Itching in Cocker Spaniels

Help me—I itch!
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Itching in your cocker spaniel means ear-scratching, foot-biting and muzzle-rubbing that annoy both you and your dog. Many irritants may cause her itching, but you can ease her discomfort and keep her happy.

Food Allergies

When your cocker is allergic to food, her ears and paws itch. Her ears are irritated and inflamed, often with recurring infections. Foul-smelling ears require treatment, usually by your vet, to eliminate the infection, but it will return if she has severe allergies. Many cockers are allergic to beef, corn or milk. Ask your vet or pet nutritionist about limited-ingredient foods or elimination diets that identify the allergy culprit. And be sure you avoid treats that contain problem ingredients.

Inhaled Allergies

If your cocker, like many other spaniels, is allergic to inhaled irritants, she itches, sneezes, wheezes, coughs and shows symptoms of hay fever. Common inhaled irritants include pollen, mold, grass seeds, mites and chemicals. She may even be allergic to your perfume. If she reacts after a walk or other outside activity, wipe her face with a damp cloth, paying special attention to her ears and skin folds, and clean her paws. This keeps her from transferring outside irritants to her body with her paws and face. If you cannot avoid the irritants, your vet may recommend specific antihistamines to ease her itching.

Contact Allergies

When your cocker’s belly itches or looks reddish, or she scratches under her armpits or chin, she may have contact allergies. Her legs, tummy and face come in physical contact with irritants that cause itching. Common allergenic materials include wool, carpet fibers, cleaning products and lawn chemicals. Restrict her activity on lawns that have been recently fertilized or otherwise treated. Use a cotton cover for her bed and wash it in hot water with hypoallergenic detergents free of dye or fragrances so that she has a soothing sleep time. When you can’t identify or remove the irritant, relief is still possible. Your vet can recommend antihistamines or other medications and may suggest antipruritic (itch-relieving) shampoos to remove the contaminants and soothe your dog's skin.

Skin Problems

If your cocker is infected with fleas or mites, she itches. She scratches even after the pest is gone. Her scratching and biting breaks the skin and causes infected hot spots, wounds and sores. Bacterial or yeast infections may get into her damaged skin or body and cause frantic itching. Treatment usually includes medication to fight the internal infection and medicated baths to treat the external irritation. If your cocker has recurring itch bouts, she may be sensitive to one or more environmental factors. Talk to your vet about special vitamins, essential fatty acids and other nutritional supplements to boost her immune system. Fish oil, vitamin E and other supplements promote skin health. A combination of essential fatty acids and antihistamines is often effective and may help your buddy live out her years in itch-free comfort.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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