Maddie Licks Her Vulva and Scratches Way Too Much

by tessa


As if one dog in the house was not enough fun, recently we added a second.

Meet Maddie.

As a rescue from the Orange County Animal Shelter (aka Death Row), she was in beat up condition when I rescued her. Not that she was injured per se – she had just had a rough life to that point.

Since she was a rescue of course there is no way to plan for any of the health concerns that might be plaguing her. After all the shelter simply guesses her age, does a cursory health examine and then either adopts her out or kills her.

For the first 3 months of her time in our house Maddie was as normal as most rescue dogs could hope to be.

Tired, scared and simply getting used to her new surroundings.

At about that three month mark she began to get skin rashes.

And then she began to scratch.

And then she began to lick her vulva.

Multiple trips to the vet have yielded the following insights:

1. Through a couple of courses of antibiotics the rash has gone away – and mostly stayed away. As a result it does not appear that her scratching was being caused by a single incident skin ailment, such as a run in with a pack of hungry fleas or contact with a plant like poison oak.

2. After an unsuccessful course of steroids I determined that a bitchy, thirsty, constantly peeing dog (who was still learning house training) was not the right solution.

3. The food she is eating is top of the line. She and her partner in crime, Oliver, only eat Evo or Merrick. Recently they have also added Homemade Doggy Dinners to the mix. This recent addition has had no effect either way regarding her scratching and licking.

4. She gets shampooed once per week with either earthbath Tea Tree Oil & Aloe Vera or earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe. These baths seem to calm down the scratching and licking for a day or two but not more.

5. She is on a 25mg dose of Benadryl per day. Maddie is a, how do I say it, nasally dog. She sounds like she needs to clear her throat and cough up a phlegm ball. It seems that this treatment is helping – if only on the margins.

Our most recent trip to the vet ended with her suggesting that Maddie had allergies of varying varieties. And, like humans, those allergies can manifest themselves in a host of ways.

Scratchy throat, watery eyes, runny nose, skin itches, ear itches and eye itches can all be signs of allergies in people.

All of these and itchy vulva, ear irritation, skin irritation and more are signs of allergies in dogs.

The worst part about her scratching and licking, for both of us, is the fact that for some reason it is worse at night and Maddie sleeps on our bed. That means that at least once per night I wake up to the sound of a dog aggressively licking her vulva and scratching herself. Needless to say it irritates me and it is making her miserable to.

Hopefully we’ll get to the bottom of her skin allergy issues soon. I need the sleep and I’m not sure her poor vulva can take anymore of the licking!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin May 21, 2010 at 11:45 PM

This is so my dog right now! Annabelle is a 6 yr old shih tzu, and we’ve had her since she was a puppy. Has all these same issues and we are always in and out of the vet. My next appointment is Tuesday and I have a list of questions. I feel like they are not doing anything and are just taking our money and saying take benedryl, call us in a week. What if she has cancer? Or some horrible disease and she is suffering and it is not just allergies? I feel like they just say allergies for everything. While I do believe it is allergy related it could have to do with a bad immune system and that worries me. I know this is an older post, but I hope you still have your dog and have given her a good home! I can tell she deserves it.

Rob May 22, 2010 at 7:39 AM

We do indeed still have Maddie and her allergies are much better since she started on Atopica. It is by no means a cheap medication but the manufacturer recently lowered the price and Maddie has been on it for 30 days. Have not had time to write a post about it but I will. Ask your vet for more info. If they don’t know about it find a vet that does.

Nancy Wenrich August 17, 2010 at 11:15 AM

What is Atopica? We have the same vulva-licking problem with our almost 4-year old beagle. Same answers from the vet and nothing really works. She has no ear problems, in fact for a beagle, her ears are perfect. The area she licks is getting so swollen and ugly-looking, and she does this mostly at night when we go to bed, buit she also does it during the day. I just don’t know what to do.

Rob August 17, 2010 at 12:23 PM

@Nancy – in case you did not see it read this post re Atopica:

Anna February 18, 2011 at 9:45 PM

My dog eats, then I see his head inch out forward and his eyes do something while his throat sounds scratchy or like consonant gulps. It’s not really a gulp, because like a hiccup in us, it’s just throat sounds with nothing coming up and the mouth is shut there. Then he licks around a few times, rubs himself, and soon after, it’s over.

Sharon August 18, 2011 at 5:00 PM

This is not a cure, but a solution until you can find out what is going on with your dog licking its vulva. Put a doggie diaper on at night or when you will not be able to watch over her. Also after every void, clean the area very well and blow dry. This will help tremendously!!! Don’t use shampoo with oatmeal. Some dogs are allergic to grains and the oatmeal will go thru the skin into the bloodstream and cause itching. Any anti-fungal shampoo is good..i.e. with tea tree oil or sulfur. For licking feet make disinfecting foot soaks of 1 T. white vinegar, 1 T. 3% hydrogen peroxide then add water to make one cup. …may be doubled or tripled to accomodate large dogs. You can fill a sweater box with the correct ratio as well so the dog can stand in the solution with all fours. Towel dry and then blow dry completely. Also ‘like’ Dr Karen Becker on facebook…she is a holistic vet and she had helped me. She shares videos @…click on pets and then videos.

Maria September 10, 2011 at 6:16 AM

Have you thyroid tested? Thyroid causes all of the symptoms you have described and is easily controlled with meds.

Cece May 10, 2016 at 10:16 PM

Buy Diatomaceous Earth from Earthworks Health from Amazon.. The best thing I’ve ever given my doggies for their allergies. A TBLS put into their drinking bowl n sprinkled n mixed into their food.. I also drink a TBLS mixed in water myself..wonderful stuff..please try it..n b amazed..?

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