Redness, skin irritation and itching are very common symptoms of allergies in dogs. Since the symptoms come and go and improve with the cortisone cream, she most likely has allergies to environmental factors such as pollen, grass, and dust. Dogs not only inhale these allergens, but they absorb them through the skin, and so the thinly haired skin of the groin and armpits is often where symptoms occur first (the thinner hair and the increased contact with the ground increase exposure to environmental allergens). Food allergy can also cause itchy skin, but symptoms are constant and usually don't improve with cortisone. Additionally, skin infections with bacterial and yeast organisms can also cause a red rash on the groin and armpits, but usually do not improve with cortisone. Contact allergy to things such as carpet shampoos and powders and to wool carpeting occurs occasionally, but less commonly than pollen/grass allergies. Options for treatment of mild environmental allergies include medications such as occasional cortisone cream (not more often than twice weekly for chronic use due to side effect such as thinning of the skin), antihistamines and daily essential fatty acid supplementation for itch, weekly mild oatmeal shampoos, and daily wipedowns with a cool wet washcloth to reduce allergens on her skin/coat. Oral steroids are reserved for severe itch due to their side effect. If her symptoms worsen/if the milder therapies stop working, then consider allergy skin testing/desensitization injections to identify and treat the cause of her itch, rather than just treating symptoms with medications.
Hope that helps,
Kimberly Coyner DVM
Diplomate American College of Veterinary Dermatology
Thank you Dr. Coyner:
I think you are exactly right. This dog spends some time outside in a dirt environment and sometime sitting in a horse stall with wood shavings. So I think your quick assessment is right on. thank you.
While we have been using the cream, we'll pay more attention to keeping the skin clean, baths and perhaps the fatty acids. Interestingly I have another dog that plays with her and lays in the stall with her that shows the same symptoms - but not as bad.
I think we have a good plan for helping this now.
thanks so much!!!