My Itchy Skin Recovery Story

A Westie's Itchy Skin Recovery Story | Vanillapup

I’ve been battling with itchy skin for close to three years. Mama tried almost everything from steroids to holistic remedies, but it wasn’t until…

It’s no secret that I’ve been battling with itchy skin for close to three years.

Mama has tried almost everything during this time – steroids; antibiotics; antihistamines; medicated shampoo; non-medicated shampoo; anti-itch sprays; different diets (kibbles to home-cooked meals to home-prepared raw to commercial raw); vinegar, providone iodine and salt soaks; allergy tests; and a variety of supplements.

Did any of them help? To be honest, we can’t be sure. All we know is, none of them came close to healing my itchy skin. It may be an issue with how we did it or for how long. I guess we will never know.

Wagging Rights Playground | Vanillapup

This post is a personal one. We have never really shared the pain, the struggles and the frustration of this whole journey. Each new treatment approach brought new hope, but as we grew to learn, hope is fragile and it’s prone to running out.

We hope this post can lend support to dog owners who are experiencing what we experienced. We don’t have a sure work solution and we don’t pretend that we do. But sharing our story may help provide some learning points and optimism.

How It Started

Latte bald spots | Vanillapup

My skin started itching shortly before I turned a year old. I began chewing lightly on my loin, causing it to bald slightly. It wasn’t obvious, and mama didn’t think much about it.

It went downhill suddenly

The itching only got significantly worse after mama sent me for a spa session. We don’t know whether it’s something at the spa that triggered it or it was just a coincidence. I started chewing at my skin a lot more and I had bigger and bigger bald spots.

Everything was okay and then it was not

The vet started by giving mama an atopic spray but it didn’t help that much. Soon, I was licking and chewing on my paws as well. As with most skin issues, the vet prescribed me with steroids and medicated shampoo, which actually worked the first time. I was okay for awhile but my condition relapsed.

This time, steroids, antihistamines, antibiotics, and different medicated shampoos didn’t work for me. Which was why mama decided to bring me for an allergy test. As it’s not invasive, she opted for the bioresonance allergy test, which she later learnt to be controversial.

Maybe it’s first-timer luck, after eliminating allergens based on the test, I stopped itching almost immediately. I was okay for about one to two months before it all came back. Mama sent me for two more tests but they didn’t work anymore.

Changing Diet

Home-cooked Food for Dogs | Vanillapup

The last allergy test results showed that I was allergic to so many things it was hard to find food that I could actually eat. Hence, the clinic recommended mama to cook for me instead.

To be honest, even though switching kibbles for homemade meals improved my coat, we believe that what the vet recommended us to feed (minced beef, carrots, and peas) actually made my condition worse. It was also a recipe that was casually shared with us, with little care for my nutrition.

One size fits all treatment

During that period, mama also consulted different vets who only had the same three treatment options – steroids, allergy tests, and immunotherapy. No one really knew what else to do with me.

With a reputable vet’s advice, I went back on a daily kitten dose of steroids but it didn’t help. On my second visit, he recommended increasing the dose, which mama reluctantly agreed. It didn’t do anything for me either.

Desperate and finding another way out

That was when mama decided that she couldn’t let me go on with this treatment. There must be another way.

By this time, I was already itching out of control. I was chewing my paws till they bled, and scratching non-stop. I was bleeding and raw at so many places from all the chewing, scratching and licking. Mama put me on the cone 24/7 and the moment she took it off, I went straight for my paws like I was born to chew them off.

Even though I had my cone on every night when I slept, I was often still scratching relentlessly in the middle of the night. My ears were also a mess. They were stuffed with yeast and wearing the cone, which squashed them down, made them worse. I would try to scratch my ears with my hind legs with the cone in between, causing so much clamour, the humans could hardly get any sleep.

Holistic treatment

Dog Protective Collars Review - E-collar

It may be fated that just when mama was so desperate to find someone to help me that we met the kind people at Howlistic Life.

Their consultant, Terry said I was suffering from yeast overgrowth and helped make me better through holistic remedies. It was a slow and honestly tedious process.

Mama had to be strict with my food and treats, I wasn’t allowed to go out until I got better (inviting us some judgemental looks and comments from people), and she had to follow the holistic treatments religiously. You see, yeast overgrowth is caused by suppressed immunity, and will worsen thanks to food and environmental factors.

Terry’s treatment gave me the opportunity to get better and offered the humans some hope and space to breathe.

After 8 months, my ears were cleared of yeast and I was on a steady road to recovery until the haze came back and I stopped getting better. In fact, I was getting worse, fast. Mama and papa then decided that we needed to try something else.

At this point, I have to say that there are many people out there who do not believe in holistic treatments, and even mama had her doubts, However, we can’t deny that it did help me at one point of my life and many other dogs to recover fully too. For that, we are eternally grateful to Howlistic Life and Terry.

Dark times

Latte's Itchy Skin Issues | Vanillapup

The haze really almost killed me. I was itching worse than I ever had before.

Mama tried holistic remedies and various supplements that she read on healthypet.mercola.com but none of them did anything for me.

I was on the cone 24/7 again and mama had to wrap and bandage me up so I wouldn’t be able to destroy myself. I was using my hind legs to scratch my front legs till they bled. Once, blood dripped from my skin thanks to my relentless scratching. I was red and swollen all over. My paws were red, raw and swelling like a balloon.

I even stopped playing. Nothing made me happy. I felt horrible. It was really the lowest point of my life. Mama felt like crying seeing me like this.

She even considered cancelling her New Zealand family holiday so she could watch me like a hawk. She was desperate, helpless, and honestly a little depressed.

Many times she asked herself whether she should just give me all the steroids I needed to let me have a normal life, even though it might damage me in another way.

She also questioned if she was a good mama and whether I would be a healthy dog if someone else got me instead. This made me very sad. I didn’t want to make her upset, but every time the itch came, I just couldn’t resist chewing and scratching myself. Maybe, I was a bad dog.

Back to the vet

As the last straw of hope, she was going to book an appointment with a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) vet but instead, we got referred to Dr. Gino from The Animal Infirmary by a few other dog owners who faced a similar predicament as us. Apparently, he didn’t prescribe steroids like the other vets did. There was a new medication out there, and it could potentially save me.

After some discussion, mama and papa decided to give him a try and off to Dr. Gino I went. Dr. Gino was not really like the vets I saw. He encourages a raw diet and believes that a lot of things offered in the industry are rubbish.

Atopic Dermatitis

He diagnosed me with Atopic Dermatitis (chronic itching caused by environmental allergies). No surprise that I was tested for yeast and fungal too. He prescribed me with Apoquel (anti-inch), Fluconazole (antifungal), and Baytril (antibiotics).

Oh boy, did Apoquel save my life! Mama wasn’t sure about it at first because it came with its own set of controversies online. But she really couldn’t care much about them because I actually got better really quickly.

She went on her holiday knowing that I was going to be okay. For once since I started on this rollercoaster journey she could say that I was going to be okay.

Demodectic mange

During my follow-up visit, Dr. Gino also gave me a liquid medication for demodectic mange (tiny mites burrowed under the skin), which he suspected I had because I was still specifically chewing on my thighs, forearms, and scratching my muzzle with my hind legs.

Mites live naturally in dogs but can cause problems if the dog has a compromised immune system.

Mange may be hard to detect through a skin scraping and microscopic examination, especially if they are localised (confined to small spots of the body), which is what it was in my case.

A normal and happy life

Latte exploring on grass | Vanillapup

From Apoquel twice a day to Apoquel twice a week, I am off the cone, eating things I couldn’t and going out on an adventure every day. I am a normal dog again.

I still itch a little and I do get rashes but they are now super manageable. I don’t know if I can ever be off medication but how I am right now is good enough for all of us.

What We’ve Learned

Latte the Vanillapup at the Park

We’ve learnt a lot through this journey of pain, struggle, and helplessness. But at the end of it all, we found hope, love, and happiness.

Here are some things that we picked up along the way.

1. There will be bad days and there will be good ones too

Some days you will feel like your dog will never get better, but some days she does get better and you have a renewed sense of hope again. Never lose that hope and never give up trying.

We have gone through so much for the past three years and we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t ever give up. You never know when you will finally meet someone who has the solution you need.

2. Unfortunately, we are the rule, not the exception

So many times we heard things like, “My dog used this shampoo/soak/supplement and he stopped itching in a few days.” We would try each of them with new hope.

Unfortunately, those are the exception, and we are the rule.

None of those “quick fixes” worked for us. They only led to wasted time and money, and a whole lot of disappointment. If you don’t find the root of the problem, you can never solve it.

Superlatte Running | Vanillapup

3. Everyone has their point of view and some may even judge you. But what’s important is that you have tried your best to make the best decisions

We met some people who were quick to fault mama for her decisions for me.

Everyone thinks they know better. Everyone thinks what they sell is your miracle. And everyone has their own version of “common sense”.

What worked for other people’s dogs may not work for yours. Don’t ever let anyone have the power to put you down. At the end of the day, they didn’t go through what you went through. You don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology.

Take the approach that makes the most sense to you and that you are the most comfortable with.

Also remember, just because you agree with one thing that someone said, doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything else they say.

4. You are not alone but the battle is your own

There are many dogs who suffer from skin problems. I am definitely not alone but sometimes it feels that way. Watching other dogs get better while you are still stuck in an itchy mess can be frustrating.

All I can say is take as much advice as you can from other dog owners, research well, and seek help from professionals. Once again, never give up!

When you come out of the battle winning, don’t forget to lend a helping hand to others who are still fighting their own battles!

Update as of Aug 2017

Latte is still on Apoquel once to twice a week. Now that we have her condition under control, we are just doing long-term management with Traditional Chinese Medicine supplements and hormone support from Dr. Lee at Gentle Oak Veterinary Clinic.

See more from Vanillapup on Facebook and Instagram.

Vanillapup on EmailVanillapup on FacebookVanillapup on InstagramVanillapup on PinterestVanillapup on Twitter
Latte is the happy Westie behind Vanillapup, a website for dog lovers. Discover latest products and services, dog-friendly hangouts, helpful tips and advice, and exclusive perks.


  1. Selena Ho

    May 7, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    Hi! I suspect my schnauzer has demodectic mange as well. Can I just ask if the Dr Gino you mentioned is Dr. Gianuario Marotta and what was the estimated bill size for your pup for the treatment of the mange? Would really appreciate if you could advise. Thanks very much in advance!

    • Vanillapup

      May 7, 2017 at 11:23 pm

      Hi Selena, yes Dr. Gianuario Marotta is correct. For Demodex, he uses traditional methods. Our first visit cost about $300 including test and medication. For oral medication (Ivermectin), it’s not expensive but there are side effects. There’s also Doramectin injection and it is about $36 for a 7kg dog every week but that wasn’t effective for us. Hence, we went to Dr. Lee from Gentle Oak for holistic treatment. But we just started recently so no review on that yet. Hope this helps and your dog recovers soon!

  2. hannah

    March 21, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    My Shihtzu mix breed has been on Apoquel 5.4mg since last Nov 2016. I am actually glad by now bc my darling boy’s itch is 90% reduced. I stick to 1 protein now, with a mix of dog vegetarian kibble, and some broccoli or carrots. He’s now on Apoquel every 3 days. The only time he scratches is in the aircon bedroom. I had thought it was not enough moisture due to the dry cool air, so I bought a humidifier. Alas, when I visited the clinic today, Prem (the clinic assistant present that day) clarified that it was prob a de-humidifier that I needed! She was thorough, to say the least, in explaining how I can also space out the time of his bath, using the treatment shampoo Veta-Zole, every 2 weeks, going back to his usual Aloveen Oatmeal Shampoo in betw. Dr Gino is certainly a vet who practises ethics in the treatment of his patients!

    • Vanillapup

      March 21, 2017 at 11:37 pm

      Hi Hannah, thanks for sharing your experience 🙂 Glad your dog’s skin is well-managed! The de-humidifier is an interesting discovery. We would have thought an aircon room would be too dry. Haha.

  3. Serina

    December 19, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Thanks for your sharing. Latte shares the same skin condition as my girl. We have been searching for the right vet and we too are under the care of Dr. Gino and so far she has been doing well. She is taking the same medicine as you shared.

    I have tried feeding my girl with raw commercial food but I realise her weight starts dropping and she was skinny. And if I feed too much she will vomit out her food.

    I have seen that Latte is eating Primal raw food. Beside this brand, what other brands are you feeding?

    I’m so glad that I read your posting.

    • Vanillapup

      December 20, 2016 at 2:00 pm

      Hi Serina, thanks for your comment and the chat on Facebook! Hope your girl’s weight can be under control soon 🙂 Do keep us updated!

  4. Susan Acevedo

    December 9, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for your story. We are going through the on again/off again itching. The only thing that helps so far is the steroids and I hate to use them all the time. I’m going to ask my Vet for this trio of meds that your Vet recommended. I’m so tired of trying everything and nothing working. Thanks again.

    • Vanillapup

      December 12, 2016 at 10:12 am

      Hi Susan, thanks for reading our story. The most important thing is to get your dog correctly diagnosed. Do try a good quality fish oil like Nordic Naturals to build his/her immunity in the meantime. Hope your dog recovers soon 🙂

  5. Hajar

    November 8, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Hi! Just wanted to say thank you for this post! My frenchie,Hamlet has been battling itchy angsty skin for the past two years ever since we brought her home. Just like latte,when we thougjt we have conquered it,it came back even worst after the haze and the seven month burning. It is true,everyone is so quick to judge and inevitably making us feel like we are terrible owners when only god knows we have tried everything. The amount of money spent at every recommendation of shampoos,creams,balm only to have to throw or give them away.
    We dont know how many rounds of steroids we have went through over the course of two years. We have started raw recently but if there’s no improvement, prolly Dr Gino will have the answer.

    The family appreciates your honest post.
    Hopefully,our fur babies will feel better soon.


    • Vanillapup

      November 8, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      Hi Hajar, thanks so much for sharing your story! I truly hope that Hamlet feels better soon. I can totally understand how you are feeling now. Skin allergies require long-term management but most important is that their quality of life is not compromised.

  6. toby

    November 6, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    I was so sick of itchy skin that I would try anything but I now use the Aloe & Jojoba Therapy from Made From Earth. It has calmed my itchy skin it has a nice smell not over powering.

    • Vanillapup

      November 6, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation, Toby! Sounds nice and moisturising, will go check it out 🙂

  7. Jenny

    October 22, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. Our beloved Westie has environmental allergies as well. In August, he always starts itching. However, this year the allergy was much worse. He started taking Apoquel(after a round of steroids) and it’s helping him. He still has to wear his cone (we bought a fabric cone since we used it so much) but he seems a lot more comfortable. We live in Chicago. So, we hope the itching stops in the winter time. It is surprising how many dogs that live by us have allergies. It is normal to question yourself, but it’s true that you know your dog best and will always make the best decision for your dog.

    • Vanillapup

      October 26, 2016 at 1:54 am

      Hi Jenny! Thanks for sharing your Westie’s story. I hope he won’t need the cone soon. Latte gets worse during the August/September period. Not sure why since it’s summer all year round over here. Environmental allergy is often a lifelong problem but as long as our dogs’ quality of life isn’t significantly compromised, they can still be happy dogs!

  8. M

    October 22, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Does apoquel help with the yeast infection in the ears too? or mainly the skin itchiness only?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Vanillapup

      October 26, 2016 at 1:49 am

      Yeast in the ears is probably a secondary infection and will likely require a separate treatment. Apoquel mainly helps reduce the itching symptom while treating the root problem.

  9. Bev

    September 26, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    Good story – thanks for the information. We own a Westie called Ziggy and a few non vet related solutions worked for us – for a similar problem. Diet – fish and grated carrot, also a raw egg once a day. Washing – Johnson’s Baby wash (cheap and Super Low irritant).

    • Vanillapup

      September 26, 2016 at 11:26 pm

      Hi Bev and Ziggy! So glad those solutions worked out for you. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Jess

    September 20, 2016 at 9:17 am

    You’ve found yourself a very good vet! You’re one awesome mama to persevere and tackle the issue. When he’s better you may want to explore natural remedy like essential oils. I personally use them on my dog and it works like a charm. I have been using steroids cream in myself for years due to eczema and i know the side effects. Not wanting the same for my dog I tried essential oils on him and it works. 🙂

    • Vanillapup

      September 21, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Hi Jess, thank you for the kind words 🙂 I am a fan of essential oils too! But I largely use them in my DIY flea/tick repellent spray and in a diffuser for the aroma. What are you using currently?

  11. Shona

    September 18, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    My 10 year old Shih Tzu has the same issues and I have put her through what you went through. Tearing my hair out as to what to do. Her vet did recommend Apoquel but I didn’t go ahead with it as I read bad reviews about it. She went through immunotherapy which brought devastating results and made her skin flare so bad. She recently had a steroid jab as I was desperate to get her skin under control and she was losing weight but it didn’t help at all. Like your mama and papa I tried healthypet/mercola and Dr Karen Becker’s recommendation, elimination diet, fungal meds, thyroid meds, etc. After a blood test shows up a list of environment allergies but how can I don’t bring her out for walks or at all?! She eats well but losing weight even though I increase her feed. Your post brings me new home of finding a solution for my forever itchy baby. Thanks!

    • Vanillapup

      September 19, 2016 at 1:27 pm

      Hi Shona! I feel your pain. Glad the post helped in some way 🙂 I have read about Apoquel even before visiting Dr Gino and in my opinion, it should be safe to use it for the short term. And at the end of the day, if she can have a good quality of life right now in exchange for the risks involved for the future, it’s worth it. It’s still important to build up their immunity in the meantime so they can fight these allergies on their own in the long term.

      Wishing your dog speedy recovery!

  12. Barbara Maher-Erwin

    September 16, 2016 at 3:40 am

    I can really empathize, because this is such a common story among Westies! My Westie, Harriet, started itching the same way at a year old and we were advised to put her on steroids. Not knowing any better at the time, we took the vet’s advice. They didn’t really help a lot but we were worried that she’d be even worse without them. She was on steroids for about five years when she became diabetic and could no longer take them. I was really worried about how bad her itching would be after coming off the steroids, but there was really no difference. At the same time, I switched her to a grain-free diet. It took about a year, but her itching improved dramatically. I’m not saying that it’s for everyone, but it certainly helped us. Harriet passed away last September at 14 but when I get another Westie (and I will), I will keep your story handy in case I face the same issues again. Thank you!

    • Vanillapup

      September 16, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks, Barbara for sharing Harriet’s (really nice name btw) story! Sorry for your loss, but I’m sure she led an amazing and meaningful life with you. That’s the most important thing. We would be so excited for you when you are ready for your next one. Take care!

  13. Carrie Goeringer

    September 11, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    I have an 11 yr old Westie , McDuffy, and we have a great allergy vet, Dr. James Jeffers in Gaithersburg MD. We have done a combination of allergy shots for life, allergy free food, shampoos, and no steriods as recommended by Dr. Jeffers. We still live with this problem but we have overcome it. Baths with chlorhexidine shampoo and frequent water rinses to keep the allergens off have been great.

    • Vanillapup

      September 11, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Carrie! Great to hear that McDuffy’s condition is under control. I heard that chlorhexidine shampoo is very effective for yeast 🙂

  14. Clive

    September 10, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Hi, can you please share with me Dr Gino contact. I am hoping Dr Gino can help my boy too.

    • Vanillapup

      September 10, 2016 at 10:18 pm

      Hi Clive! As replied on Facebook, he’s from The Animal Infirmary at Thomson Road 🙂

  15. Lydia

    September 10, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks for this article. It came at the right time when we much needed it as our dog is facing the same problem & it saddens me that he can’t get much sleep & even our sleep is affected by his condition too. We will try Dr Gino as we have tried steroids, etc. before & it didn’t seem to work anymore. I just want our dog to have good sleep & live a longer life…????

    • Vanillapup

      September 10, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      Hi Lydia! Glad the post helped 🙂 I can totally understand what you are going through now. Hope Dr. Gino is able to help your dog, and may he recover soon!

  16. Zhengyuan

    September 10, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Our beloved Ozzy is exactly the same.. And we went through all the earlier stuff you went through as well and is now seeing Dr Gino and he is very much better already.. Ozzy is still on medication now and we really hope he can fully recover in no time.. We kinda blame ourselves for not finding the real cause (mange) and were kinda searching around for answers and that may have made the mange grew..

    • Vanillapup

      September 10, 2016 at 6:08 pm

      Hi Zhenyuan, thanks for sharing this with us. Good that you found Dr. Gino! We wouldn’t have been able to know what the real cause is, even though after knowing it seems so obvious. So don’t blame yourself. We need someone to point us in the right direction sometimes. Hope Ozzy will recover fully soon 🙂

  17. weliveinaflat

    September 10, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    I’m glad you eventually figured it out so that Latte has many more years of great quality of life ahead. 🙂

    Vets have been saying that flea bites and environmental allergy are more common than food allergy in dogs. Food allergies account for only 10‐15% of all the allergies seen in dogs.

    Unfortunately, people always seem quick to blame the food, and certain unproven allergy tests (sometimes given out for free or at discount) reinforce that. I’m glad you are setting the record straight.


We love to hear from our readers. Please leave a comment below :)

To Top