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Beagle scratching at an itch

My dog has a rash

Q: Reacher, my "shorty" Jack Russell terrier, develops a rash on his belly this time each year. I assume it's from the grass, though I do wipe his belly off when he comes inside. Is there anything else I can do?

A: Many breeds, including Jack Russell terriers, pit bulls, West Highland white terriers, Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers, are predisposed to a skin condition called atopic dermatitis. The disorder is set off by an allergy to environmental triggers such as grass, pollens, molds and dust mites.

A dog with atopic dermatitis is itchy, so he licks, chews or scratches. Sometimes, he has a rash. The paws, belly, groin, armpits, anus and/or ears are most often affected. Some dogs have recurrent ear infections.

Washing the grass and pollen off Reacher's belly helps, as does regular bathing. Oral administration of an antihistamine and the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can aid in treating atopic dermatitis. Flea control is also important.

But the most effective treatments are medications prescribed by your veterinarian. One is an anti-allergy tablet called Apoquel, given twice daily for the first two weeks and once daily thereafter.

Another effective option is Cytopoint, an injection administered every four to eight weeks by your veterinarian.

A final alternative is immunotherapy injections or oral drops formulated after allergy testing. Several months of therapy are required before the dog experiences relief.

Make an appointment to have your veterinarian examine Reacher, who will feel much better once his itchy rash is gone.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at

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