Media – The Occult of the Itch


Diagnose first; treat second

I have a 7 month old puppy who itches and scratches herself constantly anywhere she can reach. I have taken her to my veterinarian twice and after checking her over, I was told that her skin and coat looked healthy and didn’t see a problem. A groomer used a special shampoo for dry skin – that hasn’t helped either. I’ve also been feeding her dog food that contains salmon hoping that might help – again it hasn’t. She hasn’t been around any animals. I hate to see her so miserable and don’t know what else to try.

Dr. Nichol:
I’m sorry that your puppy is so uncomfortable and, no, you are not imagining all that scratching. The two of you have endured way too much. It’s time for a diagnosis and targeted treatment.

There are several possible causes. Allergies are common. Airborne particles like pollens, house dust, and molds – the same kinds of triggers that affect many people – can lead to generalized itching in dogs. Food allergies may cause similar symptoms. And, despite no exposure to other dogs, your pupster could be suffering from an occult mange infection.

By calling microscopic mange mites occult, we’re not suggesting that they are magic but your puppy may be keeping them a secret; the telltale skin lesions just aren’t obvious. Beyond a visual exam of this kiddo’s skin she’s in need of some diagnostic sleuthing. Skin scrapings, impression smears, and possibly a trial treatment for mange may provide answers.

Allergies are a different challenge. Testing can be helpful. A diet trial with prescription food may reveal the truth. I advise against casting about with different commercial diets; these often provide good nutrition but they may contain traces of protein sources that would muddy the diagnostic waters.

Many general practicing veterinarians do a fine job of ferreting out obscure diagnoses (cq) and turning itchy pets around. If your girl needs the help of a skin specialist you can contact the office of Dr. Rebecca Mount, board certified in veterinary dermatology (505.881.7205). She’ll hit the mark.

For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.