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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec. 11, 2005
    Castle Rock, CO

    Question Itchy German Shepard.. what to do?

    So my Dad has a German Shepard - that is itchy constantly - mostly flanks and hide end.

    Been to the vet - had blood work done - checks out normal.

    Tried several different kinds of food - Blue seems to work best but still itches.

    Vet suggested Bendadryl which helps but seems like a bandaid and not a solution.

    He is also well groomed monthly to get rid of that thick undercoat they get.

    So we are all stumped...

    Any thoughts?
    Hickstead 1996-2011 Godspeed
    " Hickstead is simply the best and He lives forever in our hearts"
    Akasha 1992-2012 - I will always love you sweet girl.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr. 22, 2011
    the Armpit of the Nation


    Check the food-your boy may be allergic to the main ingred. I have a "delicate flower", skin-wise, and we feed BB Wilderness Salmon formula. It takes some time for a diet change to kick in-could be 1-3 mos. Benadryl is a cheap, relatively harmless helpmate until all the irritating stuff leaves his system.

    Also, you should add fish oil to his food. Just give him grain-free food, no beef or chicken, add fish oil, do the Benadryl, and give it some time.

    Also, give him a good bath (he may be reacting to outside irritants), and you might get an allergy profile done-not too picey anymore.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul. 26, 2001
    Toronto, Canada.


    Did you get a skin scraping done? Check for sarcoptes,mites, fleas etc?

    Yep, Id also try a minimal ingredient food (rule one out at a time, start with chicken as that is what more dogs are sensitive to - before grains even!). A lot of "itchy" dogs arent due to food allergies,but environmental. Often the "bandaid" is what works best, similar to people allergic to seasonal pollens etc.

    If its a food allergy, he should respond quickly to a low allergen food (there are prescription diet low and ultra low allergen foods, and off the shelf grain free/chicken free foods. Lots of options to try!)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb. 23, 1999
    Cypress, near Houston, Texas


    Having had GSD most of my life I can say that many, many of them have skin issues. Most are food allergies, but lots also are grass and tree allergies. No way to know for sure unless you do a full panel allergy test.

    But if you don't want to go to that expense, you can begin by assuming it's a food allergy.

    Eliminate all grains, beef and chicken. Those are the most common food allergens.

    Try a "healthy skin" formula of a good food. There are many. Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo Wilderness, Nature's Recipe, etc.

    Leave them on it for at least 3 months to evaluate. If itchy is still there, try a different brand/ingredients for another 3 months.

    If you see no change whatsoever, you are likely dealing with environmental allergies and that REALLY sucks.

    We had one GSD that was allergic to bermuda grass and oak trees - we live in HOUSTON, for heaven's sake. All the grass is bermuda and most of the trees are oak.

    We had to put him on regular courses of antibiotics and steroids.
    Visit Sonesta Farms website at or our FaceBook page at Also showing & breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar. 7, 2005


    Go see Dr. Linda Messinger! (if your dad's dog is in CO as well)

    She is an awesome veterinary dermatologist in Denver/Englewood and travels to the Springs as well.

    itchy GSD= ALLERGIES... Many I see have both inhalent/ environmental AND food...

    Don't waste your time go directly to the experts. Saves cash in the long run.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug. 9, 2004
    St Paul, MN


    From where you are describing, I'd look into fleas. Dogs with severe allergies can be triggered by one single flea into an itching mess. Get a good topical flea medication, work on the house and the yard. Also would suggest switching to something like Sentinel which has an insect growth regulator present and can help break the flea life cycle.
    University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2012
    Member of the Asthmatic Riders & "Someone Special To Me Serves In The Military" cliques

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep. 25, 2003


    One of my GSD had terribly itchy skin. He would scratch so badly at night that he would keep us up.

    I put him on Missing Link (found at Petsmart/Petco) and it went away completely.

    Recently my brother's GSD started itching as well. He also experienced the same level of success with Missing Link.
    "Crazy is just another point of view" Sonia Dada

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul. 13, 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by idlemoon View Post
    Don't waste your time go directly to the experts. Saves cash in the long run.Lisa
    This. From my experience with dog allergies, you can spend years messing around with endless outbreaks and steroids and antibiotics and hot spots. An appointment with a vet dermatologist is more expensive than the regular vet, but it's very helpful. You don't have to do the skin testing, which is very expensive. In our case, the allergies were brought under control (mostly, still has milder outbreaks) with a higher dose of hydroxyzine, supplement of fish oil capsules and Royal Canin's hypoallergenic food. The food clearly wasn't key, as she's since been switched off it for other reasons (titchy stomach, went to a bland diet) and hasn't gotten worse, allergy-wise. If there are no signs of fleas, and the regular vet is stumped, a specialist is probably the way to go.

  9. #9


    From the distribution of the pruritus you describe, it is most likely flea allergy. In order to rule out flea allergy, the dog should be on Capstar orally every day for 8 weeks and see what happens. If the dog does have a flea allergy, even one flea bite will cause intense pruritus, kind of like someone with a peanut allergy, it just takes a little bit. You might not even ever see fleas on the dog. Topical flea control like advantage or frontline may not be enough for these dogs. Also take a look at the flea burden in the environment and have an exterminator come out and take care of it. After 8 weeks of daily Capstar, try something like Comfortis or Advantage and see if you can get away with that level of flea control, or does it get worse? if it gets worse again, stick to the daily capstar.
    If you try the Capstar for 8 weeks and notice the dog is still itchy, then there could be a component of environmental allergens (pollen, dust mites, mold spores etc...) or there could be a component of food allergy. The most common food allergies in dogs are beef, chicken, wheat and dairy. Food allergies develop after a dog has been exposed to the same foods for a long period of time. A lot of people say, "but hey! My dog has been on this food forever, why a problem all of a sudden!" Well, thats how it happens, and again, the most common allergies are beef, chicken, wheat and dairy. You need to go to a prescription novel protein diet in order to rule out food allergy. Brands like Blue Buffalo, Dick Van Patton etc... that are available over the counter have components of beef and chicken in their limited ingredient diets. They may also use the same machines to produce their limited ingredient diets that also produce chicken and beef diets, so that won't work. It just takes a small quantity to ruin a food trial.
    You need to go to a product like a prescription Rabbit and Potato, or Kangaroo and Oat diet. Diets like Venison cross react with beef. The diets such as Purina HA, and z/d diets are hydrolyzed diets are hydrolyzed chicken, so they try to break down the proteins into small enough components so most dogs wont react to them. However, it is still chicken and 10% of dogs with a food allergy will react to the hydrolyzed diets.
    So you have ruled out flea allergy and food allergy, the last thing to do is treat environmental allergens the dog may be reacting to. There are 5 ways to do this 1) Allergy testing (skin and blood) with allergy injections- improvement in about 70% of dogs, takes time though- about 1-2 years to work2) Atopica (cyclosporine) an immunosuppressant works in about 80% of dogs, side effects: vomiting, GI, gingival enlargement 3) Steroids (temaril-P has steroids and anti-histamines, works well, side effects: Cushing's like, polyuria, polydipsia, polyphagia, panting) 4) over the counter anti-histamines (don't work too well, but may be helpful for some) or 5) Fatty acid supplements (also don't work great, but just when you need a little more itch control they work well by decreasing moisture loss through the skin).

    So that is the way you treat a dog that is itchy, once you've ruled out demodex, scabies, pyoderma, yeast (although pyoderma and yeast are most likely secondary to other causes- like allergies) etc... Hope that helps!

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