Bichon Keeps Scratching Neck… Is It Physical Or Behavioral?

Dear Adam:

I have appreciated your advice in both your book and your tapes.

My male Bichon is a very good dog, gentle yet playful, minds well, and treats me as the pack leader. He comes when I call, goes in his crate at night with only one “kennel up” command and is a general all around good dog.

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One problem that I have been unable to break him of is scratching his neck area to the point that it bleeds. He knows that he shouldn’t do this and quits immediately when I say something to him. I have taken him to the vet on three separate occasions.

He has received an antihistamine shot, been treated with Cortaid and anti-itch spray, had flee treatment, bathed with hypo allergenic shampoo and conditioner, been given a special diet, and none of this made any difference. The last visit to the vet he prescribed a mild tranquilizer coupled with hormone treatment. He quit scratching almost immediately but he was somewhat lethargic. I cut out the hormone treatment and cut his tranquilizer in half, under advisement of the vet. He now scratches only moderately but I am hesitant to increase his tranquilizer dosage back up to where it was. Also, I don’t see any end to this form of treatment. As a trainer I wondered if you had ever encountered this before and whether you had any recommendations I might try other than the tranquilizer. In my opinion this just masks the problem and does not fix it. I would appreciate any suggestions you might have.

Sincerely,
Gordon

Gordon,

No, this is most likely a physical problem… not a behavioral one.

You might try finding another vet. to get a second opinion and see another approach to it. My question would be: Why is he scratching? It’s not the collar, is it?

[Gordon replies:] Since he started scratching (about 3 months ago) he has not worn a collar. One vet shaved his neck area and it shows no sign of any irritation. I believe it to be something psychological and the vet (I have seen two) tends to agree with me; ergo, the tranquilizer. In any event I do appreciate you responding.

[Adam:] You might look into anti-anxiety drugs, if you feel this is the case. Have your veterinarian call around and find out. Prozac-type drugs will probably work better than just tranquilizing the dog.

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