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Hi everyone,

Wondering if you can help me troubleshoot this recent strange occurrence with my moyen pup, Alfie (now 6 months). I posted here a few months back about having difficulty finding the right food--after some trial and error, and a lot of random diarrhea, we settled on Stella and Chewy's grain-free kibble, alternating between beef and lamb, both of which he loves and results in solid, firm, healthy poops.

BUT a few weeks ago I noticed that Alfie has been running his paw over his mouth/left eye area, and will sometimes scratch under his chin/mouth. I wondered if it was because of teething--he had a few spots where new teeth were growing over teeth that had not yet fallen out--and once his baby teeth all came out, he scratched his mouth significantly less.

However, the paw over the mouth/left eye area continued, and maybe two weeks ago, I noticed that he was losing hair around that eye. It took a minute to figure it out since he's black and white parti colored and I assumed it was just a lighter spot around the eye, but now it's undeniable that his eyelid is pretty much bare now.

I took him to the vet last week to see if he had an infection of any kind but he has no yeast infection, no other irritations on the skin anywhere else on his body. The vet said when he combed him, some dander flakes came up, so he gave me some essential oil to apply directly onto the skin once a week for a month to see if it helps with general hydration. The vet also prescribed some eye ointment to be applied morning and night, the idea that if he his eye (which is not infected or injured in any way, thankfully) doesn't bother him, he won't try to rub his paw over it. Since giving him the ointment, he's certainly touching that area less often. BUT to my eye, it seems like he continues to lose some hair there.

Alfie's breeder, who is amazing and so involved in her puppies' lives well after they go to their forever families, wondered if it's some strange allergy to something in his food and I might try homecooking for him. However, I am -- and the vet agrees with me -- hesitant to change his food since it took so long to find the right food that didn't give him diarrhea. Also, since the issue is so isolated, I don't think it makes sense that his food would be the culprit. I know GI issues aren't the only problem when a dog is sensitive to an ingredient, but this one area and one action don't indicate to me a food allergy.

I will say the house is very dusty because we have construction happening next door and our heat is rather drying. I suffer from these issues as well, and I get sinus infections regularly (am sick now!). My husband and I dust and vacuum and wipe things down religiously, but that only goes so far. Alfie loves to hide and sleep under the sofa, so I wonder if he's got a dust mite sensitivity or something to that effect? But again, it's ONLY this eye area that's impacted. He generally scratches himself like any dog does (hind leg to back of the head, to the side, etc), but there's no hair loss anywhere other than the eye.

I had also wondered if he was maybe doing it out of habit or neurosis, but he doesn't chew his feet or bite his nails, nothing like that. Vet even looked for saliva staining and cracks in his nails to be sure. It's possible when we're not home or overnight in the crate, he's stressed and brings his paw over his eye, I suppose, but I have a puppy cam and when I check in on him at work he's just sleeping.

Finally, I'm wondering if it has little or nothing to do with the paw over the mouth/eye area and maybe he's got some alopecia? None of his siblings or his parents have anything of the sort, but that doesn't mean he couldn't be the unlucky one to have the issue, right?

I'd be interested in anyone's opinions, insights, or similar problems. I'd love to post a picture of the eye here but Alfie does NOT like when I bring the camera close to his face and he moves immediately. The other shots I have, even when you zoom in, you can't really tell because of the black/white hair.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
 

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Happy to hear you found a good food for Alfie!

Peggy's got noticeably less hair on her eyelids, but it's symmetrical and she doesn't paw at her face. She did, however, paw at her face when she was teething! She'd paw it and also aggressively scratch her jaw with her hind foot. Turned out she had a few retained baby teeth, and as soon as they fell out, the behaviour stopped.

It's definitely possible Alfie just finds it soothing, in which case I'd look for any other signs of anxiety and start working to address that underlying issue. Does he have a good chew habit? I don't know what we'd do without Peggy's Himalayan yak cheese or Kongs!

I'd also aggressively audit the house, eliminating all cleaning products and air fresheners (including oils) for at least a few weeks, before reintroducing one at a time and watching for symptoms.

But that's just me. The variables truly are infinite when it comes to allergies (if that's even what it is) and I feel your pain!

Have you considered getting a high-quality air purifier, not just for Alfie but for yourself? I have a Blueair and it's very good. I purchased it when we were doing renovations because I couldn't handle the dust and off-gassing from new flooring. It's not cheap, but it's worth it. And the replacement filters are very reasonable when purchased at Costco.com. A cool mist humidifier can also be very helpful.
 
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