Chewing, Scratching, Licking – Oh My!


It’s allergy season – and we’re not the only ones who suffer. Does your dog scratch, lick, bit or chew at its skin? If so, it may mean that he/she has allergies.

  • Middle Tennessee is in the Top 30 Allergy capitals and that applies to your dog as well. Whereas people often have itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing, dogs will often scratch in the armpits and at the ears, or chew/lick their feet or near their rear end. Itching is miserable and you may be able to stop your dog with verbal commands, but it is only a temporary “fix” as the itch continues causing your dog to simply continue with the behaviors out of sight. Left untreated, allergies often cause the dog to do self-trauma to the skin allowing for secondary yeast or bacterial infections. These secondary infections also contribute to the itching and so the problem persists.
  • Flea allergies are only one type of environmental allergy commonly encountered in our area. Pollens, mites, molds, etc. are also contributors to allergies in dogs. It doesn’t matter if your dog is strictly indoor as many allergens (the particles that cause allergies) are airborne and are inhaled by your dog resulting in itching. Many allergies are seasonal in nature and may “come and go” based on the time of the year and the propensity of the allergen to be present at that time (blooming flowers, budding trees, grasses and weeds).
  • Not all cases of allergies are food related. Despite the aggressive marketing of pet foods to be “grain free”, the majority of allergies are NOT from food and those that are from food are not from grains.
  • Allergies may be treated without having the specific allergen identified. As with humans, not all dogs require allergy testing to determine the exact cause of the allergy but instead may be treated for short term with appropriate medications. In some more extreme cases, true allergy testing may be recommended.
  • As with human medicine, allergy treatments for pets have evolved to include many effective products that don’t have the unpleasant side effects of “old school” steroids or the lack of efficacy from antihistamines. Gone are the days of Prednisone and Benedryl. Now there is Apoquel oral tablets and Cytopoint injections (every 4-8 weeks) which often dramatically reduce the itch your dog is experiencing.

If your dog is chewing, scratching or itching and causing you displeasure, think of the misery your dog is suffering. Don’t ignore these signs as they may result in more serious and costly skin/ear infections. Schedule your pet to be evaluated soon before you and your pet lose sleep from the ceaseless scratching and chewing.

Article by By Dr. Paula Schuerer

Dr. Paula Schuerer received her BS in agriculture, DVM and MBA from Mississippi State University and since graduation in 1995 has practiced in the Franklin/Nashville area.  Her primary interests are surgery, dentistry, dermtology and small exotic mammal medicine.  In 2009, Dr. Scherer became a board-certified specialist, per the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, in Canine and Feline practice.  She joins approximately a dozen others within the state of Tennessee that holds this advanced degree.  In 2017, Dr. Paula received her MS in biomedical science from the University of Missouri.

“After all these years in practice, I still absolutely love what I do and and look forward to what the next challenge is going to be.”