There are a lot of answers to this question. First there are more questions though.

·   How severe is the itching?
o        Occasional scratching or chewing on the same spot
o        Serious scratching or chewing in a localized area or all over
o        Bald patches are resulting from the scratching
·   Has there been a change in diet?
·   Has there been a change in the environment?
o        Did you move from one part of the country to another?
o        Did you fumigate the house?
o        Did you clean the carpets or upholstery with chemical cleaners?
o        Has there been a change of seasons or dramatic change in the weather?
o        Did you take your Westie for a walk in the woods or a field?
o        Have you started using scented candles, sprays or other deodorizers?
·   Do you bathe your Westie often?

Remember that we all itch once and a while. Pay attention to yourself and see how often you scratch your head, arms, or face. As indicated by the questions above itchiness can be caused by lots of things. Some of the most common are allergies (contact, inhalant, or food), chemical poisoning, and dry skin.

For mild itching there are topical sprays that either make the spot taste bad so the dog won't chew or ones that stop the itch temporarily. These are quite good for "hot spots "even if other treatments are being used for worse conditions.

Whenever you use chemicals in your home for cleaning, pest control, odor control, or any other reason you risk harm to all of the occupants. The smaller the occupant the higher the risk. Make sure that your home is thoroughly aired out before moving our pets and children back in.

Westies are not meant to be bathed regularly. This is a hard habit to break and you will have a nasty looking, possibly smelly dog until it has gone through a complete shedding and has had its normal coat grow back in. Regular bathing with shampoo can dry the skin causing them to itch. Many people have had luck with Selsen Blue® shampoo to keep the dog clean and relieve itchy skin. This is not to imply that if the dog is covered in mud or some nasty stuff you shouldn't wash it. Just don't shampoo it weekly.

A change in diet can bring on a food allergy. If the scratching started after a change in diet, change back.

If your dog has a serious allergy and is scratching itself raw serious steps must be taken to clear up the problem. Consult with your vet. Temporary use of steroids to control the itching is fine however long term exposure can cause fatal liver damage. The vet can perform a scratch test to determine what the dog is allergic to. Then allergy treatments can be started. They tend to be about 60% successful in dogs. They are expensive and take along time to work. Another option is the Carla Cure. The keeper of the FAQ (editor:  this refers to Shawn McKee, who created this FAQ page for us) has seen wonderful result using the just the herbal/homeopathic portion of the cure without the stew. Quite a few Westie-L-ers also use the stew as part of their dogs regular diet. Having seen the cure work I would recommend it before allergy testing and shots. Remember that all of this advise should be talked over with your vet. Other underlying medical problems could exist and your vet needs to eliminate those possibilities.


What is the"Carla Cure?"
Courtesy Carla MacInnis Rockwell

 Homeopathic Skin/Coat Recovery in the absence of a diagnosed thyroid condition.

For dogs (of any breed) that experience chronic sebhorrheic dermatitis, or acute elephantiasis (in the absence of a thyroid condition), a course of treatment may offer significant relief.

For a two month period, the dog is given one capsule of Wormwood Combination ( Kroger Herbs), 1 pellet of hepar sulf (a natural antibiotic to address lesions associated with dermatitis, flea-bite or otherwise), 1 Tablespoon of Flax seed oil (on food). Also, a Tablespoon of Wheat Germ (high in B-Complex vitamins) is appropriate. Wormwood is an internal parasite cleanser and as you know, fleas are parasites. A dog can easily ingest a flea and it can take up residence inside as well as outside of the dog. Wormwood kills parasites and residual eggs. The Wormwood should not be used for more than two months. It may then be used for one month once a year as a wormer.

(Editor's note from Shawn McKee: I have found all of these items at "Whole Foods Market" which is a natural foods grocery store in many states. I have not found them at "GNC" so I would recommend natural food stores and not stores that sell supplements. The dosages are for Westie sized dogs. For a larger dog I used a rate of 1 dose per 20lbs)

If your dog has hot spots associated with an acute skin condition, a salve comprised of 1 cup of Lard (not shortening) and 2 Tablespoons of Sulfur Powder (from pharmacy) may be introduced. Apply to affected areas 2-3 times daily. There will be evident drying effect, which is what is needed.

I was told by a Westie breeder of over 40 years that Westies, and many other small terrier breeds should eat food that contains no more than 19% protein; anything higher they cannot metabolize and a cycle of itch-scratch begins. A rice and lamb formula is often recommended. Look to to the diet first. If a dog presents with the early stages of what can develop into a chronic skin problem. Repeated uses of cortisone/prednisone only mask the underlying symptomology, and over time can cause renal failure.

To compliment the rice and lamb kibble, a homemade food that seems to address the skin problems in terriers consists of the following:

In 8 cups of water, simmer:

Simmer together until rice takes up most of the water. This food can be stored in containers and frozen. Keep container in use refrigerated.

To dispense: replace 1/2 cup of the dog's daily kibble with 1/2 cup of the stew. Do not add 1/2 cup to the dog's current diet; that's overfeeding.

A noticeable difference was seen in both my Cairn terriers, with one of them have an acute situation. He is fully haired now, albeit thin. According to the vet, it will take at least 2 full years of hair growth for him to be restored to his former handsome self!

A note about kelp pellets/tablets/powder. Please use this with caution, if any of you are doing so. Kelp is often used to jump start a sluggish thyroid. My Mr. Alex is on Eltroxin (a thyroid med.), after it was determined he has anxiety-induced hypothyroidism. He will be given 1/8 teaspoon of kelp powder to replace his morning pill. He will get a second 1/8teaspoon to replace his evening pill after he's been weaning off for a two week period. Kelp should not be given together with thyroid medication. That is definitely overkill.

A dog who has no medical reason to be given kelp, should not be taking it. This, from two veterinarians who examine my own dog regularly.

Treats and cookies that are free of dyes/preservatives are essential to maintain a good quality coat in a terrier with problem skin. Also important is not to over bathe, robbing the coat/skin of natural oils. Tea Tree Oil spray (from reputable health/pet food stores) can be sprayed on the dog each day during brushing. As well Cedar Spray (from pet store) will repel fleas while addressing issues of dermatitis.

For my dogs, I use PPP (Professional Pet Products) Tar-iffic Shampoo and Tar-iffic spray. The spray can be used daily, or weekly, as required.

Comments from Shawn McKee (who created this web page for the benefit of Westie-L members): I have used the Wormwood, hepar sulf, Flax seed oil combination on two dogs. One Westie and one Lab mix. The Westie went from a perpetual itching machine who was on an expensive diet and had large bald
spots on his haunches to a fully furred happy healthy dog.  The lab had lost a large amount of weight and also had large bald spots on her haunches where the skin had become gnarled and hard. We had attributed this to the fact that she had heartworm and in her weakened condition we were afraid to treat
for that. We didn't think she would survive to the end of the year. Before the two months on the cure were up hair was growing in on her haunches and she was gaining weight. Six months later she is a chunky 60 pounds and has been treated for heartworm. I suspect she has a good ten to 12 years ahead of her now.

This page has been visited times since January 14, 2000
This page was last up-dated March 11, 2002

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