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I've had my 2 year old Cairn to the Vet several times...

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Question by cjones24
Submitted on 8/6/2003
Related FAQ: rec.pets.dogs: Cairn Terriers Breed-FAQ
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I've had my 2 year old Cairn to the Vet several times because of excessive scratching to the point he's ripping his hair out on his backside. The Vet gave him a shot and a prescription for prednisone which seemed to help for several weeks. I've been tapering down on the dosage, and now he's back to scratching. The Vet said it's allergies (not food related) and that he does NOT have fleas. Any ideas on how to help the poor guy out??

Answer by Kristen
Submitted on 8/9/2003
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You can start by switching his dog food to an allergy sensitive kind.  Most big brands offer allergy formulas. Switch to a more moisturizing shampoo and even use conditioner.  Actually visit www.drsfostersmith.com    They offer the most high quality products around.  Look at their shampoos.  They have a few anti itch types as well as ones formulated for sensitive or irritable skin. Oatmeal, Tea Tree and an Herbal shampoo/conditioner with aloe are just some of the varieties they offer for itchy skin.  They also have a lot of anti-itch remedies so in the "search" box type the word "itch" and a lot of products will show up.  I hope this helped!


Answer by fadi
Submitted on 8/19/2003
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I can tell you four things that have helped our Chow:
- Check your dog food to see if soy is in the ingredients list.  Use one that does not have soy.  I got this from a small Chow book at a pet store.
-Filter your dogís water through a common charcoal type filter that will cut down on the amount of chlorine in the water.  I use a Brita pitcher just for my dogs.
-Brush your dog with a brush that looks like comb but the handle is at a 90-degree angle to the comb bristles.  I have found this is the only type of brush that gets the loose hair in the undercoat out.  You can use a soft bristle brush for looks but the former will reach right down to the skin.
-Finally, consider how much fat your dog is consuming.  Most dry food are not going to have enough fat in them to keep your chow's skin moist.  You can give him one or two tablespoons of unsalted butter on most days especially in summer.  I have noticed when I look around the area where he is chewing the surrounding skin is dry.

All of the above have been suggested to us by different veterinarians over the years and all are good.  Dry skin or not you have to have the right king of brush for your chow.  I am not going to tell you my dog never has a hot spot.  But he has not gotten one in the winter in a long time.  I have been afraid to give him additional fat because he is so lazy and I don't want create health problems.  But, I need to rethink that, Chow's are used to more fat than most dried food diets and I don't want to feed him the junk in Can foods.  Also, Kristen mentioned the shampoo, I use the Oatmeal kind and it does help.
Good luck!


Answer by Debi
Submitted on 9/10/2003
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I have just read about someone who had a Boston Terrier with dry flaky skin and her vet told her to give him a sardine in soybean oil everyday. I haven't tried it yet, but it's worth the try for MY Boston Terrier. She said it worked great and her BT's skin was soft and shiny with no itching.


Answer by Mak
Submitted on 9/22/2003
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This same thing happened to our 10yr old Cairn. We also went to the Vet and tried the prescriptions and shots.

This is what helped us; We wash our Cairn with Sulfodene medicated shampoo, and we give dog vitamins we also give a daily dose of vitamin E every day.
You might also want to keep track of the allergy index for your area and watch when the grass is being cut. Our dog itches more when every-one in the neighborhood cuts grass.


Answer by Donna
Submitted on 12/8/2003
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Hi, Yogi's mom here in Christiana, Pa.  I have a 2 year old male (cairn/westie/yorkie/???) mix.  I was told he was a yorkie/westie mix when I bought him, but the vet says no way!  We have been going through the repeated severe itching skin with crusty bumps and a red rash ever since he was born.  If allowed to continue on it's own, he scratches constantly and pulls his hair out.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS ASPECT !!!  The vet first put us through mange treatments, which didn't work... then we went through the shots and prednisone tablets, which work great as long as he is on the medication, then the rash returns shortly afterword.  He gets bathed every Sunday in a medicated (prescribed) shampoo, which seems to help but not eliminate the itching... We even went through the change of his food, it didn't seem to help, and honestly I can't afford to buy every dog food under the sun just to try.  ..... I have found a relatively new product on ebay which I am starting to try... I found it under the searches of "Hot Spots" and "Prednisone" and the seller's name is Raven  (mike raven).  He claims to have assisted several dogs in his field test with skin problems.  And he has a website (Raven Pet Products) that provides some good information to back his product.  You can email him for more info at:  ravenpetproducts@prodigy.net.  I am hoping his product will help us, and possibly you too.  Keep in mind I have no information on how well his product actually does work, as we are just beginning treatment.  Best wishes in the search for a cure.


Answer by Grant
Submitted on 12/17/2003
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The real cause of most Cairn skin problems is infected hair follicles.  Thereís a little-known, healthy solution to your Cairnís itchy skin problem.

My mom has a 5 year old Cairn terrier.  He used to get very itchy skin, so much so that he would scratch himself until he bled.  Where the skin was itchy, sometimes the fur would fall out.  The vet gave him steroid shots, but these arenít healthy and didnít help too much.  The vet claimed food allergies and had the dog try many different kinds of food.  None of them helped.

One day when I was searching Google, I came across a Cairn breeder who discussed the use of a ďstripping knifeĒ (a special brush) to solve common skin problems.  As I soon learned, the Cairnís fur dies and renews itself constantly.  The problem is that the dead hair isnít released from the follicles.  When the dead hair stays in a follicle too long, the follicle is prone to bacterial and yeast infections which cause the skin to itch.  Very few people know about this condition, which is somewhat unique to this particular breed.

The solution is to use a stripping knife to remove the dead hair.  A stripping knife is just a special kind of brush that has a hundred or more tiny saw-like metal teeth on it. It looks kind of medieval, like the animal traps that fur trappers of old used.  It might look a bit scary at first, but let me tell you, it practically eliminated all the itching problems for our Cairn.

To use the stripping brush, you simply comb the dog as you would normally.  The sharp metal teeth ďgrabĒ hold of dead hair and pull it.  The dog becomes accustomed to the brush quickly and will actually enjoy the experience.  It doesnít hurt.  Using a stripping brush is a bit time consuming the first few times.  Youíll be amazed at how much dead hair Ė balls and balls of it Ė youíll pull off your Cairn.  Youíll brush for 20, 30, or 40 minutes and the hair will still be coming out.  Donít worry, thatís what needs to happen.  The first time, youíll probably want to do several sessions over the course of 7-10 days.

It actually took us about three 45 minute sessions to fully strip out the dead hair.  Within a few weeks, his itching subsided.  Now we just strip his fur every 2 weeks.  These maintenance sessions donít take too long, maybe 10 or 15 minutes.  The $10 stripping brush has been an excellent investment and our Cairn is MUCH happier now.

The side benefit is that our Cairnís fur is softer, cleaner, and shinier than itís been since he was a puppy.  It feels like youíre petting a soft cotton ball instead of a steel wool pad!  I cannot recommend this technique enough.


Answer by neaner
Submitted on 4/19/2005
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Our Cairn Terrier is now 13 years old and going strong. When he was a puppy he scratched all the time and got bumps all over.We switched his food to Lamb and rice and he has been doing great ever since. Good luck!


Answer by Cairn Owner
Submitted on 6/24/2005
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I have a Cairn. I've got Scratching/Itching advice for you. My Cairn was breaking my heart. I tried many things. I tried stripping. I stripped that dog more thoroughly than any ever has been. When I was done with him an hour and a half later he looked like a different animal...but still he scratched. I mean I yanked every old hair out, just as methodically and patiently and perfectly as it could be done. I tried a lot of things. Do you know what you absolutely must try? TAKE THE ANIMAL OFF DOG FOOD! It is amazing what has happened with Rusty. His life is so much better. It changed dramatically within a few hours of his first changed meal. I fed him nothing but Tuna for the first few days. His bowel movements were just not healthy though. I fed him canned Salmon, I bought him a cow's tongue and cooked it for him and cut it up. I am buying the cheaper cuts of meat and feeding him that, usually cooked. I still give him the fish oil. But I really think the diet was the key. Who knows, maybe next year it'll happen again. But man, what a dramatic change. It certainly can't hurt to try it. Try it with Tuna first if your animal will eat it. Within a day you'll either see a difference or not. It seems to make sense though. Your physiology is a lot more similar to your dog's than it is different. How do you think you would feel if you ate dog food for a couple of months? Yeah, he's a carnivore, you are an omnivore, but you get my point. No promises. Just a beautiful happy Cairn named Rusty that is eating well and isn't scratching very much. If you live up north maybe you don't have the problem. The vet told me Cairns just do better up north "too many skin problems here in Florida" he said. My Rusty used to start itching in late May and it would last for a few months. I'm not sure why.
Another thing I'm doing is limiting his exposure to laying in the grass. Yeah, he might yearn for it. But down here there are so many critters in a lawn unless it is really thoroughly treated with insecticide. If you lay on the grass in south Florida you are going to start getting munched on in short order. Since Cairns are very sensitive to that sort of thing, and if your's is having itching problems, consider limiting the dog's exposure. If the dog does need to play outdoors a good soaking with the hose seems to be appreciated. CONSIDER GIVING UP ON DOG FOOD, INCLUDING ALL TREATS FOR AN ITCHING CAIRN. I hope it works for you and I hope it continues to work for the greatest dog in the world...Rusty.


Answer by rabbits_foot
Submitted on 11/5/2005
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We have a 2 year old female Cairn with itchy skin and and a tendency toward constipation. I do not wnat to start her on prednisone and traditional drug therapy as those drugs have side effects.  I also beleive she is too young to start a life-time of drug therapy for problems that can be controlled in other ways.

After doing a considerable amount of research, I've come up with a few things that have made a big difference.  The first thing I did was to change her diet. I now feed her Royal Canin dog food, a high-quality brand that is relatively new to the US. They have breed and problem-specific foods.

Next, I had her fur hand stripped professionally, to get rid of the undercoat that contributes to itching and smelly skin. It's a lot of work and more expensive than regular grooming, but the pay-off is huge! To maintian her coat during regular grooming appointments, I bought the Mars Coat King, a tool that acts like a brush but which has blades to pull out the undercoat. Having her fur stripped and maintaining it has probably made the most difference as Cairns were bred to have a bushy coat. The coat should not be soft, which is what happens if they are not stripped correctly.

I also added a product called "The Missing Link" to her food. It's a supplement containing plant nutrients, fiber and fatty acids. It is designed to "target the nutritional gap between what nature provides and what's avaibale in commercial dog foods."

I hope this helps!


Answer by Kim
Submitted on 1/27/2006
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Both my dogs did the same exact thing.  I did the prednisone and antibiotics and the vet told me it was fleas and like you said they do NOT have fleas.  We switched their food to Solid Gold Wee Bits and all their hair has grown back (the now have more hair than they ever had befor)And their coats have never looked better. Ever.  Very shiny and clean.  And my boys love the food.  Good luck.


Answer by Mark
Submitted on 2/9/2006
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We finally discovered that our Cairn was allergic to corn.  He hasn't scratched or chewed again since we eliminated all corn from his diet.  You would be surprised how many dog foods and snacks have corn.  He still demands his twice daily walks, and he'll be 17 years old in August 2006.


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Answer by Lisa
Submitted on 9/15/2006
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Try "Head and Shoulders Intensive treatment Formula" (can get it at wal-mart shampoo section)
I had the same problem with my dog for years. I had tried many things including prednisone which worked for about 4 years until she developed diabetes and had to go off the prednisone at age 7 (she is 13 now). Last year she was doing worse then ever.  She was scratching so much and had pulled most of her hair out.  I tried more things from the vet but nothing worked.  Then one day at wal-mart I saw head and shoulders intensive treatment shampoo.  I decided it couldn't hurt to try it, it was cheap and I was desperate to help my dog.  I couldn't believe the almost instant turn around in her condition.  She now has the best looking coat she has ever had! She never scratches anymore.  I wash her with it about every 2-3 weeks.  It lathers easy, rinses easy and smells great.  I don't know if it will work for your dog but it worked a miracle for my dog.  Make sure you get the intensive treatment formula. it is in a big blue bottle.  The first time I used it I lathered it up good and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes Then rinsed and repeated it.  Since then I have been just lathering her once and rinsing.  


Answer by kick
Submitted on 9/19/2006
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Most allergies in Cairns are transmitted genetically, and the problem is getting worse because of the Puppies-for-Profit "gigs" you see on line. Sadly, they have no idea just what kind of heartache they are selling, for they do not know enough about genetics and bloodlines to breed intelligently. The "healthy, home raised" puppies they are selling for the bargain price of three hundred dollars is no bargain at all, for, to be sure, the new puppy owners are going to spend a lot more money on allergies and other genetic related problems. The bottom line is this: Pay the big $$$ for the dog at the start; otherwise you will eventually pay even more in vet bills and prescription medication for the "bargain price" pup. Conscientious breeders have 99 percent less medical issues in their dogs. All the Cairns that have come to us for fostering from Cairn Rescue are originally from careless breeding operations, for the truly responsible breeder will insist that a pup be returned to them if the placement is not successful. The recklessly bred Cairns are the ones we see with all the medical and physical problems. There are many, many web sites that offer careful counseling on the purchase of a  pet, and I urgently advise anyone seeking a pedigree dog to pay the higher price of a well bred animal. It's cheaper in the long run. AKC registration  means nothing. It is a birth certificate- nothing more, and most registered dogs should not be bred. On a final note: A Cairn's coat is not supposed to be "soft like a cotton ball"... but instead, it SHOULD feel like a "steel wool pad". That's the breed standard. Yes, by all means, make every effort to keep your dog's coat in the best possible condition, but if your Cairn's coat is soft, then the method of maintenance is in error. BUT-- if a dog has the genetic propensity toward allergies or a substandard coat, then there are limits as to what your efforts will accomplish. A dog is a family member that you want to enjoy for many years, and to those who insist on a particular breed: Save yourself money, frustration, and heartache by buying the best dog from the best breeder you can find. It's not snobbery- it's smart.


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