seriously, consider switching your dog to a raw based diet.
 

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It won't hurt to have the thyroid test done, it's a simple blood test, but I would not be giving him thyroid pills without the test confirming that he needs them. Being Hyperthyroid is just as bad as being Hypothyroid and giving him thyroid medicine if he does not need it can cause hyperthyroidisim.

You can do a food trial and see if that helps with the itchiness. What you need to do is find a food with ingredients he's not had in the past, you could even cook for him it you think that will be easiest, and feed that to him for 4 to 6 weeks. Be careful with treats, if you need to give them to him for training and such make sure that the treats match the food. So if your food is one that's pork you'd feed the dog pork treats that do not contain ingredients that are not in the dogs food. If he improves then it's likely the food that's the problem, if he doesn't it's a bit trickier, he could be allergic to the new food, or it could be enviromental allergies.

My boy has environmental allergies and he'd end up looking like your dog if I let his allergies get out of control. In the past he's managed to scratch till he's got sores on his skin and he has patches of hair missing. He was on Temaril P but I HATE that medicine, it made him have next to no energy and he acted drugged. He's now on Apoquel, and while it could possibly mess with his immune system I'm willing to chance it to let him have a decent quality of life and not run the risk of skin infections from the chewing and scratching, or the side effects of the prednisone in Temaril P.
 

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It won't hurt to have the thyroid test done, it's a simple blood test, but I would not be giving him thyroid pills without the test confirming that he needs them. Being Hyperthyroid is just as bad as being Hypothyroid and giving him thyroid medicine if he does not need it can cause hyperthyroidisim.
Blood test don't always prove hypothyroidism Rain but it's a good starting point. hypo isn't always so cut and dry as there are different types - and the reason many dogs go undiagnosed.

Current vet practices both sides of the spectrum from western to holistic - her response to Jagger is that he is "could be" hypo due to his symptoms list. Sometimes a vet has to be willing to use an educated leap of faith, and she put him on a one month trial of synthroid. She said to watch for the signs of hyper just in case. I'm glad I met her, within a few days he was a brand new dog - but of course he still had ups and downs through the adjustment of meds and such. Blood tests now prove he's right where he should be.

Seems he has a problem with the way his body is able to use the synthroid. Could be something, could be nothing OP.
 

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What are you feeding now? I wouldn't go to a prescription diet. Like jagger said, get a hypothyroid test done, and consider a raw diet as well, and if not raw then definantly a limited ingredient diet of some sort.
 

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What are you feeding now? I wouldn't go to a prescription diet. Like jagger said, get a hypothyroid test done, and consider a raw diet as well, and if not raw then definantly a limited ingredient diet of some sort.
Agree completely with above. Pits often have skin issues. 2 weeks on raw and my dog cleared up. By 2 months she had a full, shiny coat.

What do you currently feed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for so much interest. We feed Chopper Purina ProPlan Sport. It's a chicken version and claims to be 30/20 protein/fat. He was on the puppy version at the shelter. We stayed with it except for when we tried grain-free. I can't remember that brand. I'd recognize the bag if I saw it.

I read about raw diet. Would you recommend buying the frozen stuff or making your own? Is it safe? What about worms or other bacteria. I'm going to ask the vet about the thyroid. If we try a medicine that weakens his immune system I would hate to see what a raw diet would do to him.
 

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No offense, but that is crap food and likely causing the problems. Read the ingredients. See www.dogfoodadvisor.com for ratings. If you are going to feed kibble, feed grain free 4 stars and above.

For raw, I follow the prey model. 80% raw meat, 10% raw bones and 10% offal. Google it and read about it. Made the world of difference for my dogs.

Good luck!
 

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Personally, I wouldn't feed anything Purina but that's me. The proplan is middle of the road at best. Sounds yummy no?

Ingredients: Chicken, brewers rice, poultry by-product meal (natural source of glucosamine), corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of vitamin E), whole grain corn, corn germ meal, brewers dried yeast, fish meal (natural source of glucosamine), animal digest, fish oil, dried egg product, wheat bran, calcium phosphate, salt, potassium chloride, vitamin E supplement, choline chloride, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, l-lysine monohydrochloride, manganese sulfate, niacin, calcium carbonate, vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, garlic oil, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K activity), sodium selenite
If you're going to feed raw, that's a different conversation to have... Raw is completely safe, no worries about bacterias and such. Many raw feeders on here, some have been feeding their dog raw for over a decade with no issues.

I would definitely start with thyroid, like I say, our dog looked like yours only 7 months ago, his coat is now grown back. Prepare for a fight if you're dealing with a strict western vet.
 

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I definitely second others on getting a blood panel done to check and make sure you really are only dealing with a skin issue. Next, I would be weary of allowing your vet to do that same treatment again, just because it's definitely not good for dogs to get steroid shots too often. At my hospital we only do it a couple of times and then explain to owners that even if it helped with skin, the next time we have to use an alternative treatment for the dog's overall well-being.
Have you tried something like GentaSpray on the affected areas? It's a spray that has a steroid component in it, but since it is on the skin and not injected, it's safe for prolonged use.
As for food, I strongly disagree that Purina is a bad food, just as a note. And it is a common misconception that most food allergies in dogs are caused by grains (though that is the cause sometimes). More commonly it is food coloring or the main protein source that causes an issue. Chicken and beef tend to be the culprits most of the time if the protein source is the issue. Changing to lamb, venison, or another protein would be a good idea, doing a fish like salmon can be good for the additional Omega 3 fatty acids. And unfortunately when you have a food allergy issue, it can take up to 3 months after changing foods to truly see a difference.
Has the vet tried Apoquel yet? That's a common chronic med for allergy dogs and it works great for some.
And is he on flea and tick prevention?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I have seen that dog food is going going to be a never ending debate. I know better than to give my dog Dog Chow, but I thought this was going to work. He is on Nexgard and Heartgard once a month since we brought him home. We take him to dog parks and I don't want him catching any of that stuff.

This bag of food is almost gone and I will read up on other options just to be more educated on the subject.
 

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Thanks for so much interest. We feed Chopper Purina ProPlan Sport. It's a chicken version and claims to be 30/20 protein/fat. He was on the puppy version at the shelter. We stayed with it except for when we tried grain-free. I can't remember that brand. I'd recognize the bag if I saw it.

I read about raw diet. Would you recommend buying the frozen stuff or making your own? Is it safe? What about worms or other bacteria. I'm going to ask the vet about the thyroid. If we try a medicine that weakens his immune system I would hate to see what a raw diet would do to him.
If it's food related it could be the chicken that's the problem, or it could be one of the other ingredients. I'd suspect the chicken first though. My old terrier ended up developing a full blown allergy to chicken, he'd scratched till his sides had sores and his ears started bothering him. When I got him off chicken completely all of that stopped. My current dog has an intolerance too it and will get soft stool if he gets too much.

Purina isn't my favorite food, but the only line of it that I recommend avoiding completely is Beneful, I've read about too many problems related to it and I personally know of more then one person who's dogs have had some serious problems on it. My Uncle's cocker spaniel developed digestive problems, and skin problems on it.
 

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I have seen that dog food is going going to be a never ending debate. I know better than to give my dog Dog Chow, but I thought this was going to work. He is on Nexgard and Heartgard once a month since we brought him home. We take him to dog parks and I don't want him catching any of that stuff.

This bag of food is almost gone and I will read up on other options just to be more educated on the subject.
True allergies in dogs is actually not that common. A true allergy will generally give an immediate autoimmune response - like someone that's allergic to shellfish or peanut butter - it could kill them. Extreme example yes. If I roll around in bails of hay, I need claritin right away. What you're dealing with is more likely a chronic intolerance to something - and whether it's food related or environmental is where trials come in.

Here's what it boils down to - most vets will tell you to buy a single protein kibble and assume the dog is allergic to a protein. The problem with kibble is that there are other ingredients that your dog can be intolerant of and you can end up like me - chasing your tail for years while the dog suffers. Yes, meds will help - but it's not a cure - and they will complicate the issue.

A real food trial would consist of single INGREDIENT - you're not going to get that with ANY kibble on the market. That's just common sense.
 

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Given the age and breed (pit mix) I would be highly suspicious this is Demodex you are dealing with. I know you said he was tested for it but "testing" I am sure was taking some plucks of hair, and some skin scrape samples which is appropriate but it is not very common to actually find Demodex on a sample. I am sure he improved with the antibiotics because they almost always get a SECONDARY skin infection with it and that would of taken care of it but not the primary issue. Before you invest in the $1000 allergy testing you may want to consider treating for Demodex and go from there. Just a thought, hope things resolve soon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
You are right, the vet did a skin scrape. She did four different spots. Just in case she gave him Bravecto. That should have take care of demodex then.

We just got back from the dog park and two owners saw him and said food allergies without me even asking. They both just just said, "oh yeah. I remember when our dog looked like that."
 

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You are right, the vet did a skin scrape. She did four different spots. Just in case she gave him Bravecto. That should have take care of demodex then.
Yep, our pup went through the same, was treated for dex in case. It wasn't dex.
 

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Given the age and breed (pit mix) I would be highly suspicious this is Demodex you are dealing with. I know you said he was tested for it but "testing" I am sure was taking some plucks of hair, and some skin scrape samples which is appropriate but it is not very common to actually find Demodex on a sample. I am sure he improved with the antibiotics because they almost always get a SECONDARY skin infection with it and that would of taken care of it but not the primary issue. Before you invest in the $1000 allergy testing you may want to consider treating for Demodex and go from there. Just a thought, hope things resolve soon.
Demodex is frequently and usually easily diagnosed by skin scraping, you may be thinking of sarcoptic mange/scabies, which is much less commonly found on a skin scrape and usually ruled out by treating empirically since it's easily treated with antiparasitic meds (usually revolution or ivermectin). The vets would have been sure to rule out demodectic mange before prescribing steroids, as an immunosuppressant drug will likely make demodex worse (also the OP would likely have seen worsening of symptoms, rather than improvement on steroids if it were demodex). Dogs with sarcoptic mange are usually intensely itchy, have scabby lesions/crusts, and lesions may be concentrated on the ears/head.

OP, has your vet ruled out possible fungal causes? I had a dog who had seasonal (environmental) allergies, and one time she developed those moth eaten areas all over her body, in addition to the "usual" pustules/areas she dug raw by scratching. After trying a bunch of other stuff ( my dog was diabetic, so steroids were not feasible) antihistamines, antibiotics, etc, we did a trial with an antifungal drug, and it cleared up. She was negative on a fungal culture and woods light exam, but did frequently have a "yeast" smell to her belly and ears, so I don't know if that may have been a factor. My grandmom's dog also developed a bunch of little raw/hairless patches in response to some sort of allergy, though hers were typically preceded by bumps/pustules which would rupture and heal over leaving hairless areas. Your dog's spots look pretty red/inflammed, are the hairless areas "scars" from previous lesions? My grandmom's dog's skin issues have been decreased with a change to a better food, but she still gets some lesions seasonally- probably an environmental component. She's got a bunch of little spots right now that are red/hairless- they were hives last week, scabs a few days ago, but seem to be on the mend. If he had scabs/sores, you may just be seeing areas where the hair has yet to grow back?

If it is environmental allergies, shampooing with a benzoyl peroxide shampoo may help to flush allergens out of his follicles and reduce his reaction, but my experience has been that too much shampooing can dry them out and cause problems as well. It's worth asking your vet if there's anything in particular you should be washing him with. My current favorite shampoo for allergic dogs is Phytovet PSS, which has both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, as well as an additional component which helps to restore the skin's protective moisture. It's helped quite a bit with my grandmom's dog's gross skin, I used it once a week or so, letting it soak for a while before rinsing- always with tepid/cool water for dogs with skin issues.

It sounds like your vets suspect an allergy, which is why they wanted to do the food trial (the only way to rule out a food allergy is to feed a completely novel diet for 6-8 weeks, or a hydrolyzed protein diet for the same, and see if symptoms abate), and the intradermal testing, which is the gold standard for testing for environmental allergens. If it's a food allergy, you would manage by avoiding allergens in his diet, and if it's an environmental allergy, you can either avoid allergens, OR try immunotherapy injections to see if you can desensitize him to them. Either way, you will likely still have at least occasional breakouts which will require treatment.

I guess your vet is thinking that it may be cheaper for you in the long run to try to get a definitive diagnosis at the dermatologist rather than continue trying to treat the symptoms with intermittent success.

If you aren't able to do the testing at the derm right now, you might ask your vet about trying one of the newer allergy meds (atopica or apoquel), though over the course of one year, they'll probably cost as much if not more than a derm visit. Alternatively, maybe see if you can use steroids to "put out the fire" so to speak, then maintain on antihistamines and maybe a low dose of steroids if needed over a longer period of time. I'm having a similar situation with one of my cats right now, where she is maintained on an antihistamine 2x daily, plus pred every 3rd day with decent results most of the time. When she has itching even with that, I bump the pred up for a few days, then taper it back down. The goal is to eventually hopefully wean her off the pred completely, but it's possible that may never happen. I have one dog who is sporadically itchy (seasonal? it seems), and he gets antihistamines mostly, and rarely steroids if he's still itchy with that. I try to use steroids minimally with my animals, but I know of some dogs who have been on higher doses of steroids long term and been fine despite the odds/risks, their owners can't or won't do further diagnostics or try other meds, or have and still find that the steroids are the most effective treatment, so they accept the risks.

It can't hurt to try a diet change even if you decide not to do a true food allergy trial, and isn't a bad idea to rule out a thyroid problem, even though he's on the young side of the typical age range for diagnosis. It's possible though that you might do both those and still come out at the same place you currently are, and since you have limited funds (no offense, I'm in the same boat, and I've seen people spend thousands of dollars and still have itchy dogs with patchy coats), I would weigh where you will get the most out of your money. Maybe continue to treat symptomatically for now and put aside money for a derm consultation at least, even if you decide not to do the intradermal testing, they may still have some novel ideas for treatment that your vet hasn't considered.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks for all of the ideas and support.

Our vet clinic has five doctors. Our primary vet has even called us after hours and between appointments. She is very kind and considerate. We have switched to a limited ingredient food. Salmon and sweet potato. All old treats are trashed and we are two days in.
 
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