Okaw Veterinary Clinic LLC

140 West Sale Street
Tuscola, IL 61953



Crazy Itchy


When your Dog's Itchy Skin is Driving you Crazy
Fighting over Food
West Nile Virus in Pets


When your Dog's Itchy Skin is Driving you Crazy

Summertime can often trigger skin rashes and ear infections in dogs. You may be cleaning your dog's ears, bathing them, or giving them antihistamines and they are still scratching away. There may be relief for a day or two, but it all comes back. The foot licking, scratching and gnawing starts to drive you crazy as well as your dog. You Goggle all the remedies and you still cannot sleep at night - nor can your dog. What is going on here???

While I cannot say specifically what is bothering your dog, there are some common factors that happen during the summer that increase allergy, infection or flea problems significantly.  When the days become more humid, the number of mosquitoes, fleas, and other biting insects marked increase in a 24 hour period. These insects bite your dog triggering an allergic reaction. A dog who could tolerate a few bites may be overloaded and develop a rash. For some dogs they will have a rash on the belly; for others the ears will flare up. Baths in a soothing shampoo can help, but if your dog is still scratching or chewing intensely have them examined at a veterinarian. The bacteria, yeast and  mange  that is normally present will take advantage of the inflamed skin and make things worse. Delaying care will not only make your pet miserable, but create a bigger problem that will take more medication, time, and money to treat. 

Other factors that increase skin and ear inflammation is the increase in inhalant allergens from growing plants. Often an animal has a list of things they are allergic to. They can tolerate a number of them at a low levels with minimal skin or ear problems. After a rain, the pollen and mold counts increases, triggering intense allergic reactions. This can increase the inflammation, resulting in a rash that is intensely irritating. Controlling the allergens , like a food or flea allergen, can help when the environment rears its ugly head. Please have your veterinarian outline a plan for the summer for your pet. 

If you have taken your dog to the veterinarian, and everything is better, it is extremely important to have a plan to prevent continued flare ups through the summer. Take your dog back in for that recheck even if the skin looks good and partner with your veterinarian to develop a management plan. This will prevent chronic flare ups which is best for your pet's health and your sanity. I cannot stress the importance enough of a regular bathing schedule in the proper medicated shampoo as a preventative. Which shampoo is best, and how often is what your veterinarian will prescribe as part of this plan. If your pet is difficult to bathe, many groomers will use the shampoo you bring that the veterinarian has prescribed. You can also make bath time more fun through positive training. I have a video on my YouTube channel that demonstrates how to have your dog like to get into the tub.  

Irritated skin and ears can also cause dogs to be more agitated, or even aggressive. That chronic pain and irritation increases irritability and even anxiety. Inflammation increases stress hormone release and decreases serotonin, an important brain chemical. This leads to body guarding - avoiding or reacting against touch. If your dog seems a little more "snarky" or "grumbling" (the terms I hear clients use) it is increasing due to the inflammation from the skin. When the skin improves, the behavior improves.

Fighting over Food

dogs fightingI am often surprised to find clients who leave a food bowl out for multiple dogs to share. From my point of view as a veterinarian, it makes sense to me to keep track of which dog is eating what, how much and how often. One of the first questions we veterinarians ask an owner of a sick pet is "How is your dog's appetite?". If dogs are sharing a bowl, then how can one know? When I listen to my clients, I realize offering a communal bowl is a way to be sure the pets will not go hungry and possibly for convenience - they only have to fill the bowl once a day for all.

Aside from the problem of controlling food to prevent obesity, or a special diet for the health needs of one dog over another, a communal bowl presents a huge problem - food aggression between the dogs. Most of us think of aggression as biting and overt fighting. This is high level aggression. There is a lot of low level aggression going on before the big fight happens and often owners miss it. When the big fight happens  someone ends up in a cone. There is bewilderment about how or why this is happening.

Dogs compete for food even when there is plenty around. This is natural dog behavior. They may also compete for other resources, like toys or beds, but food is guaranteed to be the most problematic. The higher valued the food item - the worse the aggression. What typically happens around a communal bowl is that dog #1 goes in to eat, and keeps body blocking dog #2 away from the bowl. When dog #2 puts their head in the bowl, dog #1 will stare, growl and snarl. No bite has happened yet. When dog #1 has it's head down, you miss seeing the signs of aggression. If  dog #2  stands it's ground, dog #1 will escalate.  If dog #2 leaves, it will still go back to the bowl often with another confrontation. Tensions escalate to the point of a fight.  Often these fights are severe because it is over an item for survival - food.   

If you have more than one dog, or any dog visiting at all, please feed each dog in its own area away from each other supervised or completely closed off. After 20 minutes remove the food bowls. Do not leave them out even if they are empty - they represent the food and can be a source of fighting. Avoid any feeding of dogs next to each other. These are all the scenarios that have ended up with deep bites, wounds and emergency trips to the veterinarian. It is so easy to control and avoid. Humans are the only species who want to eat together.  Keep is separate and keep it safe. 

West Nile Virus in Pets

dog and catWest Nile Virus is here again in Illinois. People, birds, horses and other animals can get sick with West Nile Virus. Here is some information about West Nile and how to keep your pet safe.

Can my dog or cat get sick with West Nile Virus? Yes, dogs and cats can get West Nile. However, it is very rare for dogs or cats to become sick with West Nile. Older, younger and pets with poor immune systems are more likely to become sick. Horses are more susceptible to the virus than dogs and cats.

How do pets get West Nile? West Nile Virus is spread by mosquitoes. A mosquito bites an infected bird and drinks that bird's blood. The mosquito can now carry the virus and spread it to other animals and people when the mosquito bites.

What are the symptoms of West Nile? Symptoms of West Nile include trouble walking, muscle weakness, shaking, circling and seizures. Call us if your pet has any of these symptoms.

Can my pet be treated? Yes, your pet's body must fight off the infection. We focus on treating the symptoms the pet is showing.

Can I get West Nile from my pet? No. There is no evidence that dogs or cats can give West Nile to humans. There is no evidence that you can give West Nile to your pets either.

How can I protect my pet from West Nile?

  • Keep your yard free of standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in pools of water.
  • Remove any dead wildlife from your yard as soon as you find it. Wear gloves when handling the dead animal and wash the gloves and your hands afterwards.
  • Let your pet outside for short amounts of time.
  • Make a spray to help repel mosquitoes. Mix 1 tablespoon of Avon Skin So Soft in 1 pint of water in a spritzer bottle. Spray on your pet before he or she goes outside.

Is there a vaccine? No. There is no vaccine for dogs and cats. There is a vaccine for horses.

What if I find a dead bird in my yard? Wear gloves to pick up the dead bird. Dispose of the bird. Wash your hands and gloves after touching the bird. If you would like to see if the bird has died from West Nile, you can take the bird to the Douglas County Health Department. The bird must have died recently and appear to have died from natural causes (not in the road or killed by an animal). You can contact the Health Dept for any questions about bringing in a bird. Their phone number is 253-4137.

For more information about West Nile in Pets and in Horses, check out this article.

Okaw Veterinary Clinic
140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953
(217) 253-3221


Mon & Fri 8 am - 6 pm
Tues & Wed 8 am - 5 pm
Sat 8 am - noon
Closed Thurs & Sun

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