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The Hazards of Pet Travel: Itchiness

As we planned to take to the road, I didn’t give much thought to dog allergies … but spend a few sleepless nights listening to your pooch scratch, and allergies quickly move to the top of your priority list! In retrospect it seems so obvious – we’ve had the dogs in nearly every climate in the US – it’s amazing we haven’t run into this issue before now.

The Northwest Doesn’t Agree with Buster

Perhaps it’s a plant that flourishes in the Northwest, or maybe it’s a mold or fungus that thrives in this rainy and humid environment. Whatever the cause, it’s seriously gotten under Buster’s skin … and we’ve all been irritated.

Buster in T-shirt

The poor boy was scratching himself raw, and the fact that he was miserable was enough to drive us all crazy. Fortunately, his Thundershirt during the day and a long-sleeved t-shirt at night, kept him from hurting himself. The big red scratch marks have disappeared – but that didn’t solve the underlying problem.

So, we talked to the boys’ vet back home. Based on our description, he concurred it was likely an allergy and suggested an over-the-counter allergy medication. Buster took it for a few days, but we didn’t see any improvement. What the heck, we haven’t done the emergency animal hospital thing in a while … who wants to go to the vet?

Seeking Professional Help

Buster may have been desperate for some relief, or perhaps he forgot what the word “vet” means – either way, he was ready to go … immediately!

At the hospital, Buster was super-friendly – even more than his usual happy-go-lucky self. I suspect he was manipulating the pet owners in the waiting room to scratch under his Thundershirt where he couldn’t reach. He’s not above using people.

Sleeping at Vet

Buster was perfectly comfortable and the doctor was great. She explained everything and answered all my (slightly neurotic) questions. She agrees that Buster likely has environmental allergies and has prescribed a one-week course of steroids to help him with the itching, and we got an oatmeal shampoo for him. He’ll also be on a different over-the-counter antihistamine to see if that gives us better results. The vet did warn us that, until we know how drowsy the allergy medication makes him, Buster shouldn’t be driving the motorhome.

As soon as we got back to camp, Buster got a bath with his new shampoo – which he loved, of course!

Buster getting a bath

A Few Days Later

The new medication and the shampoo have done the trick! The steroids have made Buster’s extra thirsty and needs to empty his bladder more frequently, but he’s hardly scratched himself at all in the past 48 hours. Believe me, he’s not the only one who’s relieved!

So here are a few things we’ve learned from this episode:

  • Talk to your veterinarian before you leave on a road trip about the proper allergy medication and dosage for your dog.

Note: It can take two weeks or more for these medications to have an impact on skin allergies – so it’s normal not to see immediate improvement.

  • Pack a good anti-itch shampoo in your dog’s travel bag.
  • Use a wet paper towel or wet wipes to remove any pollen from your dogs feet, legs, and belly after every outing.
  • Consider bathing your dog when you return from a hike or a walk through vegetation to which he might be allergic.

Unfortunately for Buster, his people are a little slow on the uptake. We hope your dog can benefit from our experience!

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  • Pup Fan says:

    Glad to hear Buster’s on the mend!

  • Having been on steroids, myself AND having Jersey on steroids every Fall. Buster will also be hungrier that usual, so if he begs, throw him a little extra food. Glad to hear that the scratching problem was solved. Jersey gets allergies so bad that she used to scratch holes in her hide.

    • Poor Jersey – and poor you! It’s so hard to hear that scratching when you know they’re hurting themselves – and they just can’t stop! Buster hasn’t been that much hungrier, but OMD he’s been so thirsty. I can barely keep up with filling the water bowl between taking him out for bathroom breaks. Fortunately, today is the last day of the steroids and he should be back to his usual happy-go-lucky self in no time.

  • Poor sweetie boy. I’m glad to hear he is on the mend. I hope your next location offers some relief for him too.

  • Very good advice and something most of us might not have thought of as we take our pets into different climates. Hope Buster is feeling fine very soon!

  • Hi Y’all,

    You may be familiar with Hawk’s massive allergy problems.  Some are topical, some food and one cleared up when we found the cause of an infection. 

    Two things I ended  up switching to: Sulfadene Medicated Shampoo.  I used it 20 yrs ago on my FlatCoat.  It works much better on Hawk than oatmeal.   Also, instead of pills, although Hawk still takes Loratadine Allergy 10mg twice daily, I use Benadryl gel or spray topically.  The itchies stop and the spots heal.  The redness disappears almost instantly.  It is so soothing to Hawk that he lays down and rolls onto his back to have his legs and underbelly treated. 

    To save money, we use baby wipes.  Our vet said they are the same as you buy for pets, but way less expensive. :)

    Hope Buster continues to feel better. 

    Y’all come by now,
    BrownDog’s Human

    • Great idea with the baby wipes, BrownDog’s Human! They are a lot less expensive! I’ve been using the Benadryl gel too, and that does seem to have helped. I think I’ll get the spray the next time. It seems like it would be easier to apply. I will look into that shampoo – thanks so much for the suggestion!

  • Kristine says:

    Yikes, that’s terrible. Poor Buster. I am so glad you were able to find a vet who was able to help, and who Buster didn’t despise. That is not easy when on the road. I’ve had medical issues of my own when on a road trip and it can be such a pain to find a doctor. It must be ten times worse when it’s your dog in trouble. Thanks for the advice!

    • Thank you, Kristine. We have been really fortunate that the three trips we’ve made to emergency vets while we’ve been traveling have all been great experiences. The vets we’ve met have been super and I always make sure to write a review on the GoPetFriendly.com website. You never know when someone else will need that little shot of confidence when they’re headed to the hospital.

  • Some more good advice. This is definitely something I never would have thought of while traveling. We’re glad everything turned out ok, and I guess in the end it has been a good learning experience for us all.

  • Michelle Panzarella says:

    Allergies are no fun! My dog has seasonal allergies. We moved last year though and I never realized what an effect it could have on my boys skin.

    • Exactly, Michelle! I thought long and hard about how traveling full-time would affect Ty and Buster in lots of other ways – like being in a small space, and not having their own yard to run around in – but skin allergies never even occurred to me. We’ve dealt with Ty’s food allergies his whole life, but this environmental allergy with Buster was a first for me. As we consider the options for a new place to live (eventually) it’s something that will have an impact.

  • Jamesdooo says:

    thanks you for sharing your experiences!

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