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Female Jack Russel x 5y 

Hi Drs, we have a female jack Russell who scratches every minute of her waking hours! We have tried all types of shampoos and have resorted to baby shampoo. She has her regular flea and tick treatments and have change her diet to see if that helps but doesn't. When she does get bathed she will twitch for 24 hours and her skin seems inflamed (the baby shampoo is the lesser of all shampoos that make her do this)
Any help would be appreciated
Joyce Family

Answered Wednesday 21 October 2015

Hi Coral,

 it sounds like your poor little Jackie is in quite a lot of distress. The skin is the largest organ in the body and if it is inflammed and upset then the animals are usually in quite a lot of distress.

Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common cause of scratching in dogs until proven otherwise. What flea treatment are you using, how frequently and how long have you been using it for and do all of the animals in the house receive some form of treatment? Its really important to rule-out fleas as the cause of the allergy as the treatment for flea allergies is significantly different to the treatment for other types of itching.

Assuming the cause of the scratching is not fleas, where does she scratch? The scratching pattern (ie tail base, muzzle, under armpits, flanks, belly, feet etc) gives us lots of clues as to the cause of the scratching. One of the most common reasons for scratching in dogs is a disease called Atopy, which is very similar to hayfever in humans. The dogs do not actually have to come into direct contact with the allergen to become itchy, they actually breath a lot of the allergens in. 

Contact allergies are also common however have a distinct distribution and are often over diagnosed when the actual cause is atopy. Food allergies do occur however occur at a very low frequency so I would advise ruling the other cases out first.

You may be seeing a temporary soothing effect from the shampooing however excessively frequent shampooing (ie more than twice a month) is likely to dry out her skin and exacerbate her problem.

I would strongly recommend that you take her down to your local vet and have a chat with them. They will be able to provide some medications that should relieve the itching almost immediately. This may be in the form of sprays, creams or oral medications like prednisolone or cyclosporin. If your dog does have atopy, it is likely that she will require life long maintenance therapy as the underlying cause of the allergy is unlikely to be removed from her environment.

I hope this has helped,




 Anthony and James.

Pet Experts

Dr Ant and Dr James

These two best mates share a love of animals and are the stars of Village Vets Australia.

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