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I Did a Bad Bad Thing | Dogs and Duck Itch

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Duck Itch in dogs is the equivalent to Swimmer's Itch which can afflict humans.  

This past week has been hot. Really really HOT. But there were still outdoor chores to get done, and of course our dogs want to be where ever we are, which meant they romped outside while my husband was mowing until their tongues were lolling and they were panting.

So when our corgi Winston headed off to the pond behind our house to swim and cool off, I figured that was a good idea right ? 

Wrong! Ever heard of Duck Itch? Well, neither had I...

I Did a Bad Bad Thing  | Dogs and Duck Itch

We've only had Winston since March and this was only his second time swimming, so I went with him to keep an eye on him and be sure he was safe (our German Shepherd Bella has no interest in the water, so that left me to be Winston's 'buddy'). 

Winston was only in the water for about three minutes, but he had fun paddling around. Okay, it was a bit murky and there was some algae floating on top at the edges but there are frogs, turtles, fish and ducks living in it, and farm dogs always swim in ponds (right?), so I didn't think anything of it and even took this cute video while he swam.

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Winston finished his swim and we headed back to the house where everyone got a long drink of cool water and we hosed Winston off. We finished up our chores and headed inside to relax for the rest of the afternoon.  And Winston started scratching.  And scratching.  And scratching.

Now, I think I had seen him scratch only once previously in the entire three months we've had him. His coat is thick and shiny, and his skin is healthy, so this was very odd. 

My husband was also scratching, however. He always manages to tangle with poison sumac when he's outside doing yard work and today was no different. But that's a whole 'nother story.  

We did rinse Winston off with the hose after his swim so I didn't think there was any correlation to his swim and the scratching. 

And since ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes have been so bad everywhere this year, I figured that might be the problem. So I looked carefully, parting the hair on Winston's legs and tummy, but didn't see evidence of any creepy crawlies.  

Thinking maybe he picked up some of the poison sumac oils and was having a reaction to that, I rinsed him off again with the hose and hoped that was the end of it.

Well, later that afternoon I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and happened to read about a friend's dog who had been swimming in a pond also while they were on vacation and after a (very expensive) vet visit her dog had been diagnosed with Duck Itch. Duck Itch? 

What is Duck Itch?

After doing a bit of research, I learned that Duck Itch is the equivalent to Swimmer's Itch which can afflict humans.  

Not to get all boring and scientific on you, Duck Itch is a short-term immune system reaction caused by flatworms that causes skin irritation. It is most often contracted in small ponds, streams and lakes where wild waterfowl live. 

Apparently the flatworm larvae swim around in the water looking for a duck or goose to attach to. Sometimes, they come into contact with a human instead, or in this case a dog, and burrow under the skin. They immediately die, but the entrance point becomes inflamed and causes itching for the host.  More prevalent in the warm months, apparently it's pretty common in ponds. 

Treating Duck Itch

Gastrointestinal issues or diarrhea can result as well if a large amount of water is ingested, so it is recommended to add a bit of apple cider vinegar to the dog's water for the next day or so, which I did.  

I also decided it would be prudent to add some food-grade Diatomaceous Earth to Winston's dinner for the next few nights. (Interesting how the Holistic Trinity - ACV, DE and garlic - which is the cornerstone of our natural chicken keeping applies as well to dogs...)

The itching associated with Duck Itch is focused on the animal's feet and legs, groin and armpits (do dogs even have armpits? Well, you know what I mean!). A bit more research uncovered a natural remedy to relieve the itching quickly.

According to what I read, in about a week it will clear up on its own but why prolong poor Winston's suffering?  The first night, he scratched all night long and I felt so bad for the poor little guy. (Besides the fact that he kept us up all night listening to him scratching and trying to get comfortable.)

Duck Itch Cure

  •  Oatmeal bath: Fill a plastic tub full of oats and warm water or use commercial oatmeal dog shampoo to bathe the dog, then rinse well

  • Vinegar spray: Mix 1 cup warm water and 1 cup white vinegar or apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and spray liberally, concentrating on the legs, groin and armpits

  • Repeat the vinegar spray two-three times a day for several days.

I am happy to report that it is now day three and Winston has only scratched once today, so the treatment seems to be working quite well. Of course he smells a bit like dirty sneakers (or at least I think so) from the vinegar and he keeps glaring at me when I come near with the spray bottle, but no long term effects fortunately. 

Country lesson #45,638 learned this past weekend: no more swimming in the pond for Winston...that's what his kiddie pool is for.  He'll have to be content with that because what's important is that Winston is back to being his normal smiley self again.

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