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My Cairn Terrier seems to be very itchy. Is this normal for...

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Question by Sandy
Submitted on 8/22/2003
Related FAQ: rec.pets.dogs: Cairn Terriers Breed-FAQ
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My Cairn Terrier seems to be very itchy.  Is this normal for this breed - she seems to itch only at night and has no visible marks, bites, hot spots etc?  Can anyone shed some light for me!

Answer by Charmaine
Submitted on 8/28/2003
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Cairns have a rough outer coat and soft undercoat. Beneath this undercoat, is very sensitive skin. Assuming that your Cairn is taking flea prevention medication, the itching is probably from their skin being very dry and irritable. I usually bathe my 2 Cairns once every 2 weeks, using a very mild shampoo with oatmeal and then use a conditioner that I spray on or rub lightly into their coat. Be sure to get your shampoo and conditioner from a pet store or the vet. Don't use the regular brands that humans use, as they may irritate their skin even more.


Answer by Grant
Submitted on 12/17/2003
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The real cause of most Cairn skin problems is infected hair follicles.  There’s a little-known, healthy solution to your Cairn’s 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 aren’t healthy and didn’t 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 “stripping knife” (a special brush) to solve common skin problems.  As I soon learned, the Cairn’s fur dies and renews itself constantly.  The problem is that the dead hair isn’t 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 “grab” hold of dead hair and pull it.  The dog becomes accustomed to the brush quickly and will actually enjoy the experience.  It doesn’t hurt.  Using a stripping brush is a bit time consuming the first few times.  You’ll be amazed at how much dead hair – balls and balls of it – you’ll pull off your Cairn.  You’ll brush for 20, 30, or 40 minutes and the hair will still be coming out.  Don’t worry, that’s what needs to happen.  The first time, you’ll 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 don’t 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 Cairn’s fur is softer, cleaner, and shinier than it’s been since he was a puppy.  It feels like you’re petting a soft cotton ball instead of a steel wool pad!  I cannot recommend this technique enough.


Answer by Glenn
Submitted on 8/25/2004
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I have to respond to Grant.

A stripping knife (sometimes called a stripping comb) is a small tool used for grooming and shaping terriers.  What you've described sounds more like a "shedding blade" and is used only for removing dead hairs from the dog -- it looks like a hacksaw blade bent into a circle and attached to a handle.  There is also the Coat King which looks more like a rake.  I'm unfamiliar with any stripping tool that looks like a brush and has over one hundred teeth.

Of course, dead hair that is not shed or removed can cause irritation, but what's disturbing is the extreme to which you used this tool.  

The Standard for Cairn Terriers calls for: "Coat: Hard and weather-resistant.  Must be double-coated with profuse harsh outer coat and short, soft, close, furry undercoat."

The soft undercoat provides insulation, the harsh outer coat provides protection against the elements.  Harsh coated terriers are not clippered or scissored because that will soften the coat; stripping helps to preserve the desired coarseness.  Most terrier people strive to maintain, and hopefully improve, the harshness of the coat on these dogs through judicious breeding, proper grooming techniques, the use of texturizing shampoos, etc.  Yet you have chosen to rip it all out, leaving your dog unprotected with only undercoat.  That "steel wool" feeling is proper and desirable.

I'm glad you've solved the itching problem, but you've grossly overused the tool, destroyed your dog's coat, and then strongly recommended the technique to others.  Unbelievable!  If you want a small, powder-puff dog, you might be better served by a Maltese; otherwise, let the outer coat grow back (if it will) and allow him to be a Cairn.  Just lightly pull the dead hairs, not ALL the coarse hairs.  Those coarse hairs are not dead, soft hairs -- they're his second coat.


Answer by Laurel
Submitted on 7/1/2005
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I want to know what kind of brush are u using to comb cairn?  Where did u buy it?


Answer by Brenda
Submitted on 10/7/2005
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I dont have an answer but have a question  I have a 6 year old Welsch Terrier and he has a very itchy skin on his  hind leg and as a result has no hair on this hind leg he has been on steriods which are not helping  please does someone have an answer to this problem


Answer by Cairn101
Submitted on 5/27/2007
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I have a 13.5 years old Cairn. She went through the same thing, itching, pulling her hair out, digging, etc. I tried several types of Veterinary blend dog foods from Eukanuba and found one that cleared her allergy right up. If you can take care of this with food, that's the better choice than using meds. the food that helped her is the Response FP (it also helped my mom's Cairn who was worse off than mine).


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