Southtown Veterinary Hospital

1806 Ridge Rd.
Montrose, PA 18801


Tips on Dietary Therapy for the Itchy Dog


The following information is intended to provide the dog owner with a basic understand of the most common underlying causes of itching and allergies. Persistent scratching and grooming by a dog can result in more skin damage and even cause open wounds.

Ear infections, hot spots, and licking feet are all related to allergies. Allergies in dogs are often heavily influenced by diet.

An allergy is a state of hypersensitivity in which exposure to a harmful substance known as an allergen induces the body’s immune system to overreact. The incidences of allergies is increasing in both humans and pets.

Flea Allergy:

  1. Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin disease in dogs and cats; the allergy is caused by the flea’s saliva and it only takes a few bites to induce the problem. This is why the owners may not see fleas on their pet.
  2. The itchy pet often grooms so much that adult fleas are removed, making them hard to find.
  3. Fleas may survive in low numbers year-round so we recommend quality year-round flea control. Dr. Bob recommends Advantix, Frontline, or Seresto Collars.


  1. Meat-based, high quality diets:
    1. The first ingredient should be meat. AVOID CHICKEN, BEEF, MILK, CHEESE, AND EGGS.
    2. Bob recommends a fish based diet (such as salmon or whitefish). There is bison, kangaroo, alligator, and many more. Dr. Bob recommends the brand 4Health which is available at Tractor Supply Company.
    3. When changing your pet’s diet, make sure you do it slowly to avoid diarrhea.
    4. New research is showing the majority of dogs are not allergic to grains. This new research links grain free diets to cardiomyopathy. We are no longer recommending a grain free diet.
  2. Treats:
    1. Use quality treats also! Most treats contain a lot of byproducts.
    2. One treat with the wrong protein can start up the allergy symptoms all over again.
    3. This goes for any table scraps and human sacks.
    4. You can always use their new kibble as a treat!
  3. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oils): Get an east to dispense pump today!
    1. Omega-3 is integral in skin health, anti-inflammatory pathways, immune system function, and brain development.
    2. Like a vitamin or mineral, your dog cannot manufacture it, it must be eaten in the diet.
    3. Brands: Not all nutritional supplements are equal (even if the ingredients look identical). The FDA does not regulate nutritional supplements the same way drugs are regulated.
    4. Be sure to use pure Omega-3 fatty acid and not a supplement that contains any added vitamins. These added vitamins can be toxic to your pet.
    5. Side effects: a few dogs may develop diarrhea with fish oils. Other sources of Omega-3 include: missing link product or flaxseed.

Dietary therapy does not eliminate allergies: it helps your pet’s body handle them more appropriately. Dietary therapy is successful in varying degrees, depending upon each individual dog.

If dietary therapy alone in not successful, or only moderately successful, then other options are available:

  1. Anti-histamines: Zyrtec can be given once daily, please ask us for the dose appropriate for your dog. The generic brand is called cetirizine and that is safe to give.
  2. There is a new injection called Cytopoint which lasts in the body for 4-6 weeks. Cytopoint does not stop the allergy, but it blocks the itch receptors.
  3. Symptomatic drug therapy can help to reduce itching. Steroids are often employed to stop the itch, however, without addressing the underlying cause, the itching will return.
  4. Atopica/Cyclosporine: A daily medication moderates the immune response. Depending on your dog’s size, it may be pricy, but for some dogs it can literally be a life-saver.
  5. Allergy testing: There is a blood test available that will point to specific allergens. Desensitization shots may then be available to “retrain” you dog’s immune system.