Itching to the extent of pulling out hair is a common problem for many poodles. It is important to follow a process of elimination when dealing with itching, as it can be caused by everything from environmental allergies to skin disorders like fleas or mites to excessive grooming to nutritional concerns.
Begin With a Veterinarian Visit
Anytime your poodle is exhibiting abnormal physical symptoms or behavior, it is best to speak to your veterinarian before proceeding with food or grooming changes. Though less common, skin disorders such as fleas or mange require medications or specialty shampoos.
More frequently, poodles are prone to environmental allergies (also known as atopic dermatitis), and often, an allergy test is required. Once your veterinarian has determined the cause of your poodle's itching, a treatment plan can be developed. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, allergy treatment options may include avoidance of the allergen, use of antihistamines and immunotherapy treatment involving the injection of small doses of the offending allergen.
If your veterinarian finds that an environmental allergen is the culprit, follow the treatment plan closely.
Grooming Can Help
Particularly if your poodle has an environmental allergy, quality, regular grooming is essential. According to the American Kennel Club, a poodle's coat should be "curly: of naturally harsh texture, dense throughout." Additionally, since the breed was developed for hunting near water, many poodles have a slight "oil" to the coat. Because of this, allergens tend to cling to the coat and need to be removed regularly.
To avoid drying out the coat, do not bathe him more than once every two weeks. Stick to scent- and dye-free shampoos. Brush daily. During particularly high-allergen seasons, unscented baby wipes can be used to wipe down your poodle's paws, legs and face.
Nutrition Can Help Environmental Allergies
If your poodle suffers from environmental allergens, his endocrine system is under constant stress. For this reason, it is best to stick to a simple diet with less than five ingredients. California Natural, Natural Balance and Blue Buffalo are all brands that include canned food and kibble recipes with minimal ingredients. Working with your vet or a nutrition consultant, you may even find that a home-cooked meal is ideal in your situation.
Nutrition for Skin Problems
If environmental allergies are not the culprit, it your poodle could be sensitive to something in his diet. Many of today's pet foods contain ingredients that are difficult for most dogs to digest. The top five food allergens are corn, wheat, soy, chicken byproducts and barley. If your current food contains these or related ingredients, consider switching.
Consider switching to fresh or dehydrated diets. Good options include The Honest Kitchen, SoJos and Grandma Lucy's.
Finally, consider adding a quality fish oil and probiotic to your poodle's diet to help balance the immune system.
Work With a Professional
The most important thing is to know you are not alone. Work with a veterinarian and canine nutrition consultant. These professionals can create a plan specifically to meet your poodle's individual needs.
Shelly Volsche has worked as a professional dog behavior consultant, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and a diploma in canine nutrition. She has written for "The Chronicle of the Dog" and Lucky Dog Magazine and is currently pursuing her PhD in anthropology with a focus on pet parents.