Allergies and Skin Problems

This is a compilation of thoughts on allergies in Boston Terriers from a number of resources and might well provide the basis for questions to your vet before, during and after treatment.   An engaged and knowledgeable “parent” is the best thing a Boston Terrier can hope for.




Just like in people Allergy testing will run up huge bills, don't do it right away.

Simple things, eliminate Beef, Corn. Try a Natural Balance food like duck/Potato, They also have some canned with salmon. (It takes 6-8 weeks for allergy food related "prompters" to clear out). The bags will say Allergy formula. They can't waffle on that, or it will never start to wane.

Does she have absolute flea control? It can be a combination. Also with no hair; I presume Demo, Sarcoptic has been precluded.

Dog needs to have immune system at top notch, Some Yogurt in its food daily may help as well as Petabs Vitamins, and Omega 3 oils, If they have to order those Valleyvet .com is a reliable source.  Some Olive oil to start is also good The "Immugen" from Holistic was given To Bon Ami during his treatment, along with the omega 3 fish oli capsules

I bathe with Rx Maleseeb Shampoo at least 2x a week, and the 50/50 white vinegar rinse (use an old Windex sprayer) may help and also reduce smell. Dog must be kenneled on COTTON or Flannel sheet- blankets and change at least 2x a week. May also want to use a coal tar shampoo (Nusal), or Sulfodene.

They can do a yeast and fungal scrape.   Fungus takes several weeks to incubate in the sample.

Ketoconazole is old and effective drug for yeast problems, needs to be given with food and after about 3-4 days may suppress appetite. Velveeta is very good to administer the pill with and the oily base will speed dissemination of the drug. A 200mg tab might be split, but I cannot prescribe. They don't want to administer a overly heavy dose.

Walmart is about the most reasonable place to purchase Nizoral shampoo which has 1% Ketoconazole, a Rx version at 2% is available, but I don't know the cost.

It may help with hair growth and can be mixed with the Maleseeb.

A yeast infection is very likely also, and all of the info will help.

Cephalexin is a good cheap antibiotic, but we don't want to have stay on it. if you have a Publix nearby they were (in Atlanta) giving free 14 days Rx's , make sure the vet writes the Rx as "Rover Harp" or whatever, so the meds do not go on the persons MIB report.

If those folks don't have a discount drug card, (as their regular heath insurance won't apply), I have a card (no cost) that if they need "human meds" that a vet prescribes, they can at least get a discount.

Prednisone should only be used to belay itching for no more than 2 weeks, some of these vets keep dogs on prednisone forever... we know that is very unhealthy



When dogs, in this case Bostons develop severe rashes and skin infection some thought has to be given as to the root cause.


  1. Fleas Allergy is one common thing—ONE flea will cause a severe reaction, especially when the dog is already red and itching.  The dog can have huge whelps all over from just one flea bite I give 1 whole “Chlorpheniramine” (Chlortabs®) tablet when itching is so bad the dog can’t seem to stop. 


  1. Summer heat is another.  Anytime the dog gets hot, they’ll start scratching—and usually won’t stop until you stop them.


Combine those with other causes such as grass, pollen, wheat, corn, and beef.

The yeast and fungus condition that can set in as a result is very itchy, red irritable, and can cause “Malassezia pachydermatis.”   The skin becomes thickened, scaly, and of course the dog stinks, along with its bedding. The appearance resembles elephant hide—usually has little hair because the hair can’t grow.  With my dog, the feet were so swollen they looked like one big blob, no distinguishable toes.  They itched and the dog chewed them until they bled.  

The symptoms can be mistaken for mange, and mange could accompany it as well as a stress induced condition.   To preclude mange, skin scrapes must be done in several areas, at least 4.  Otherwise, we’ll assume mange is not an issue in this discussion:  

In rescue we usually get dogs with conditions that should have been addressed much earlier by owners were but ignored, so the stages are likely advanced. The skin scrape should be done as soon as possible upon receiving the dog. While it may be a bit nasty; I suggest that the dog get no more than a clear water rinse & hand scrub before this is taken.  The vet has to devote more than a quick glance at the slides to determine the presence of a demo or Sarcoptic mite.

A skin and hair sample should also be taken so a culture can be observed, which may take several weeks to develop to see if the fungal infection is present.

A note here is obligatory; it is imperative to be dealing with a non-predatory vet in order to survive this first phase without paying the application fees for the kid’s college.   Allergy treatment in dogs as it is in humans can be very expensive.

So after the examination, and back home, it is time to give the dog an initial bath to clean him up. Depending on the condition of the skin the dog could be a little sensitive, but will probably enjoy the relief with a lukewarm bath. If nothing else; it removes a bit of the scale “dandruff” and tones down the smell a bit.

Do not use a cortisone shampoo the first time especially if waiting on the medication, use a chlorohexidine formula (if you have some), or a gentle dog shampoo, some folks also have used a dandruff shampoo and a Listerine rinse and allow to set 5-10 minutes. Mix a 50/50 solution of white vinegar in a spray bottle and apply (keep out of eyes) after the bath rinse before drying with a soft towel.  Keep the medicated shampoo on the dog for at least 6 minutes.  Do not use “oatmeal” or other “soothing” shampoos.  I found they made my dog itch worse and may actually act to a growing fungal problem.

Yogurt reminder: Do not use : "Lite or Light" yogart based products, they have artificial (dog deadly) sweeteners.

You will need a Rx for Maleseeb shampoo and start bathing every other day, after a couple weeks you may be able to do 2x a week, do the vinegar rinse (it changes the ph and retards the yeast, and helps smell.  

The most effective way to apply the shampoo is to thoroughly wet the dog. Home depot sells an extended shower hose to make the tub bathing easier.  This suggestion is the ONLY way to wash the dog and wash away filth effectively.   

Mix a 50/50 solution of Maleseeb shampoo in a plastic bottle that a vet might give you a sample in. The shampoo with not get as wasted and can be easily applied all over the dogs body.

Hand wash and keep shampoo in contact with dog except eyes for at least 5, as much as ten minutes. Rinse thoroughly and then apply the 50/ 50 or 40/60 vinegar, and towel dry.

Remember: oatmeal shampoo with a yeast infection may promote the condition, so in this case I’ve chosen to avoid it.

This is not a short term endeavor; we are looking at 3 months at least. Bedding is going to have to laundered no less than once per week.  My dog still needs a bath every 48 -60 hours or after 2 ½ days she starts scratching again and this is after a year of treatment.  She knows when it is time for a bath and doesn’t seem to mind it.  I know it makes her feel better and she does too.  

It is expensive to test for allergies, (talk to a human doctor familiar with allergies; one could spend thousands and not get a definitive answer).  My vet says testing for grass, pollen, etc. is ok, but it is a waste of money testing for food.  The best way is to start with potato based food and nothing else.  The worse thing we did while trying to get our dog better was give her treats. Pig ears sent her into a wild scratching frenzy and can also be dangerous to a healthy dog.  Milk Bone ® did the same.  The one treat we know doesn’t bother her is “Dingo® sticks” that are green—the red ones obviously have dye that bothers her.  This yeast infection seems to be part of the whole allergy deal.  We keep our dog away from most every type of meat but chicken and lamb, and venison is great.  She loves it.  Fish even seems to bother her.  IAMS® has a lamb and rice type “milk bone” that doesn’t bother her either.  

Go for the obvious get a dog food that has little or no wheat, no corn, and no beef.   Natural Balance Sweet potatoes & fish, or Duck and Potato, I think Nutro has one and there may be others.  Make sure no pork either.  I saw something on the internet at sell the type products we need for these yeasty, allergy prone dogs.  I haven’t tried it yet, but that’s my next bag of food.  

Get on one of those, no table food, no milk bone diet  etc, stick with it may take 6-8 weeks for the “toxins in the body to wear out and the new diet to start showing,” relief” but continuing with “normal” foods will untimely delay the progress. Some folks boil chicken and rice, But that diet may be lacking nutrients, so I would be feeding some Pet Tabs, which I try now in conjunction with the above. I have not experimented with the raw diet, and will leave that to someone familiar with those results.  My dog will eat mashed potatoes with butter mixed in, sweet potatoes, and even broccoli.  I also put a Vitamin E—punctured and squeezed on her food about 3x a week and Fish Oil caps done the same way about 2x a week. 


Assuming the vet is knowledgeable steroid (commonly prednisone) use needs to be at a minimum low dosage and only for perhaps five days to provide some initial itch relief.  

A prolonged use and heavy dosage of prednisone will promote many undesired effects and can produce Cushings disease; another common mistake is a long enduring Rx for antibiotics.  

While it is an older medicine ketikonizale in conservative dosage, given with something oily like Velveeta and some food 1x per day, followed by the regular meal at nite for a 60-90 day duration, combined with the bathing should start to reap some noticeable improvement.   After my dog started showing signs of improvement, I started giving her ½ pill a day; however, to completely go off of the ketikonizale let the yeast come back within a week.   I give the pill with a little butter smeared around it and it gulped right down.   

Ketikonizale may promote some ill feelings at first, it is important to feed some food with it, and after a couple days, there might be temporary loss of appetite. Be hesitant to go with too high a dosage to avoid multiple side effects.  

We found that not only did our dog have the yeast infection, but also had a low grade staff infection which kept the skin thick and smelly.  Antibiotics have really helped.  It took about 5 weeks of medication for that to clear up and the skin to get nicer.

Another approach is use of topical 1% Hydrocortisone (a corticosteroid) cream very sparingly due to its potency, and the rash was 90% better in 2 days.  I applied it at night so that it would have adequate time to be absorbed.  After 1 week I discontinued it since the rash was gone and the dog should not be treated with a corticosteroid type of drug for any longer than absolutely necessary.  

Additional notes:  

As one of the dogs involved in this “study” was improving, I was given some Omega 3 fish oil tabs and a bottle of Immugen ( The improvement, while continuing the ongoing treatment was nothing less than remarkable.    Go to

I am thinking about increased use of the fish oil gelcaps and the Immugen tabs as supplement for both healthy and ailing dogs as well.    Go to

The only other thing I would mention is that I finally (after a year) got Allie some booties.  These have a non-skid bottom and velcro around the top so they fit snuggly.  Before that I bought baby socks and used rubber bands.  When she has those itchy days, I can put the socks/booties on her and it keeps her from damaging her skin more and opening up old places.  It really helped her to heal.  I got the booties from JB Pet for $4.95 a pair.

The most important thing we did was watch her constantly.  Someone was around her all the time so she couldn't scratch.  This gave the areas she'd been scratching time to heal.  Desitin diaper rash cream also helped on itchy areas--kept her from scratching and helped the raw places heal fast.

Ron Baker

You can email Ron directly at