Is the Puppy Sick or is He Bored? Questions from @TheFurMom

Blue 300x199 Is the Puppy Sick or is He Bored? Questions from @TheFurMom

By Kimberly Gauthier, Keep the Tail Wagging

Saturday morning, around 3:30, the sound of our puppy crying and whining woke me out of dead sleep. We ran down to find a very happy puppy who missed us demanding to be released from his kennel. And then the scratching started.

Is the puppy sick? No, turns out he was bored. But we ran through the gauntlet of things that could be causing his obsessive scratching.

When it comes to diagnosing our dogs at home, we now have the Internet and books to take us down a dark path to “Cancer” if we’re not careful. I’ll admit that I’m suffering from a mental disorder called “Too Much Information.”

Why a dog is scratching obsessively…

  • Allergies (diet, seasonal, household cleaners)
  • Fleas, mites, bee stings
  • Poison ivy, stinging nettles
  • Boredom, stress, anxiety – DING DING DING

What we learned…

BENEDRYL: An easy home cure several dog owners (including our veterinarian) shared is Benadryl. 1 mg per pound of body weight to give our dogs relief from whatever ails them and give us a break while we discover a more permanent solution. What no one bothered to share is (1) this gives relief to only a small portion of allergies – it’s not a cure all. And (2) dogs can have a not so great reaction to Benadryl.

Rodrigo and Sydney have taken Benadryl in the past. Rodrigo for itchy paws (turns out he’s allergic to Chicken) and Sydney for relief from bee stings. They got a little sleepy, but were find for the most part.

Blue, on the other hand, was not a happy puppy and although the itching lessoned, it was more because he was sleepy and restless and less because he was feeling better. Have you ever taken cold medicine, slept for an hour, then woke up and felt anxious? That was Blue’s reaction to Benadryl.

FOOD ALLERGIES: It’s a great idea to get to know your dog’s diet, but keep in mind that someone he ate yesterday may not be the reason he’s itching today. We learned that allergy symptoms from food can sometimes take up to 6 weeks to make an appearance.

Our dogs eat Halo Pets – salmon and lamb. I switched them to Halo Pets a few months ago and they have been doing great. We don’t feed them table scraps and the only new food they had was from Honest Kitchen, which could have been a culprit, but reading the ingredients, I highly doubted that it was a problem (and it wasn’t).

FLEAS: We checked Blue’s skin for any fleas or flea bites; carefully parting his hair, especially in the areas he was itching. I broke out the flea comb, which all the dogs found fascinating. Everyone was combed out. Nothing.

We use a non-toxic flea and tick treatment by Bright Eyes Pet Wellness. We haven’t had a flea all summer and thankfully we didn’t have one now.

STINGING NETTLES: We have stinging nettles on our property that my boyfriend does a great job cutting back. It’s unlikely that Blue came into contact with them, but you never know. Could this be the cause of the scratching? I don’t think so. I learned that stinging nettles are actually poisonous to dogs and not just through ingestion. If he had come in contact with the nettles, he would have exhibited different symptoms and required an immediate vet appointment.

DO YOU WANT TO GO OUTSIDE: Throughout the day of investigating the cause of Blue’s obsessive scratching, we noticed that he became crazy excited by the prospect of going outside. We finally stood watching him run around the yard like a nut job and pieced it together.

The day following, my boyfriend let the dogs laze around the house all day long. 8+ hours of sleeping on the sofa, chair, and floor for all three of the dogs, because it was raining squirrels and rabbits outside (fall in the Pacific Northwest). When was their last walk?

We harnessed up the dogs and Blue got his walk on. When they came back home, Blue fell into an exhausted sleep and the scratching was a thing of the past. “This is going to be a long winter,” my boyfriend said as he rubbed Blue’s belly.

And wrapping it up…

When our dogs get sick, we run through the gauntlet of what could be wrong; working together to recall their activities over the past 24-48 hours while I reach for my smart phone. We don’t want to spend the money on a weekend trip to the emergency vet only to have them tell us that they don’t know either. We learned early on that although veterinarians know their stuff, they don’t know how to read a dog’s mind any more than we do. Since we live with our dogs, we can…

  • Quickly identify abnormal behavior and
  • Quickly identify what may have changed to cause the behavior.

Before we panic and call the emergency vet, we try and figure out what’s going on so that if we have to go, we can at least say a little more than “the puppy’s sick” when we get there.

Author Bio: Kimberly Gauthier is the founder and Editor in Chief of Keep the Tail Wagging, an online magazine for dog lovers that shares tips on dog training, dog behavior, dog nutrition, dog health, dog safety, and new pet products. Kimberly lives in Marysville, Washington with her boyfriend, their three Cattle Dog mix rescues and two very tolerant cats and also writes for Girl Power Hour as The Fur Mom (Twitter: @TheFurMom).

5 thoughts on “Is the Puppy Sick or is He Bored? Questions from @TheFurMom

  1. Hi.

    Very cute pup. 

    Briefly, in my 22 yrs as a clinician I’ve never seen a pup scratch out of boredom. I have seen bored frustrated dogs lick their carpi ( wrists) and ankles ( lateral tibio-tarsal joints) until they developed lick sores ( acral lick granulomas).  But I’ve yet to run into a pup who scratches from boredom.

    Although Google is a great resource it is not a replacement for professional veterinary advice.

    I am not sure what is causing the itching, but I am not so sure that you have gotten to the root of the problem yet.
    Consider consulting with your pup’s vet.
    Best wishes with the pup.

    • Thanks for weighing in doctor.  We did consult with our veterinarian and since he never had a repeat of the day of itching she agreed that he could have just been bored and asked us to call her if we witnessed the behavior again.

      I agree that dog owners shouldn’t use Google to diagnose their dogs.  I simply wanted to share my experience, because I thought it was interesting that one of our dogs displays (of course, this is just a guess) boredom through this behavior.

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

  2. I discovered my Wheaten Terrier was allergic to wheat. Now he eats a high protein diet and is doing great. I only discovered this was his problem because my vet talked to me about it . He told me we could go the expensive route and do allergy testing, or we could see if wheat was the problem by changing Farley’s diet for 2 months. He mentioned it’s a common problem for Wheaten’s. This worked for us, didn’t cost a lot, and Farley hasn’t had a problem since.

    I do believe lots of exercise keeps the dog happy and keeps him from getting bored. They can be demanding little creatures :)

    • Hi Kristina – I recently learned that an allergy test can run almost $700 per dog.  I was blown away by that amount.  Our other dog, Rodrigo, was licking his paws a lot and we were told it was because he had a grass allergy, but when I started thinking about it (thanks to another blogger who encouraged me to start taking notes on when he licked his paws) the grass allergy just didn’t make sense.

      We removed chicken from his diet and the licking decreased significantly.  Now we make sure to dry his paws after he’s been out (we live in the Pacific Northwest, rainy weather) and this helps too.

      Sometimes I wish they could just TELL us what’s going on.  LOL

  3. I know the feeling of wishing they could tell us what is ailing them or if they are just bored. Lacey occasionally gets random allergic reactions and we have to give her Benadryl. I recommend giving dye free children s and consulting the vet on the amount; we do use the 1mg /lb like you mentioned.

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