Ask Dr. Chris

My Dog’s Skin is Itchy and Red!

Dear Dr. Chris,

My lab mix is constantly rubbing her backside against things as though she has an itch. The itchy area seems to be on her back right by her tail. I have used my fingers to part her fur and the area is red. She is on Frontline so I don’t think it is fleas. I can’t afford a vet visit so is there anything I can do at home to ease the itch.

Thank you,

Chenoa M., Moundsville, WV

Dear Chenoa,

I feel for you and your friend! Not only does her being itchy drive you crazy, it drives her crazy as well.

The frustrating thing is that itchy dog skin is one of the most common problems we, as veterinarians, deal with every day.

There are many causes of itchy, red skin in dogs such as allergies, parasites (fleas, skin mites), self trauma, other insect bites and infection.

By far the most common cause of redness and inflammation in the tail base area is flea bite allergy.  If you have been using Frontline monthly for several months and all other pets in your household are on Frontline as well, this is less likely.  If you have just started using it or your other pets are currently not on Frontline, flea bite allergy is most likely.

Dogs react to fleas in one of two ways.  Some are mildly itchy due to the bites they receive.  Others are intensely itchy due to an allergic reaction to flea saliva.  With this type of allergy, it only takes one flea bite every few days to continue the inflammation and can be a problem even in a dog on effective flea control products.  None of the available products will kill fleas instantly.

Other causes of inflammation in this area can be anal gland trouble or an unknown irritation that has started a vicious cycle of chewing that leads to more inflammation and this in turn leads to more chewing.  This is commonly known as a “hot spot”, or its medical name “pyotraumatic dermatitis”.

Regardless of the cause, you want your baby to feel better.  Follow these steps and she should be feeling better soon!

  1. If the area is red and moist, use electric clippers to remove the hair from the inflamed area.  Sometimes these areas can be painful and this is not always possible.
  2. Cleanse the area with an antibacterial hand soap and lukewarm water, rinse and dry thoroughly.
  3. Apply a hydrocortisone spray to the area two to three times daily.  Work it down to the skin.
  4. Start her on an Omega 3 fatty acid supplement such as this: click here.   The fatty acid, EPA, has been proven to have anti inflammatory effects and can help allergies, arthritis and is even recommended in dogs with kidney and heart disease.
  5. If there are other pets in the house, check them for fleas and make sure they are on flea control.  This is the worst time of year for fleas in all areas of the country because they have had all summer to multiply and they are looking for a winter home!

If the itching continues or she develops a very red, inflamed area on her skin, she may need professional medical care from a veterinarian for additional treatment or medication.  This sometimes is the only way to get a severe hot spot under control.

If this becomes a chronic or recurring problem, it is important to find the underlying reason and address that problem specifically.

I hope your baby feels better soon!

Sincerely,

Dr. Chris Smith
America’s Favorite Dog Vet

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Danielle

    Sep 25, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    Dear Dr. Cris

    Hi! I would like to ask, my dog has the same symptoms the redness of skin that's not covered with fur, around his left eye, his tummy and genitals, he often rub his face in our legs or anything he can use to rub against. But the thing is, he doesn't have any fleas neither around our house. My parents say it was caused by a virus and I hope it's not. Can you identify what this is and give me a few advice to help him recover? I would also love to know a few home remedies but if it cannot be helped we'll check out our local veterinarian.

    Thank you so much in advance

    Philippines

  2. Kristy

    Mar 5, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    My lab had the same problem. I took him to vets for two years. Th receptionist offhandedly mentioned his lab had the same problem . He suggested feeding him Nutra lamb and rice. It solved the problem! My dog finally had relief! Just an idea for you to try.

  3. Marianne Riddile

    Nov 12, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    What are you feeding your dog. My two cocker spaniels were itching and biting themselves all the time. I switched them to a limited ingredient diet with a unique protein like duck, buffalo or rabbit. You also need to get them off of wheat gluten. This resolved the biting and itching within a couple of weeks. When you switch them to the unique protein, you have to eliminate any other sources of protein that are not that particular unique protein. You have to learn to read the labels of everything that you buy for your dog to eat or chew on. In addition, another time, my dog was incessantly biting her front feet to the point of bleeding for over 9 months. My vet said, “Oh, she is just biting her feet because she itches somewhere she can’t reach.” I finally insisted that my vet treat her for a systemic yeast infection. He gave her tablets for the internal yeast infection and she stopped biting her feet with in two days of starting the pills. I felt so bad that I had not taken action sooner. My food recommendations are : Natural Balance Duck and Potato, or the Nature’s Variety Instinct which comes in a variety of unique proteins. Both are gluten free and there are complementary treats to go with these foods. Chewy.com has great prices on these foods.

  4. Cindy

    Nov 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Itchy skin is the second most common cause of vet visits. There are dozens of possibilities and ideally you can find the cause and deal with that rather than just dealing with the symptom. We specialize in treating dog mites, which are becoming more common due to the many things that impact a dog’s immune system these days. Before you apply hydrocortizone (or any other steroidal product), please make sure your dog does not have mites. If it’s allergies, OTC antihistamines can help. If it’s dry skin, fish oil and coconut oil will benefit tremendously (give one in the morning, the other at night). If it’s fleas, Diatomaceous Earth is the best friend your dog has ever had. If it’s yeast, a simple vinegar/peroxide/water rubdown daily will bring comfort. (see my prior comment above for a link to our e-book with the recipe on pg 17). Best of luck!

  5. Mary

    Nov 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Head & Shoulders shampoo worked great on my Cocker!! Also Tegrin, but more expensive!! My Corgi had food allergies!! Changed his diet and cut out certain chew sticks & raw hides….he’s cured!!!

  6. Talei Hickey

    Nov 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    My dog developed intense itching and hot spots on her skin from fleas last summer. We had used Frontline for the past two years, but it just wasn’t cutting it this time. When I took her to the vet, they confirmed she had developed a skin infection and along with antibiotics, they recommended I switch to another medication, so I did (Comfortis, which works wonders!). But if fleas are not the problem, I would try giving her a bath with antibacterial soap or shampoo especially for skin irritation or hot spots. I used Burt’s Bees for Dogs Soothing Hot Spot Shampoo, which is made from natural ingredients and it seemed to provide much needed relief for my Corgi until the antibiotics were able to kick in! Good luck! 🙂

  7. Marita Powell

    Nov 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Both our boys (cocker spaniel & springer spaniel) have dry spots with crusty kind of “scabs” on their skin in different areas. We try to brush them out, but comes back. They are not scratching the places……what can we do….tried oatmeal bath….didn’t help…….??? Thanks

  8. Jean Hare

    Nov 12, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    My dog scratches all over, lie he has severely dry skin. Would a bath in Dawn help him? Is there a lotion I could put on him that is a natural product? I hate putting any chemicals on him>

    • Cindy

      Nov 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      Virgin coconut oil in and on your dog is fantastic for dry skin. Here’s an article that may help: http://happydognaturals.com/why-isnt-everyone-giving-their-dogs-coconut-oil

    • Billie Leach

      Nov 8, 2014 at 12:57 am

      my Schnauzer has hereditary red itchy places on her back and often neck. Her Vet said it is hereditary and uses a shampoo which I bath her 1X weekly. Is there a home remedy I can use when I am out if shampoo? (Over the week-end.)

  9. Rosie De Los Santos

    Oct 3, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I meant FOR THE ICTH!! OMG!!

    • Deb Daigneault

      Oct 3, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      There are “Hot Spot” and Cortizone Sprays you can buy at Pet Stores and Drug Stores but Oatmeal Baths are great for a more widespread and longer lasting relief. I’ve never heard about using Dove, but yesterday our Vet recommended a bath with DAWN dishwashing liquid. I made her repeat it, but she said as I had applied Frontline 10 days ago but my dog is scratching madly, give her a bath in Dawn. If it is fleas i’ve also heard of a powdery dirt, Diamateous Earth (sp?) that u can work into the coat and treat their areas and outside, that kills fleas naturally.

      • hilda

        Nov 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        you can also break a vitamin e capsule into and put it on the hotspot 2-3 times a day, clears it right up

  10. Rosie De Los Santos

    Oct 3, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Wash with DOVE soap!! That is what we females NEED to use to icth!! THAT works GREAT on MY babies!! 🙂

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