Hi, I have an otherwise healthy chihuahua who has always been a foot chewer but has had no skin problems, until last week. He has always loved a good scratch at the base of his tail, but last week he became almost like an addict getting a fix. Within a day or so, he began itching and chewing frantically on his hip areas as well as the tail base. Two days ago, my husband gave him a bath with a gentle shampoo to clean him, look for fleas and hopefully soothe him some. There were no fleas, he seemed to love being in the warm water (he's always been okay with bathing, but he really seemed to settle into this one. Yesterday the itch worsened and today he has thinning hair over the hip spots, the skin is bright red and there are scabs in the worst spots. There has been no change to his food or his environment that we are aware of. I was just laid off and we are in desperate financial straits, otherwise I would have had him to his doctor the first minute. Do you have any idea what it would be that would come up so quickly and how we should proceed to soothe him in the short term (like now) and work on treating the current outbreak and preventing future ones. I've done my research and know there are many skin conditions for dogs. I hope I have given you enough info, if not I can provide more. Thank you,
Sorry to hear that Vaquito is having these problems. The areas where he is having problems are actually very typical areas for flea allergies. A flea allergy would definitely be my first thought.
Some dogs are so allergic to fleas that even one bite can set them off. It is often hard to find fleas on a dog. Usually if you can actually see fleas it means there are hundreds or thousands of them there. If there are only a few you may not be able to see them.
By far the best products for fleas are the prescription products such as Advantage, Revolution or Frontline.
Sometimes if I have a dog with a severe flea allergy I will treat them with a short course of steroids. If you have any sort of steroid (hydrocortisone) cream you can use it on the area 3x daily. But, if it has not cleared up in a few days then he really should see the vet.
We do sometimes see other problems that look like this such as a skin infection called a hot spot but this is an unusual area to see a hot spot.
Other allergies such as food or environmental allergies do not usually cause itchiness in these areas.
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Dr. Marie - thanks so much for your response. After hearing back from you, my husband and I pinned him down and went over every inch of him (except the sore spots) for fleas and, sure enough, there were a couple of the little beasts. My first stop tomorrow is to get Frontline for him and the rest of our critters...might as well try to get a handle on it before it warms up. Until then, can we still use hydrocortisone on the spots? I imagine I have to work to heal those even while we work on the fleas. It's just so hard to see him in so much agony.
Dr. Marie replied:
Hi there Cristy! It's good to know that we have an answer for sure now!
Yes, the hydrocortisone should be safe. You don't need very much.
Now, if the skin is infected, long term use of the hydrocortisone can cause an infection to get worse. However, a few days (i.e. 3-4) should really do the trick. If you think he is still quite sore after this then a vet visit is the best thing.
Or...if you think he is really really sore, you can have your vet see him and they can give a steroid injection.
Hope all goes well!
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Dr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.
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