May issue

May issue
May issue

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Help for hormones

I have a 9 year old Spanish Water Dog bitch who has not been spayed.

I was wondering if anyone has had a similar problem to deal with. Her hair is thinning over her body and she is itchy, itching her feet and tummy. Not all the time but 15% of the day. 

She is in good health with a normal appetite and drinking. She does like to mount my 1 year old male dog with gusto.

The vet has checked her for everything and nothing is showing up even her thyroid blood test came back as normal.

I have bathed her in gentle soothing solutions and she has been on an allergy free diet for a few weeks.

The vet thinks that it must be hormonally related and is suggesting getting her spayed.
I have heard of dogs being spayed and it disrupt hormones. She is 9 and I am concerned about the the risk, although she is healthy and well apart from her hair loss and itchiness
I was also thinking of trying alternative therapies but not sure what?

Any suggestions would be welcome.


Dogs Today reader, by email

My own view is that spaying ‘just in case it helps’ is not a very logical way to approach such a case. There is no proof that this problem is hormone related – though it could possibly be – and spaying can certainly cause undesirable side effects.

Although your vet has ‘checked for everything’ (is that humanly possible?!) I would question particularly the thyroid test being ‘normal’. Thyroid testing in the UK is notoriously inaccurate. In fact the only lab I would trust to carry out totally accurate thyroid testing is in the States, run by a fantastic vet, Jean Dodds, who really knows all there is to know about thyroid problems in dogs. I often advise clients to ask their vets to get a blood sample sent to Jean’s lab (details at then click on hemolife diagnostics) and find that patients who have ‘normal’ results after testing in the UK do actually have thyroid imbalances.

I’m interested in the ‘allergy free diet’ as well. A diet can only be allergy free if an allergen has been isolated and then a diet without that allergen is formulated. I

guess she is on a so called hypoallergenic diet which is just free of some common allergens – but as a dog can be allergic to almost anything, it cannot be allergy free.

My advice is as follows. Change on to a raw meaty bone based, cereal free diet – for ease of use try Honey’s Real Food for Dogs – -   
or Natural Instinct or any of the other ready prepared ‘BARF’ diets now available. If this is a step too far try a high quality cold pressed natural diet such as Gentle  - .

As a general supplement to help improve hair growth and reduce itching, I find the herbal supplement ‘Itchy skin and allergy relief’ – – is excellent.

If despite the change of diet and the herbal supplement the problem persists I would definitely advise getting a full thyroid test from Hemopet, and if this does prove normal I’d ask your vet to refer you to a vet experienced in natural therapies for pets. Good luck!


  1. Spaying a bitch has many health benefits. It will prevent any straying and mounting behaviours, plus, the risk of her developing mammary tumours.

  2. John Burns, vet, Burns Pet Nutrition
    I agree with Richard Allport's comments about the issue of "allergy-free" diets but you don't necessarily have to feed a raw diet. There will probaly be a suitable commercial diet which is suitable but you would probably benefit from expert help rather than try to do it on your own.
    At Burns Pet Nutrition we have had a lot of success with this type of problem and can offer expert advice to help find the right food to suit your dog.
    On the question of spaying I tend to agree with Earl Lover. Even if the itchiness is not hormone-related, (and it probably isn't) there are other health benefits in spaying an elderly bitch - e.g. avoiding mammary tumours or pyometra.

  3. I wonder if this is connected to her breed, as I was on work experience at a vet last year and saw an 11 year old Spanish Water Dog who had lost her hair on both her sides and the vets had investigated all the options and could find no cause. However, I think it would be a good idea to consider spaying her anyway, as the dog I saw was at the vets because she had a pyometra, and was very ill and had to undergo surgery.