One of the questions we are most frequently asked is how to help an itchy Cocker Spaniel stop scratching. Because Cockers are plagued by allergies, oily skin, and dermatitis, I decided to find quick and easy things to stop an itchy Cocker from scratching nonstop.
Formulated dog shampoos, enzymatic leave-on conditioners, topical cream, and hydrocortisone-based ear solutions are all designed to help soothe itchy Cocker Spaniel skin. Ear scratching, foot biting, snout rubbing, and incessant scratching are signs that a dog needs intervention to relieve the irritating sensation.
There are many reasons Cocker Spaniels get itchy. We identified the top reasons that dogs like Cockers can’t stop scratching and what to do about each condition below. Since Cockers have more sebaceous oil in their skin than other breeds, frequent ear infections, flaky and dry skin, and chewing on paws are all signs something irritating your dog’s immune system and likely his skin.
Causes Leading To An Itchy Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to a variety of skin infections and diseases. According to The Cocker Spaniel Handbook by Dr. Caroline Coile, “Allergies are the major cause of ear infections.” Getting to the bottom of what causes canine allergies is part one in helping them to stop itching. Causes of canine allergies run the gamut, but often times allergies aren’t to blame at all if ears aren’t the problem.
When yeast (Maassezia dermatitis) affects a Cocker’s ears, itching, redness, and brown, waxy debris are often seen. Yeast also has a distinct odor. When yeast affects the skin, it generally has a distinct odor. Cocker owners will often complain their dog’s skin smells. It might be from yeast. When yeast affects the skin to the point your dog itches incessantly, seborrhea can result.
In nearly 30 years of owning Cocker Spaniels, I’ve learned the first step is to identify the source of the itchiness. Here’s a handy list of things to answer the next time your Cocker Spaniel is itching, scratching, or biting at the skin:
- Is there anything new in my dog’s diet?
- Did I switch foods recently?
- Has my dog been to a new area?
- Did the weather change? (seasonal, rainy, even snowy)
- Has my dog been to a dog park or other dogs recently?
- Have I checked my dog’s skin for fleas and ticks?
- Did my dog’s groomer use a new shampoo or conditioner?
- When is the last time I checked the inside of my Cocker’s ears?
- Is the quality of food I feed my dog food?
- Did my Cocker have a thyroid blood test recently?
- Am I using any natural or oil-based products on my dog’s skin?
- Has the vet checked the inside of my Cocker’s ears with an otoscope recently?
- Are my Cocker’s paw pads free of excessive hair?
- Do I live in a moist or damp environment where my Cocker’s feet are exposed?
- Does my dog have a runny nose? Watery eyes? Clear nasal discharge? (allergy perhaps)
- Is my dog sneezing a lot?
- Am I using any cleaning agents, carpet shampoos, or in-home chemicals?
- Has my dog had any vaccines recently?
- When is the last time my dog had a bath?
- Are there any perfumes or colognes used on my Cocker’s skin or coat?
- Do I use hair sprays or air fresheners in the presence of my Cocker?
- Have I checked my dog for lumps, bumps, scabs, or sores?
The most common causes for any itchy Cocker Spaniel can generally be answered by the questions above. We’re of the ilk that a visit to your dog’s regular veterinarian is always a good starting place if itching is excessive, constant, or extremely troublesome.
Next up are 4 quick and easy fixes to help soothe a Cocker Spaniel’s itchy skin followed by your opportunity to win a set of items from our friends at ZYMOX.
What Products Can Help Stop Dog From Itching?
Once you have a clear diagnosis of your Cocker Spaniel’s itching source, it’s easier to know which products to use. I only recommend to my readers what I’ve actually used and found success with in my own Cockers.
Zymox LP3 Enzyme System Dog Shampoo: One of my favorite mild dog shampoos that is pH-balanced and paraben free is from Zymox. For gentle cleansing of itchy, allergy skin, this shampoo won’t strip your Cocker’s coat and is nourishing.
Zymox LP3 Enzyme System Leave-On Conditioner: This is one product I am NEVER without because it’s really helped my Cocker Spaniel’s seasonal itching. Used best if applied after Zymox enzymatic shampoo, lightly rinse or leave on your dog’s skin to dry for optimal results.
If your dog has a specific problem area on their skin, apply Zymox Leave-On Conditioner full-strength as a cream and leave it on to dry. I carry this with me in our travels for any flare ups and have been known to put it on dry spots on my own skin.
Zymox LP3 Enzyme System Topical Cream: For minor skin irritation and inflammation, I’ve also used this for minor hot spots. It contains hydrocortisone and can be layered. It can be used around the dog’s face, paws, and body folds.
Zymox LP3 Enzyme System Ear Solution: For maintenance and cleaning of the Cocker Spaniel ears, I use this year-round. Ears that are full of debris or exudate can get itchy and irritating. If A Cocker Spaniel itches at his ears often enough, an infection can occur.
The hydrocortisone in the Zymox ear solution helps relieve minor itching and irritation. When my Cocker Spaniel had an ear infection a few years ago, his internal medicine veterinarian recommended the Zymox ear products to me. The Zymox ear solution is good to clean out debris. For deeper wax or dirt as a source of odor, the Zymox ear cleanser is a good choice. Learn where and how to purchase these products below.
Most Common Cocker Spaniel Skin Problems
Because Cocker Spaniels have more sebaceous oil in their skin than other breeds, they tend to have more itchiness, sensitivities, and overall skin issues.
In both dogs and humans, the skin is the body’s largest organ. You can understand why a breed with some many predispositions to skin issues will need a diligent pet parent who monitors the dog for any new changes or excessive itching, or growths.
Here are the most common Cocker Spaniel skin problems and how to handle them:
Skin is supposed to shed, but when skin grows and sheds too much, seborrhea can occur. Skin multiplies and sheds three times faster than it should and produces an excessive amount of oil and scale, which can contribute to odor.
Seborrhea is divided into primary and secondary types, with American Cocker Spaniels most frequently affected. The Merck Vet Manual says most dogs with seborrhea have the secondary form of the disease caused by hormonal disorders and allergies. Your dog’s vet or veterinary dermatologist will work with you to develop a treatment plan.
A Cocker Spaniel’s skin can be affected if the thyroid is underperforming. In addition to a dog being sluggish and obese, an underactive thyroid can lead to dark skin patches, thickening of the skin, and other skin disorders.
A thyroid blood panel should be performed at least yearly on Cocker Spaniels to asses blood levels. Treatment includes thyroid oral hormone replacement for the remainder of the dog’s life. My first Cocker Spaniel had a thinning coat, which proved to be from hypothyroidism. Treatment improved her condition, skin, and coat.
In a nutshell, this is a yeast infection. Malassezia is the organism that attacks a dog’s skin. Yeasty paws and feet are no fun for dogs, either.
Cocker Spaniel mom, Aimee Marando of Florida, shared a photo of her Cocker, Finley’s, paws with me recently, saying her pup was licking his feet excessively. When I asked to see a photo, this is what she sent:
Itchiness and licking of the paws are two of the initial symptoms most dog parents notice. Sometimes folks will say their dog’s feet have a Fritos scent to them. That corn chip odor might be yeast. Yeast can occur anywhere on the dog’s skin and in the ears.
Aimee took Finley to the vet and sure enough, a diagnosis of yeast was made. Her vet said Finley’s grass allergy flared up and he licked his paws to soothe the itching. He is on an oral antibiotic and paw spray.
Vets will often treat yeast infections on a dog with antifungal medications and/or wipes since yeast is a fungus, topical creams, or even medications. Keep Cocker paws trimmed, clean, and dry to help eliminate yeast buildup. Examine your dog’s diet because an overgrowth of yeast can sometimes be from too many carbs.
Immune-Mediated Skin Issues
Because Cockers are more prone to autoimmune diseases such as IMHA and IMT, the skin can be secondarily affected. The immune system wards off foreign invaders in people and pets. When the immune system is compromised, it makes sense that the body’s biggest organ is involved.
Because skin health coincides with a dog’s immune system health, autoimmune diseases may cause something like pemphigus foliaceus (PF). There are a few types of this skin disease but PF is often seen in middle-aged and senior dogs. It is accompanied by hair loss, scabs, and open sores on the head, face, and ears. Veterinarians will perform a skin biopsy for accurate diagnosis.
Since pemphigus is an autoimmune disease, steroids are often involved. PF and pemphigus erythematosus both have good prognoses. The more severe form, pemphigus vulgaris, has a less optimistic long-term prognosis.
This is very common in Cocker Spaniels, as it relates to something in the dog’s environment causing him distress. These include things like yeast, dust, pollen, mold, and so on. Cocker ears and skin may itch to the point of hot spots, which are areas of skin that are inflamed and infected from incessant licking and chewing. They may ooze and cause pain.
Since there is no one specific test for atopic dermatitis, a vet or veterinary dermatologist will take samples of your dog’s affected areas to check for secondary bacterial infection or yeast issues. If a dog has atopic dermatitis, they may be prone to secondary ear and skin infections.
We could write a small novel about treatment for atopic dermatitis. Veterinary Partner mentions clearing the secondary infection followed by allergy testing with allergy shots, and possible medications. We are all about non-chemical and non-invasive solutions to a Cocker’s immune system and body when treating them.
Though food allergies get most of the attention, but environmental allergies are often the bigger culprit of atopic dermatitis. Figure out what’s causing the itch and then eliminate those sources.
Recurrent ear infections, itchy skin, vomiting, and diarrhea are all signs of an allergy to food. Identifying the source of flare-ups is key. It could even be as simple as one ingredient in a dog’s food, such as corn, barley, beef, chicken, or by-products. We’re all about dogs eating healthy food that keeps their bodies and skin in good shape.
Here’s what I feed my Cocker Spaniel with success. Having lost a Cocker Spaniel to complications of irritable bowel disease, I know how upsetting it can be to try, try, and try some more to figure out the cause.
MRSA and MRSP
Some dogs get allergies so bad that MRSA or MRSP can occur. MRSP is zoonotic and can transmit between people and pets. MedVet says, “Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) is the antibiotic-resistant form of S. aureus, a bacterium commonly found on the skin, mouth, nose, and in the GI tract of humans. MRSA is very rarely contagious to pets and MRSP is very rarely contagious to people.”
MRSP is a bacteria that generally occurs in dogs with compromised health in some way. A Cocker might have an allergic skin disease, something awry with his endocrine system, recent surgery, or even a widespread systemic illness. MRSP lies in wait to rear its ugly head. The good news is most dogs with MRSP are successfully treated.
Most pets with allergy symptoms will scratch and gnaw at their skin. Cocker Spaniels whose bodies are attacked by allergens will make them prone to ear infections, yeast overgrowth, hot spots, and itchy skin. Allergies can’t be cured but they can be managed, just as they are in people.
How can I prevent ear infections in my Cocker Spaniel? The power of keeping a Cocker’s ears clean is the best advice I can dispense in terms of preventing ear infections. It sounds like common sense, but there is no greater enemy to the dog’s ear canal than dirt, yeast, bacteria, and/or water. More about preventing ear infections in dogs.
Can fish oil help improve my Cocker’s skin and coat? Yes! Fish oil is one of the supplements we’ve used with great success, but not all fish oils are created equally. Here’s the canine fish oil we like and use.
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