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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.
Chenoa M., Moundsville, WV
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!
- 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.
- Cleanse the area with an antibacterial hand soap and lukewarm water, rinse and dry thoroughly.
- Apply a hydrocortisone spray to the area two to three times daily. Work it down to the skin.
- Start her on an Omega 3 fatty acid supplement such as this: Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet, 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.
- 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!
Dr. Chris Smith
America’s Favorite Dog Vet