Constant Biting and Scratching

Itching is no fun!

Itching is no fun!


Emma is a rescue Shih Tzu who is around 5 years old...she is a good dog and will eat just about any food I give her. I have been feeding her Blue Buffalo Freedom dry and canned food.

Just before Thanksgiving she started scratching and biting herself and it hasn't stopped since. I have asked the vet and he said she probably has allergies but I can't imagine it is the food because she has been fine with it for months. Could it possibly be a flea allergy?

I just want to know before I invest in changing her food or resorting to purchasing supplements. I have heard that Dinovite is good but hate to get it if that isn't the problem.

My vet didn't seem concerned but it is driving me crazy and I know she isn't comfortable with all the itching.

Please help! Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Readers' Comments

Karen says:
Shihtzus notoriously have allergies, although she could very possibly have a flea allergy also. I am using Trifexis for flea & heartworm control & it seems to work quite well. One of my shihtzus has allergies but has resorted only to scratching occasionally. I highly doubt it is the food as blue buffalo is an excellent choice for them. I also bought a product called WHAM, which stops their itching instantly. It can only be purchased thru groomers, so you might give that a try. Hope this helps.

Cera says:
It's very well possible your shitzu has fleas or she is hot with all that fur. You may need to have her groomed, flea bath and a hair cut. I did that with my shitzu and she had fleas so I purchased Advantage from PetMeds (much cheaper than the vet or pet stores) applied the advantage on my shitzu and also all my other pets and my shitzu if fine now. But I would first take her to the groomers. Hope this helps.

Our Answer

Our reader Karen is absolutely right; Shih Tzus are prone to skin sensitivities and all kinds of allergies. It’s a positive sign that your vet didn’t see any problems that required further examination, because chronic itching can be symptoms of dermatitis or diseases of the endocrine disease. While it’s a relief to know Emma is healthy, that knowledge doesn’t relieve your poor baby’s itchy skin!

You did the best thing by taking your dog in for an examination. Now that you know she has a clean bill of health here are a few strategies for alleviating her discomfort:


It does seem unlikely that your choice of feed is the problem. Your brand is high-quality and grain-free. But what about snacks and treats? If your Shih Tzu’s developed a food allergy even a small amount of the wrong foods could start her scratching again.

Make sure everything in her diet is free of wheat, corn, cow’s milk and chemical preservatives. These are the ingredients that most commonly cause a problem. If Emma's diet is already free of these items then try eliminating soy, beef, pork, fish and eggs. For a healthy and inexpensive snack I suggest homemade chicken jerky. It’s simple to make, inexpensive and free of preservatives.

You might also try giving your pup an omega-3 supplement and/or a tablespoon or so of plain yogurt made from goat’s milk. The omega-3 will help with healthy skin and hair and the yogurt, which contains probiotics, will help boost her immune system to fight allergies.


Fleas, mites and other creepy crawlies can cause itching when they bite, itching if your dog is allergic and more itching if the original site of irritation becomes infected by continuous scratching. Look for signs of fleas around the top of the base of her tail; it’s a common site for finding fleas and flea dirt. Flea dirt looks like specks of black pepper and is actually flea excrement. Yuck.

It seems that a veterinary examination would have discovered any signs of ectoparasites, but even one flea can cause misery for a dog with flea allergies. Trifexis , the flea/heartworm medication is a great alternative for flea-sensitive dogs. It’s a pill so you never have to worry about giving your dog the right dose. Plus, it’s always possible that flea medications are yet another irritant on your pooch’s skin.


Regular brushing and grooming are always required with Shih Tzus, even if they’re kept in puppy cuts. In addition to professional grooming they also need to be brushed at home on an almost daily basis depending on the length of hair. Don’t forget to clean brushes and combs! If your pet does have fleas you could be reintroducing eggs and larva with a dirty brush.

A gentle oatmeal shampoo formulated for dogs with sensitive skin can be tremendously helpful, as can “hot spot” products for topical application.

Unfortunately you might never discover the cause of your little furbaby’s itching. If it worsens, affects her appetite or behavior or if she loses hair, make another appointment with your vet. Good luck to you both!

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