Why is my Dog Still Itchy After I Applied Frontline?

My dog is in great distress either from fleas or allergies or both or something else. She is constantly biting at herself. What should I...


My dog is in great distress either from fleas or allergies or both or something else. She is constantly biting at herself. What should I do ASAP?

Background: I rescued this female two-year-old Jindo from a shelter 3 days ago. It appears as tho she had recently given birth. She was spayed at the shelter before she was released. I was told I have to wait 10 days before having her bathed. I gave her Frontline. The itching and biting herself has not subsided. I was told at Petco that the Frontline should work in a day or two and that I shouldn’t use anything else yet or it can be dangerous to give her too much.

I was also told her itching can be an allergy to something and that I should put flaxseed oil in her food. I did. I am feeding her fresh cooked chicken with brown rice and Dick Patten’s Natural Balance Allergy Formula. Help please!

Alhambra, California

I would wager that your dog is suffering from allergies to fleas.

Dogs with allergies usually suffer from skin and ear problems. Itching is the most common complaint.

Dogs can be allergic to thousands or perhaps millions of insects, pollens, food proteins, chemicals, and mammals (including cats and humans). But one thing is nearly certain: if your dog has allergies, she is allergic to fleas.

Flea saliva is phenomenally allergenic to cats and dogs (and some humans). This gives rise to a common paradox. Animals with flea allergies rarely “have” fleas.

The last time I visited Yosemite National Park, I suffered numerous mosquito bites. One day was particularly bad. I hiked in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolomne to a place that I will forever call the Mosquito Forest. I applied bug spray nearly constantly, but the six-legged parasites could not be held at bay. After about 15 minutes I retreated uphill towards my campsite.

I suffered about a dozen mosquito bites during my foray into the Mosquito Forest. I am allergic to mosquito saliva. That night, in my mosquito-free tent, I was miserably itchy. I was itchy the next day during my hike out of the wilderness. And the next day at work. And the next day, and the next day, and . . .

Dogs that suffer from flea allergies show similar symptoms. A week after my trek to the Mosquito Forest, there were no insects in sight. But I was still miserably itchy. A week after Frontline has eliminated the fleas on your dog, she too may be miserably itchy.

You have two choices in this sort of situation. If your dog’s condition is tolerable, you and she can wait it out (that’s what I did, and I’m fine now). If your dog is in severe distress, you can look into getting a cortisone shot or prescription.

Cortisone (a steroid, also known as prednisone) almost certainly will relieve the itching. But it is a strong medicine with many potential side effects. Consider the risks and the benefits carefully before giving her steroids. If she truly is miserable, the benefits probably outweigh the risks.

Photo: the Tuolomne River rolls into the Mosquito Forest at the base of Waterwheel Falls.

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