How itchy is too itchy?
May 26, 2010 8:57 PM   Subscribe

Help me convince my husband that we shouldn't wait to see the vet...

Our three year old Yorkie/Schnauzer mix, Einstein, recently developed an itch. He scratches mostly on his snout, and on his sides. We sort of just dismissed the behavior account that you know, he's a dog. He's also been licking his paw pads a lot more than usual.

Today I decided to take a look at the area he was scratching on his sides. I found patches of thinner hair with small scabs dotted around. I've also noticed for the first time, some dark blueish/brownish mark spots under his fur. Mr. Shotty says it's probably just allergies and birthmarks and we can wait until Friday to take him to the vet. Meanwhile, my poor puppo is just miserably scratching the day away. I know that YANAV/YANMV, but i could really use some reasonable arguments against/for running him out to the emergency vet right away.

We have another dog and she doesn't show any similar symptoms or behaviors. Both dogs are treated regularly with flea/tick/whatever goo. We haven't changed the kibble brand (Royal Canin for Mini indoor adults) but I have taken to the habit of mixing in some wet food with the dry.

Other factors - We just returned from a vacation in Mexico and had some friends stay with the dogs while we were gone.

Please mefites, tell me that I'm over reacting and should wait for the vet, or give me solid reasons to take him to the vet ASAP.
posted by mrsshotglass to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am taking my dog to the vet tomorrow because I discovered today she has an ear infection. I informed my husband of my plan, and if he had asked or told me that it could wait until Friday, I would have ignored him and done what I thought was best.
posted by msali at 9:02 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

msali - it seems like the difference here is that mrsshotglass wants to take her dog to the emergency vet where you are taking your dog to the normal 9-5 vet. one of those options is usually considerably more expensive.

mrsshotglass - is there no way to squeeze in the vet appointment tomorrow instead of friday?
posted by nadawi at 9:04 PM on May 26, 2010

What sort of wet food are you mixing in? Yorkies can be very sensitive to certain foods.

Ours had a very similar (nay, identical) problem, and we solved it by adjusting/varying her diet.
posted by schmod at 9:06 PM on May 26, 2010

Dermatology issues such as what you are describing really aren't "emergency vet" material. It sounds like a multi-factor issue. He likely has an allergy or hot spots. Give him a benadryl (plain old benadryl with nothing else in it) and take him to his regular vet tomorrow. The dark spots sound like pigmentation, my dog developed this (can't remember the name of the specific condition as I am falling asleep but may remember later), and it is harmless. It doesn't sound like your dog is on death's doorstep or even in death's driveway, so wait and take him to the regular vet. Mr. Shotty gets my vote.
posted by bolognius maximus at 9:22 PM on May 26, 2010 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: I can't make it to the vet tomorrow, and Mr. S says we should wait until Friday so I can do it. He knows I'll feel better if I'm the one at the vet talking to them. >=| I do have a tendency to overreact and be paranoid, especially about the well being about the dogs.

As for wet food, I've been giving him some of those mixables pouches or those little chef michaels cans to make his regular kibble more appetizing. Sometimes he goes on hunger strikes and will starve himself until he throws up. At least with the wet food I know he'll get something in his stomach. It's not the first time he's gotten the wet food, but it's much more regular now. Previously, I had an animal nutritionist help me pick out kibble that was corn and wheat free. I'm thinking that if I'm going to continue add ins, i need to be more picky.

schmod - thanks for chiming in. i feel a little better that this is more likely allergies then some strange exotic deadly bug I brought home in my suitcase. i'm just so freaked out about the blotches on his skin.
posted by mrsshotglass at 9:24 PM on May 26, 2010

Best answer: You mention that you just got back from vacation. A couple of things come to mind. Perhaps your friends didn't feed quite the same way you do, so there could have been a food issue that is just now manifesting itself. Also, there could have been a separation anxiety issue too. In either case, I agree that a dermatology issue is not an emergency. Friday should be soon enough if the dog is not in agony. I would be careful giving the dog benadryl only because of the issue of dosing versus the dog's size. You might try calling the vet and asking if it is O.K. and how much you can give until you can get in to be seen.

Take a list of the foods and other things your dog eats when you see the vet in case there is anything there that this breed should not eat.
posted by Old Geezer at 9:45 PM on May 26, 2010

Stupid question: have you given him a bath and groomed him? Might calm down the scratching, especially if it's allergies.
posted by saturnine at 10:58 PM on May 26, 2010

Call the vet to make an appointment on Friday. Let the receptionist know that you'd like to make the appointment, but also speak to the vet briefly in case the vet determines the appointment should be moved up. Then defer to the vet's judgement.
posted by davejay at 1:38 AM on May 27, 2010

My dog has similar problems (especially licking the pads) and it turned out he has seasonal allergies (probably due to something in the yard or on our walks) and our vet advised us to give him children's benadryl 1mg per pound of dog. We half the dose for our basset hound and it seems to knock down the itching without knocking him out.

Also, if there are scabs forming it is marginally possible your dog has contracted mange. Though it's serious and uncomfortable it's not an emergency.

But I second davejay, wouldn't you feel better even if the vet just said it didn't sound like an emergency?
posted by Saminal at 1:51 AM on May 27, 2010

Best answer: Our vet told us that when dogs are paying more attention to their paw pads, it's usually allergy-releated. From what you've written, it seems like that your awesomely cute dog probably has an advanced case of whatever allergy he has.

You can wait until Friday to take him to the vet. Make sure to give your vet a detailed list of what he eats, his outdoor routine, that you recently went to Mexico, how he's behaving now, and any other pertinent information on his condition.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 5:08 AM on May 27, 2010

have you given him a bath and groomed him

A nice oatmeal bath would probably feel really good on his skin. Don't use people shampoo on him, but something gentle for puppies or dogs with dry skin. Not only would it soothe his skin, but it might flush the irritants out from in between his pads (if that's the cause of his discomfort.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:07 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am certain if you called your vet right now and said you can't get in until tomorrow or Saturday but want to assume and start treating for allergies right now, you could get them to provide dosage information for her size. They're going to be seeing a ton of this right now. The invoice from the vet that I keep on the fridge has dosage information for Zyrtec (cetirizine), Chlor-trimeton (chlorpeniramine), or Tavist (Clemastine). Antihistamine formula only, not the -D decongestant versions.

I have one dog (of three) with horrible seasonal allergies. She scratches the hell out of her face and chews at her feet, and her eyes swell up. Benadryl has not worked very well for us, not nearly as well as Zyrtec. This year the vet added fish oil to the mix, to help prevent dry skin.

Every year, even though (or maybe because) my husband and I are also in allergy hell, it takes me sometimes two weeks to realize Roxy's really uncomfortable and start her OTC meds. Sometimes by the time I catch on the allergies are already so bad that we take her to the vet for steroids and eye drops. And I always feel like a jerk for not noticing, but in the grand scheme of things I don't think a day or two is going to be a dealbreaker as long as your dog isn't doing serious damage with the scratching.

Tip: Roxy's a terrible pill-taker, and I don't see the point in fighting. I buy the liquid children's versions of her antihistamines (store brand, thank goodness, so I wasn't giving her recalled medicine this year) and mix her dose with a big spoonful of vanilla yogurt, crush her steroids and mix them in when applicable, add a pump of the fish oil, and offer it to her in a little bowl. She thinks that's the greatest thing I've ever given her. We call it Fish Smoothie because it's disgusting.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:00 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I would decide they were probably hot spots and buy an over-the-counter spray from a pet store and see if that takes care of it. On my dog and one of my cats, it's made a huge difference in just 48 hours. Many times, it seems as if the animal's repeated licking of said spot makes it a lot worse -- the spray treats it and tastes bad, so they stop licking and it heals on it's own.

Seeing as you were away, it could be that they picked up a nervous licking habit to comfort them from missing you.

As an aside, mange tends to pop up more in dogs between 6-12 months of age, and the skin under the bald spots looks very off. You sound as if you've got a spot licked raw, which looks very different.
posted by MeiraV at 7:27 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Certain dogs itch when they are anxious or stressed. IANAV, just a dog owner, but your recent vacation and the resulting breaks in routine and the dog missing you sounds to me like the most likely cause.

The causes of dog itchiness are very complex and there is often not a straightforward fix. You may never know the cause and it could be as insignificant as brushing against a plant on his walk or simply a spot he created for no external reason because he was anxious, making it worse and worse with time.

I'd put a call in to your vet. Most vets are very good about suggesting things to try at home, such as the allergy medicines and fish oil suggestions above.

I would not take your dog to the emergency vet for this unless it is rapidly spreading across his entire body. If your dog is miserable and is unable to leave the spot alone run to your petstore and pick up an e-collar to prevent him from itching it.

I would try allergy medication and lots of walks to wear him out for a few days to see if it improves before taking him to the vet. If stress is the cause, a trip to the vet could make it temporarily worse. Also, be calm around him and stick to your regular routine.

I would also like to heartily recommend a dog veterinary handbook, something like this. Being able to reference this helps me a lot when I get anxious about my beloved pet and has provided good guidance for what is urgent, what needs to be addressed by a vet and what can be treated at home.
posted by tinamonster at 9:59 AM on May 27, 2010

Best answer: IANAV. Like Neal Patrick Harris, however, you should believe me: I used to be a doctor for pretend.* ;)

N-thing the 'probable allergy.' I have a dog with multiple food allergies...and she's a beagle, so she gets into EVERYTHING. Obtaining forbidden food is her only talent. Very similar symptoms, especially the hyperpigmentation on pink skin. There are many other delightful allergies as well--seasonal as mentioned above, also flea allergy dermatitis, and others.

It could be a mixed thing--allergies, secondary skin infection (very common with irritated skin and paws--yeasts and bacteria love the inflammation), or coincidental infection, so you should take her in, but Friday should be fine. Lyn Never has great info on which antihistamines are safe and effective (well, partly--dogs don't seem respond as well to antihistamines. Sometimes the real benefit is that they get a bit too sleepy to pursue scratching. I will also second Lyn in that the most recent reports show that cetirizine seems to be at least as effective as benadryl in dogs, and probably more so, but it's not as sedating. One reason why it's more often used as a maintenance antihistamine--IIRC--because it won't stop the scratching cycle as quickly as a sedating antihistamine or--most effectively, prednisone/another steroid.)

If your vet determines she probably has allergies, you will probably end up with some sort of treatment for any infection that may be complicating things, and a bottle of prednisone or another steroid. Steroids will make her feel soooooo much better w/r/t the itch, but you'll need to follow veterinary advice closely w/r/t tapering and side-effects.

Write down what kind of meat products are in your current foods, as well as any other protein sources you've used in snacks. If your vet suspects allergies, and if s/he recommends you pursue a food trial, all of those proteins are out.

Please don't put off the vet visit in favor of OTC and wait and see: this isn't an emergency**, but it is worth checking out medically. It makes an incredible difference in your dog's quality of life to have allergies/skin problems treated medically.

*this or 'No, but I play one on TV' is what I tell my students.

**Although, believe me, I understand the cost factor is the main thing at stake here--but just FTR, although vets are human, so some of them are unpleasant people, a reputable emergency veterinarian and technicians won't judge you for bringing in a non-emergency, unless you do things like:

(a) unleash your dog in the waiting room
(b) shout at the receiving staff
(c) show up drunk and throw up in a plant/on the staff/your pet/someone else's pet
(d) generally act in a way that is disrespectful of people who really do want to help out and do their jobs, or your fellow clients.

It's not because 'oh, we just made money off of a client who could have waited until regular hours.' It's because 'sure, maybe the owners were overly concerned, but it's nice to treat a patient that's probably going to be alive in the morning.'
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 10:02 AM on May 27, 2010

To be clear: Friday is a great day to see the vet. I just wouldn't try something OTC without a visit scheduled.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 10:03 AM on May 27, 2010

One more thing: If your vet suggests steroids I'd discuss side effects carefully. Anecdotally, my father's golden retriever was given prednisone for chronic hot spots and the steroid caused him to rapidly gain a large amount of weight which exacerbated his hip problems greatly. This ended up reducing his quality of life much more than the hot spots had. Obviously we are talking about totally different types of dogs but as we learned "weight gain" as a potential side effect can mean much more than just a more rolly polly pup.
posted by tinamonster at 11:13 AM on May 27, 2010

Call the vet and see if they want your dog to come in sooner. My dog has really bad allergies where he gets those scabby specks under the fur and scratches all the time. They put him on steroids occasionally, during the seasons when his allergies are worst. But most of the time we just make sure to bathe him a lot and we've changed his diet to a sensitive skin dog food. It seems to help.
You can also call your vet and ask about Benadryl. Works for some dogs, not mine. When my dog took it, he just peed the bed despite never ever having had an inside accident before.
posted by ishotjr at 7:45 PM on May 27, 2010

Mrsshotglass, how's the pooch? Update, please!
posted by msali at 11:59 AM on May 31, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry about the lack of update, I'm just scatterbrained.

I ended up calling the regular vet the next day and the only time she had was that morning so I took the time off work to bring him in. The vet diagnosed Einstein with mere allergies and told me to stop feeding him anything other than his regular kibbles. And apparently those weird bruise looking patches are just normal doggie aging spots. We walked out with a special vet grade itch relieving shampoo and an rx for doggie prednisone. (1/2 tab 2x daily for three days, 1/2 daily for three days, 1/2 every other day for 6 days.)

So far so good. He's still scratching some, but he's no longer causing himself to bleed. There was some inflammation that has gone down noticeably. And I've been able to resist feeding him wet food and he hasn't starved himself yet. Our other dog still shows no signs of similar issues.

So Einey and Tesla are sitting pretty with only the regular amount of doggie itchess.

Thanks everyone for your help. I appreciate you talking me off the bridge of the stupidly expensive emergency vet.
posted by mrsshotglass at 11:31 AM on June 2, 2010

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