dog scratch fever

Poor Baby Blue. Since last Friday, she has been an itchy, enflamed, bumpy mess. The backs of her ears? Pink and flaky. Her belly? Covered in a red rash. Her back? Scattered with raised bumps. Even her paws are affected. She licks them so much that they get tender and she limps when she walks around on the mulch in our yard.

Most likely, the culprit is allergies, with maybe a good sprinkle of stress thrown in.

So yesterday we started her on a special low-ingredient allergy food (potato and duck!), got her some herbal allergy meds for dogs, some anti-itch shampoo, and now we’re playing the waiting game. If things don’t start looking up soon, she’s going to the very scary place called the vet’s office, before she scratches herself to shreds.

The weirdest part? Her skin was clear and pretty itch-free at the shelter where the food is cheap and the air is full of dander.

She’s not much better yet, but the wonderful staff at Big Bad Woof in town told us that it could take a week or more to start seeing improvements. I’m thinking about knitting her some mittens for the meantime.

40 responses

    • thanks. i would love to allergy test her, but since she is a foster through the shelter and they are kind of bare bones, i doubt they will pay for it. i am going to do some experimenting on my own before we cross that bridge…

  1. I agree about getting her tested for allergies. We have a pit mix whose allergies are so severe he has to be on prednisone long term to alleviate his itching. His allergies didn’t develop until later in life, either. If the food doesn’t work (that was the first thing we tried) it could be a number of things. Our just so happens to be allergic to human dander! BTW…I LOVE your blog and check in every day to read about what’s going on at the Fosterfamily house! 🙂 Thanks for being able to take care of so many dogs and help in finding them a good forever home!

  2. Poor thing. It might really be the first time she hasn’t been on concrete and exposed to nature. We hope she gets some relief soon.


  3. I guess this is another ‘catch’ for pitbulls, that they are prone to allergies. I was imagining that episode of Friends when they were walking around in the oven mitts when you mentioned you might sew her mittens. It sounds like she has a good crew behind her trying to solve the problem–hope it’s fixed soon!

  4. Awww poor little girl! What are you feeding her? When we got my Titan, he had itchies. They were feeding him Science Diet. We switched to Taste of the Wild and cut out a lot of the wheat, germy kind of foods. He’s much better now. Every now and again, he’ll flare up…too many milk bones. 🙂 I use a benadryl and a little fish oil! Does wonders too.

    I’ve hear “blues” are more prone to skin allergies than other pits. Not sure how true that is though….

    Hope she gets better soon! Good luck and keep us posted.

    • Hi Brenda, I have heard that about the blues too. Also the whites. We are feeding her a local boutique brand of ingredient-limited food that is especially made for allergic dogs. It is a potato and duck formula. But, we just switched on Monday, so I expect it will take a little while before we see a difference. Do you remember how quickly Titan started to improve?

      The weird thing is though, before last Wednesday she was at the shelter and eating whatever cheap food they had donated– definitely something with wheat, corn, and all of the other ickies!

      • When we switched, we started with half & half for about a week, and slowly weaned back the old food. I’d say it took him a few weeks to adjust and quit itching. He still does itch every now and again but thats cause I’ll slip him something I shoudn’t have. Bad mommy 🙂

        My vet even suggested the Science Diet. That stuff is crap! Terrible stuff. Now, Titan gets the TOTW plus he gets baked chicken breast or some kind of meat in it. I’m talking ppl meat minus all the seasonings and stuff. He started filling out and his coat is awesome!

        Pls keep us posted!

  5. Poor Blue. Not yet sure what is causing Dan’s allergic reactions. His new vet will be testing him in the next few days when we return for whatever vaccinations his red blood cell count tell us he can tolerate. Cherry has them so bad that Paul has to make his food every month and they had to have some of their trees and bushes removed from their yard. Poor itchy pitties.

  6. Ugh, poor girl! Nandy started with licking her paws…we thought it was stress but now it’s progressed to the bumps on her face. And of course she scratches those until they bleed. It’s definitely time to look into something to make her feel better.

  7. Poor Baby! We switched Mya to a venison dog food to help out with her allergies, and she is doing really well on it. I know that a lot of pits have these types of issues but blues are worse like Brenda said.

    Good luck!

  8. my friend’s dog Mr. Peepers is allergic to just about everything food-related. he’s on daily meds and special food and never allowed any treats. but still, his skin often looks like a worse version of Blue’s in these pics. 😦

    good luck, let us know what you find out.

  9. Poor Blue! If she did well on a lower quality/blended whatever-was-donated-to-them food at the shelter, it could be an environmental allergy rather than food. Try changing up the laundry detergent you use, household cleaners, etc to see if that helps. Frequent baths in a oatmeal-based natural shampoo and/or a spray specifically for hotspots/allergies should help relieve her symptoms.

  10. Poor Blue. We are going through the same thing with Pauley. He did great for awhile after we changed his food, but is now back to a red mess. We have cut out his vitamins to see if that is what he is having a reaction to. We have already cut out the treats & have started on an herbal remedy for dogs with allergies. Crossing our fingers that she clears up soon.

  11. Allergies…sounds like my Lily before she was on the right allergy mess. Benadryl may help
    Benny & Lily

  12. She probably has a combination of environmental allergies and food allergies – Goody was like this when we first got him – he was “fine” – I think it was because he was INSIDE all the time and then when we got him we spent a great deal of time outdoors, which triggered his environmental allergies; grass, pollen, etc. A similar thing could be happening here. Benadryl doesn’t work for Goody, in fact I think some of the ingredients in Benadryl cause his allergies to be worse – color additives. We use Azmira products, and we see a holistic vet who treats with acupuncture and herbs, both of which work wonders. We feed Goody Natural Balance Bison & Sweet Potato, Stella & Chewy’s Beef Patties, I give him Yucca Intensive from Azmira – it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, he doesn’t get any treats or foods that have any type of additives, lots of treats add “smoke flavoring”, (so ridiculous!) …I could go on and on 🙂 about what we do for Goody and his allergies…We did have him tested when we first got him which was helpful, but it was very expensive and what he’s allergic to changes over time, so how helpful is the test as time goes on? It’s a tough call – all of it is, only you know what is or isn’t working. Give her a hug from me! ❤

    • Thanks C. I will keep these things in mind. So far we’re starting simple, with a simpler food and an herbal allergy relief supplement. If that doesn’t work, we’ll start experimenting with other things…

    • A newly-adopted (white) pibble we met at SPCA doggy play time had similar problems to Blue and the answer turned out to be what Catherine is describing. He was mainly allergic to grass which he didn’t experience much as a guest at the SPCA shelter.

      An easy test for outdoor as opposed to food allergens would be to restrict Blue’s playtime outdoors for a few days (plan lots of fun things indoors to keep her occupied). If you see a change, the outdoor allergens might be the biggest cause of her itching.

      I’m so sorry for all of you. It’s hard to see someone suffer and allergies are so tricky.

      Perhaps you’d consider soliciting donations for allergy testing on your website? People seem to be willing to help out and most of us know how much foster families have to give without getting reimbursement. The cost of allergy testing might be a lot for you to come up with. But for a hundred people each giving a few bucks, it’s not too big a deal.

  13. Poor baby! The advice and experiences from everyone else are the same I would contribute…so I will just leave it at that and hope for the best! Good luck ol’ Blue!

  14. I’m thinking it may be an outside allergy, whether part of the home (detergent was a good idea) or something outside. I know Luna used to blow up after being in the tall grass running around during specific times of the year. Did she happen to be out in the “brush” ?

    Is the Big Bad Woof the big pet store in DC? There is one I want to make a specific trip into DC to get some things for the 4-leggers. Gotta be a nice day though as I want to take a walk around town a bit too with the pups.
    If she was in the water/grass/brush before this happened let me know and I will talk about what we did.

    • hey anna, big bad woof is a small boutique store in takoma dc. they sell mostly high-end foods, cool enrichment activities, vitamins and herbals, and the regular accessories — shampoo, leashes, beds, etc.

      she was not out in the “brush” but we (read: she) did go swimming in the creek once. i wonder if it could be that? and we don’t have grass in our back yard, just mulch. could it all be just from neighborhood walks? we also have a LOT of giant oak trees . . .

      • Hmmm sounds like another little shop to check out. I love going to such stores.
        Creek may have been carrying something she was allergic to for sure. I do think it’s more an environment allergy than food, but I am no expert. Did she romp or roll anywhere after the creek? Our dogs like to go a little crazy after they have taken a dip. Did you notice an excess of gnats?

        Basically Luna grew out of them. Red white, and apparently blue dogs are more prone to allergies. If I knew she was going to be in the grass and it was the season I would go ahead and give her a benadryl or Clemastine to help offset anything at least before or after the exposure. I also ordered a medicated shampoo for her, to help stop any bacterial growth on her skin and that also seemed to help. It is a 2% Chlorhexidine shampoo, and honestly it’s just a really good shampoo for all dogs. It’s nice and thick and I have had the same bottle for her since she was probably 1 or younger so it lasts too. I do need to order more.
        Tea tree oil on the areas is said to help with hair growth and keep them from licking. I also do fish oil and a good food and overall Luna is far less itchy. Oh, what about nettle plants? Those often grow near creeks and are horrible for humans and dogs stinging wise.

        Allergies can be maddening, I hope you all figure out something soon.

  15. Poor Blue. I can’t help with any ideas but I’m sending her my Most Powerful brindle wishes that her itchies go away soon!

    Wiggles & Wags,

  16. hi, i see lots of people have already given you ideas. here’s my 2 cents worth –

    Georgia also had contact and atopic dermatitis and allergies when we first got her. in fact, those pink red patches and scabs sound very familiar. allergy tests are very time and cost-consuming and it sounds like it may not be possible in your case. we didn;t end up doing them either, but G’s skin has improved and her allergies calmed down to the point where they hardly pop up anymore. here’s what we did [very cheaply!] –

    daily hose downs after walks. this works wonders – you don;t need shampoo, just water, i always hose down G’s belly, legs and head because those are her prone-to areas.
    a malaseb [or similar anti-bacterial] wash, once a week. you can also use this topically every day if the affected are is localised.
    if going for natural – oatmeal or cider vinegar rinses are very soothing.
    diet – her skin problems more or less disappeared when we switched her to a 100% homecooked diet. [too long to get into here, but you’ll find posts on my blog under the label home cooking recipes]. it took less than a month to see the change.
    lastly, a not-so natural help for when Blue is scratching particularly badly – one blue pill [antihistemine which you can get from the vet]. we use this sparingly!

    hope that was helpful. i know how stressful it must be for the dog [not to mention the rest of the family] 🙂 good luck!

  17. That sounds familiar… oh right! Skye, a Blue look-alike, just started that last week. While she is on Taste of the Wild to minimize food allergens, her real problem is grass. She was a city pittie, then a shelter pittie, and the country does not always agree with her. I add fish oil to her food, and when it does flare up (like now) I make sure to wipe her down with a scentless, aloe infused baby wipe. Much cheaper than dog wipes, and it removes pollen and allergens before her skin is irritated. It isn’t 100%, but it’s better than keeping her on meds all the time, and she doesn’t spend 75% of her day chewing on herself. A hose down works as well, but isn’t always appreciated on her end. Perhaps for Blue it is dust, pollen, or even the mulch, but it sounds to me like a contact allergy. Poor little blue pit bulls!

  18. Poor Blue. Poor you having to watch her suffer and figure out how to help. Tommy hasn’t had any problems with allergies so I have no advice. Sounds like great suggestions here. I really hope something works. It must be so hard to see her like that! She’s very lucky she landed in your world.

  19. I hope you find a cure for Blue’s problems soon. I know how awful it is as Frankie is allergic to an invasive plant called Wandering Jew which is prolific at the park and river where we go almost daily. I just try and keep him away from it as much as possible and it’s worse in the summer time when it’s flowering. But that’s no help to you. Good luck to you all:)

  20. Poor Blue, that is really rough! Maybe it is something she picked up at the shelter, just hasn’t kicked in until now? I’m not sure but that really sucks. I am so grateful I don’t suffer from allergies unlike so many friends I know. It doesn’t look like a whole lot of fun.

    Here’s hoping the food does the trick!

  21. Poor Baby! Allergies are our specialty over at Kol’s Notes, so if there is anything we can do to help please don’t hesitate to e-mail us. Fish oil capsules can help control the inflammatory response to allergies and I find colloidial silver spray really helps those open scratch areas heal fast. Is there any itching at the base of her tail? Based on the areas itching, I really would suspect an environmental allergy as opposed to a food allergies (though switching to a grain-free food helps ALL allergies, as it help reduce overall body inflammation). With Felix, we wipe him down with a damp towel dipped in water/apple cider vinegar mix after every trip outside to make sure the pollen grass etc. doesn’t stay on him.

    ALSO – sometimes when switching from a really crappy food to a good food all at once, this kind of reaction can be a result of the body “detoxing” itself. The body tries to slough off all the dead skin and crap, the dog itches and *that* is what the problem is. Not a true allergy, but a detox period.


  22. Pingback: dog scratch fever « – Red Itchy Bumps On Skin

  23. I have a blue Pitt that’s 5mon old. She too has red bumps on her tummy as well as legs, not on head or back(yet) I need some insight on what it could be.. Allergies?

  24. Pingback: New Medication for Itch May be just the Prescription: Apoquel | Beverly Hills Small Animal Hospital

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