Q: My six-year-old Shih Tzu cross has been experiencing serious skin problems for the past nine months. We have visited several vets but his condition has yet to improve. While he does not lick or scratch when he is out on walks, he does so relentlessly at home. Could his condition be due to boredom or is it medically related?

A: It sure sounds like your poor Shih Tzu cross is not comfortable at all. In fact, your dog may be suffering from one or more of the following conditions:

  • Skin inflammation that results in intense redness and swelling.
  • Bacterial dermatitis, where the skin suffers from bacterial invasion to the skin layers. The condition leads to itchiness, formation of pimples, fur loss, redness and swelling of the skin.
  • Fungal dermatitis, which is a skin condition that is relatively common in Shih Tzus. In most cases, the dogs will experience itchiness and redness. This is often accompanied with a bad skin odour.

Though some canines might chew and bite themselves out of boredom, it is unlikely to be the sole cause of the skin problem your dog is experiencing. I suggest that you keep a record of the types of food and treats that are given to him. Keep an eye out for any reactions or aggravation of his current condition that he may experience after eating certain foods. Also, be mindful that allergens do not only come from treats and meals, they can also be found in a variety of sources such as contact  surfaces, with some being airborne. Likewise, some canines may be allergic to dust, floor detergent, towels or even grass. Hence, it is important for you to monitor the places where your furkid likes to lay down, such as the toilet, kitchen floor or underneath the bed. These locations are usually moist, dark and poorly ventilated, and are susceptible to the breeding of bacterial and fungal infections that will contribute to his itchy condition.

There are blood tests and food elimination trials that can be done to determine the source of his allergies. However, that does not mean that his reaction to the irritants can be cured entirely. You will need time, patience and discipline to isolate and avoid them to prevent his skin condition from flaring up again. Should you still suspect that it is due to boredom, you can bring him down for walks regularly, have more play time with him and ensure that he has sufficient mental stimulation.