Ask the Vet: Itchy Dog, Rabies

| July 11, 2012

Dr. Lauren - Ask the Vet Dr. Lauren, a local veterinarian, answers your questions about pet health.

Q: My dog itches whenever she gets a bath. We make sure that the soap is washed out completely but she continues to itch. Is there any product or homeopathy remedy that can stop her itching?

Submitted by Ashley Gorndt

A: There are many reasons your dog could be itchy. It is more likely the mechanical stimulation and perhaps warm water that would be causing the problem rather than a particular shampoo component.

You could test this out by ‘bathing’ her with no shampoo but keeping everything else the same.

Alternatively, you could use a mild oatmeal shampoo, cool water, and very little mechanical scrubbing.

If the problem continues, you should consult your veterinarian to address any underlying skin issues and prescribe some medications to alleviate the itch.


Q: We are permanent residents of Texas. My husband works temporarily in Pennsylvania and currently has a condo in Canonsburg, Washington County, PA. We try to bring our dogs up to visit for two to three months at a time, but we are always careful to prepare with complete medical records and health check within two weeks of traveling to PA.

The issue is really related to rabies vaccination status of our two seven year old 10# poodles who have auto immune issues (both are from the same litter). Is it possible to obtain an exemption from rabies vaccination for dogs who are actually in a compromised state of health? They do not have any communicable diseases, only fragile immune systems, livers, digestive systems and kidneys. We have fought hard and spent many dollars to keep them stable and do not want to cause them further damage.

Our vet does not vaccinate them, as he feels it will compromise their fragile balance of health. We do, however, run titers on them and the vet writes a letter of explanation for the various health related issues which contribute to the decision to not vaccinate. As these dogs are only allowed out on a leash (with person on the end, not tied out) three times daily we would like to continue to build their immune systems before compromising them within the next two years. In order to do so, we are trying to avoid exposing them to any chemicals or otherwise potentially toxic substances.

What is your knowledge of Pennsylvania’s acceptance of Rabies Exemptions for immune compromised dogs? Would our regular vets letter suffice, or will we need to start over in PA? We always travel with full medical records, so we can supply this information.

Submitted by Chuck Davis

A: Unfortunately, there are currently no exemptions allowed for rabies vaccination of dogs and cats in Pennsylvania.

Under current law, a person living in this Commonwealth owning or keeping a dog or cat over 3 months of age shall have the dog or cat vaccinated against rabies. Also, any dog or cat over 3 months of age brought into this Commonwealth shall be accompanied by a certificate of vaccination.

In animals with life-threatening conditions such as autoimmune disorders, as you described for your poodles, some veterinarians perform a risk assessment prior to vaccinating. It is important to assess the risk of exposure to rabies versus the consequences of vaccinating an animal that could potentially relapse into an autoimmune crisis. Some owners ultimately may make the decision not to vaccinate and monitor rabies titers instead. However, any person violating the rabies law commits a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to a fine of up to $300. A veterinarian can document the medical reasons for not vaccinating and provide a copy to the owner in the case of investigation/inspection, but it does not protect the owner of the animal from being cited.

In January 2011, PA Senate Bill 90 was introduced as an amendment to the existing Rabies Prevention Law, detailing an exemption from rabies vaccination if a licensed veterinarian has examined the animal and determines that it would be medically contraindicated to vaccinate the animal due to an infirmity, other physical condition or regimen of therapy. This bill has not yet been passed.


Have a question for Dr. Lauren? E-mail her at

Dr. Lauren, a native of Knox, PA, practices in a busy animal hospital in Butler, PA. She received her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University in 2005 and her veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. Dr. Lauren treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

DISCLAIMER: Neither Explore Your Town, Inc. nor Dr. Lauren Smith will be held responsible for the outcome of any advice given on this website, as a true diagnosis and/or treatment cannot be given without a thorough physical exam and lab test results. Your submissions to this column hold you responsible for the fate of your pets and relieve the above aforementioned parties of all and any liabilities.

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Category: Ask the Vet, Local News, News