Treating skin allergies in Scottish and West Highland Terriers

It’s that time of year and Bridget is starting to get a bit itchy again so this helpful note on allergies from a new reader was perfectly timed: Our 7 year old Scottie Maggie also has seasonal skin problems. The itch is close to unbearable for her. This is what I’ve learned:

1. We’ve tried many different treatments but have settled on frequent bathing as the most effective. We use an anti-seborrheic and dry skin shampoo called Allergroom (it’s also hypoallergenic) followed by an oatmeal cream rinse and conditioner called Epi-Soothe. Our vet said they can be used as often as necessary. We bathe her two or three times a week when the itch is really bad and as it improves we taper off to weekly. I may try using a medicated shampoo which you referenced to see if it cuts down on the frequent baths which she hates (why, I don’t know because she’ll plunge into the frigid waters of Lake Ontario to chase ducks and seagulls).

2. We also give her generic anti-histamine tablets (for humans) to relieve the itch, again just when it’s really bad. The vet endorsed the use of ‘human’ pills and recommended the dosage and frequency. Yes, price matters!

3. Finally, we try to distract her from the itching/scratching continuum by making her environment as stimulating as possible. This includes going for walks, spending time in the yard (in and out of the house about 300 times a day), access to windows when indoors so she can keep a close watch on the squirrel population and bringing her along in the car when we’re doing short errands.

All in all I’m satisfied with this approach. It’s effective and avoids us having to shipping kangaroo meat from Australia (!).

I had never heard of a kangaroo meat diet for allergies until this note arrived, but, yes, it is recommended by some. Scottie News will try and look into it further.

31 thoughts on “Treating skin allergies in Scottish and West Highland Terriers

  1. I just thought I would share my experience too. I had a Scotty that would get horrible "hot spots" from warm weather allergies. We did a couple of things my homeopathic vet suggested and never saw another one again. We switched his food to organic dry food (not made from a primarily corn source, which is a big food allergy for dogs) and topped it with a little rotisserie chicken. The chicken wasn't to spoil him, although I had no objections to that. However, we were advised to incorporate flaxseed oil to his diet, and it was the only way we could get him to eat it. Also, we gave him a bath every one to two weeks with a medicated shampoo. We had to buy it from our vet, but it was well worth $15. I personally believe the flaxseed oil was the biggest contributor. It's only $15 – $20 a bottle and will last at least a month. You only need 1 – 2 tbsp per day.

  2. I would imagine that the kangaroo meat wasn't so much because it was from Australia, or even that it was kangaroo, I would have imagined it was to do with the lack of preservatives or other chemicals. I have heard many many people comment of removing all chemicals from their dogs diet and how it improves all sorts of 'itchy' problems.

  3. Dandruff Shampoo works great like Head and Shoulders or any generic brand we use Equate, Selsun Blue works great also, just doesn't smell as good.

  4. Bron is having real problem with itchy skin – no fleas detected by the vet. She has patches of bare skin where she has nibbled, although these arenot red or inflammed in any way. I’ve bathed her with T-Gel shampoo (human for itchy inflammed scalps) which does help a little. Also had tablets from pet shop who condemned the dry food I was giving (Bakers), so I have now put her back on Eukaneba which is what she had until aged 6months (she’s10 months). We’re now waiting to see if the diet change works.

  5. AnnB of the Scottie News here: I edited this comment to include the physical links to the Amazon products recommended by Laurie. Otherwise it’s exactly how she wrote it.

    Douxo products were a godsend for our Scottie Duncan, who came into rescue with terrible, untreated skin issues that had progressed to blackened elephant skin on his legs. He was miserable–always biting at himself, open sores: the worst case of untreated allergies his veterinary allergist said she had ever seen.

    She began Duncan on allergen shots after a Rast (skin prick) test: don’t let anyone talk you into the blood test, which does not work for most (any?) dogs. The injections definitely did help Duncan; eventually he had one shot a month.

    The Douxo products in conjunction with the shots, though, pushed his healing to a new level. We used the pads (available at Douxo Chlorhexidine 3% PS Pads) for small areas and ears, and also the DOUXO Seborrhea Spot-on (available in a large and pricey box at Amazon, but in a smaller, more affordable box of 5 at, in combination with various medicated shampoos.

    I did not think the other Douxo products (shampoo, spray, etc.) worked well for Duncan. These two products we used help the skin rebuild its protective layer, which makes the skin less susceptible to bacteria, yeast, and fungus. Duncan also eventually got cold laser treatments once his allergies were under control, to help heal his terribly damaged skin. It eventually became totally smooth (no more huge wrinkles), white, and in most places most of his hair grew back, too.

    The best thing: he no longer scratched and bit at himself, and we didn’t have to use either prednisone or Atopica/cyclosporine, both of which carry significant health risks (prednisone can lead to Cushing’s, which is not unusual in Scotties anyway; Atopica/cyclosporine is an immune suppressant, which is how it works to stop allergies, but this also can leave your Scottie more susceptible to many cancers).

    I hope this helps someone! I’ve had four different Scots with allergies. We do use a holistic vet for light allergy problems–currently one of our Scots has mild seasonal allergies, and she gets a glycerite elixir of Passion Flower, Linden, and Nettles. Dried Nettle Leaf (NOT root, which is for a whole different condition!) in powder form (the “cut and sifted” is not fine enough–get the powder) really helps for itchies (works better in my estimation than antihistamines and with no bad side effects). Nettles are also generally very nutritional and our Scots happily eat the powder sprinkled on/mixed into their food. Buy organic in bulk for best product at the best price: you can usually find Frontier Nettle Leaf Powder Organic on; you can also get it on Frontier Herb’s own website. An eighth to a quarter teaspoon twice a day should help with itchies. I’ve used it for years (have had 8 Scotties in my life) with no ill effects.

    Hope this info helps someone–Scotties are the best!

  6. I have a Scottie with Crohns Disease and due to the meds she has to take (Tylan powder-this suppresses her immune system), she has severe skin allergies. She is getting big oozing blisters on her skin. We are treating with a powdered antibiotic and Neosporin but she still continues to itch. Started her on a steroid tablet for inflammation but don’t want to keep her on the steroids for long. Any suggestions on any natural treatment we can do for her?

    1. my dog also gets it I googled dog skin infections, there was a slide show, very hard 2 watch. but it was ingrown hair that cause these pimples and you have too squeeze it out… and then they pull it out with a tweeser sjuim. maybe its that?

  7. Thank you all for your comments. My Scotty, Sophie, literally pulls her hair out from the middle of her back to her tail from about July through October, and I’ve been at a loss to help her. I use flea medication and see little to no fleas. I did change her food to an organic one which didn’t seem to help. I will try all of your suggestions to help her. She is such a beautiful little girl when she has all of her hair and I feel so badly when she scratches constantly. Thank you all.

  8. Scottland has had horrible seasonal skin allergies for the past 4 years. He’s 11 and each year it gets worse. Shampoos, steroids, anti hystamines and, when really bad, atibiotics for the wounds caused by scratching, sweaters and booties and cones to prevent damage to the skin; my poor guy is just not himself July-October. The vets we’ve seen aren’t offering anything that helps. I want him to STOP being miserable all together!!! This is my baby boy and when he’s like this it breaks my heart. I will try the venison, flaxseed oil, Anti-seborrheic shampoo, Duoxo products and Nettle leaf powder as none of these options were suggested to me before. It is so frustrating when you love someone so much and you cannot take away their discomfort no matter how much you try. Thank you for all the suggestions. I wish all of our beloved scotties, some relief.

  9. I have a 6 month old Scottie male who itches so much he rips is hair out and eats it–in profile he looks like Wile E. Coyote. The vets are working on it, but he needs non-steroidal helpn ow…any ideas?

  10. I have a 14 yr old neutered Westie. Started out on Solid Gold up until 2 then allergies kept aggravating him so I switched him to Burns.He has been on burns well now for 11 years or so. He has done good up until now, 14 and starting to itch and chew feet again. Because we travel so much to my daughters houses its to hard to feed all raw-home made diet. Can any one who has had Westies for many many years who have had allergy’s recommend a GREAT organic natural diet for my boy? He has slowed down so much, his eyes are not as clear and his hearing is awful, but we love him so much and giving him antihistamines help but I want to try another food. Burns has been great on the kidneys but with the itching and chewing and lack of energy I feel I owe him another food.
    Thank you.

  11. I have a 14 yr old neutered Westie. Started out on Solid Gold up until 2 then allergies kept aggravating him so I switched him to Burns.He has been on burns well now for 11 years or so. He has done good up until now, 14 and starting to itch and chew feet again. Because we travel so much to my daughters houses its to hard to feed all raw-home made diet. Can any one who has had Westies for many many years who have had allergy’s recommend a GREAT organic natural diet for my boy? He has slowed down so much, his eyes are not as clear and his hearing is awful, but we love him so much and giving him antihistamines help but I want to try another food. Burns has been great on the kidneys but with the itching and chewing and lack of energy I feel I owe him another food.
    Thank you. Deb

  12. My husband and I got Dinovite for Jack, our 1-year-old Scottie, who was having lots of itching issues this summer. Dinovite is a bit expensive, but has helped with the itching and also some dry skin & small flaky areas. For really bad days, we used Benadryl and that worked very well.

    1. Glad to hear you’ve found something. There’s lots of allergy info. here at the Scottie News should you need any background.

  13. I appreciate all the wonderful advice for Sophie’s skin condition. I have changed her to a natural food, Dick Van Patten’s duck with sweet potatoes and this has helped greatly. I also found a vet’s formula anti-itch spray for her hot spots which also helps soothe the itching, when I can sneak it in on her!!! She thinks she needs to be in charge!!! She’s definitely a great example of her breed characteristics!!! Merry Christmas to all.

  14. My Scottie, Ciara is a 3 yr old Scottie. Every 3 months she develops smelly, flaky bumps on her back. They do not itch. The odor is horrible. She gets a bath weekly with an antibacterial shampoo and oatmeal shampoo. The Vet prescribed prenisone that helped, but once stopped, it comes back. Any ideas? Thank you.

  15. please help me I have a scotty, that has a funny thing under his leg. it looks like a bunch of grapefruit but white with thick hair sticking out please help

  16. Of course you need to go to the vet to have it diagnosed. But if you can’t afford a vet, take a regular aspirin, cut it into four pieces, and give him a piece every day for two weeks, then very other day, in a piece of cheese. Doing this made a mole on the top of my Scotties’ head disappear, and made a growth on my mom’s Peke disappear, too. Oh, and a lump on the base on my daughter’s Brussels disappear. I stopped the daily aspirin when the growths were gone, but do give a baby aspirin to the Scot and Peke once a week.

  17. Hello everybody.
    We rescued 2 abandoned dogs 3 years ago. One is a Scotty and the other a Lhasso Apso. The Scotty had the most awful lumps on his back, rolled on to his back as often as possible and wriggled to relieve the awful itchiness he was suffering. We researched far and wide and purchased numerous potions and lotions and used these to no avail. One evening, I was watching TV with Darcy (the Scotty) at my side and I was scratching my own head as during the winter I suffer from a mild dandruff problem (central heating, no doubt). Anyway, I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment and thought what if I try ‘HEAD and SHOULDERS’ an anti-dandruff shampoo which I used once each week, on Darcy? The next morning I popped him into the bath and after soaking him, I poured diluted H&S on his back and massaged it in. I then brushed his back with the coat and against the coat four or five times using a dog brush. He grunted a bit but I don’t know if that was from pleasure or pain! I rinsed him thoroughtl using the shower head and left his coat to dry naturally.
    That evening he scratched less and there was no back rolling. The next day I felt his coat and there was, at least, a 50% reduction in the lumps and bumps. I bathed him again four days later following the same process and within 3 weeks his lumps and bumps had disappeared, there were no dry flakes on his coat, scratching and rolling had stopped and I swear, he was smiling!
    His coat was shining with health, so much so, that passersby would stop and comment on his coat and how well he looked.
    I began to spread the word whenever I met a fellow Scotty owner, with some excellent feedback.
    So, you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Head and shoulders to the rescue. Good Luck! And please feel free to email any feedback.
    Kind regards

    1. Hi there I have a scottie boy about 7-8months old,he gets dry skin or something,it is like bumps in his neck and it get flacky,i have vet bills through the roof and my hands in my hair,he also then get an awfull smel,that you dont know what to do,i love him so much,he is my baby,any advise,o yes and he is ichy,it is the second time he has it,he was on anibiotica and a dip and shampoo I am clueless,they are adorable and loving dogs,and which h&s dit you use?
      Regards me kotie

      1. Hi Kotie,

        Please click here to read the allergy archives. I hope you will find lots of tips there.

        It would also be great if you could get back in touch with the Scottie News and tell us how things work out.

        I really hope your boy gets better.

  18. My 1-1/2 year old scottie girl was also itchy and miserable. I tried a grain-free diet, medicated shampoos, fish oil, etc, and although it improved slightly, she still itched and scrated and chewed. On the suggestion of my vet, I started experimenting with the protein source in hear food, and the first thing I eliminated was chicken. Miracle! She seems to respond particularly well to fish-based foods, so I have her on a grain-free, limited ingredient, dry food made with salmon. I tried supplementing with a raw beef based food as well, but she didn’t respond well to the beef–again began itching, though not nearly as much as on chicken. Bison works well, and lamb, but fish is still hands-down the best!

  19. I have a 3 year old named Mac, his mum was Sadie’s sister. I had no idea that Scotties had so many skin issues. Mine has none. he eats anything . I found I get him to drink more by mixing chicken water( I boil chicken & reserve the water) with his water. I do this because his urine was so concentrated. It works beautifully

  20. My Westie was the same and chewed all the fur off his back. We tried everything you said and more. Finally I took the new red comforter off the bed and replaced it. He got over it right away and it never came back. We threw that bed spread away! Poor doggie suffered almost a year. 8 years later and it never came back. Hope this helps.

  21. I was always raised with Scotties. My mother wanted no other breed. We had some litters so I grew up with about 30 Scotties. All our Scotties licked their paws. I just figured it is a”Scottie thing”‘ A few years ago, my husband bought me a Scottie, Link. He fell in love with the breed from the one I had when we met and my mother’s dogs. Link was very itchy. I would bathe him in medicated shampoos and and I added Linatone to his dinner, he had a lot of dandruff. It really helped. One trip to the vets and Link started licking his paws. The doctor said, “he has allergies”. I never equated the licking with this. Does that mean all our dogs had allergies? Curious about other Scottie parents think.

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  23. Hi, Phyllis,
    A veterinary dermatologist once told me that dogs who are itchy often lick their paws not because of anything going on with the paws, but because they can’t scratch the places that itch (like their backs), so they lick the paws instead, as a way to distract and soothe themselves. It’s a kind of obsessive-compulsive thing (imagine not being able to scratch someplace that was itchy!). Not all my Scots (I’ve had 8 so far) have licked their paws, but the ones with allergies, even mild seasonal skin issues, are inevitably paw-lickers, and I notice those same Scots from time to time also roll and wriggle on their backs, as if they’re trying to scratch their own backs.

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