04 February 2016

Dog Has Hair Loss Round The Tail And Lower Back

My dog has hair loss and red skin inflammation and skin bumps round the base of the tail including the lower back, what can this be? And what to do about it? How do you treat flea bite dermatitis in the dog? My vet says it is due to fleas but I do not see any fleas. 

flea bite dermatitis dog
The typical appearance of flea bite dermatitis in the dog.

Skin conditions in the dog can sometimes be very difficult both to diagnose and treat even by experienced vets. All small animal vets know the scenario where a clients comes back repeatedly with a dog with an itchy skin and hair loss, and no matter what the vet does the condition does not clear up or indeed gets worse. Very frustrating ...

However now and again we see dogs with hair loss and inflammation and skin bumps confined to an area around the tail base and lower back, one of the main conditions which presents like this in the dog is flea bite dermatitis and thankfully this is usually very easy to sort out. 

Flea bite dermatitis is in fact a type of allergic dermatitis. Such dogs develop a sensitivity to a small protein in the saliva of the flea and this causes skin lesions in the area I mentioned. In fact it does not matter where on the body such dogs are bitten by the flea, the typical rash and hair loss will still appear in the same place at the bottom of the back and the base of the tail. Where a dog is sensitive only a very small number of fleas would be required for full blown symptoms to develop. This sort of condition does not affect all dogs bitten by fleas of course, just a small minority who happen to be sensitive to this allergen for whatever reason. 

Where flea bite dermatitis is the diagnosis it sometimes only takes a very few fleas to trigger the allergic reaction, sometimes only one or two. Very often the owners are unaware that any fleas are present but the typical appearance of this disease will suggest otherwise.

This condition is very easily treated by your vet who will if appropriate use anti-allergy drugs such as antihistamines or steroids plus perhaps antibiotics as well in some cases. But if the diagnosis turns out to be flea bite dermatitis then you need to be meticulous with flea control from then on to prevent future recurrence, not only on the dog but in the bedding, house and environment as well.

While having your vet handle this is your best way forward I have known some owners treat this condition successfully using over the counter antihistamines such as Benadryl plus rigorous flea control. Here is a link to my article which covers how Benadryl is used in the dog, including dose rates and contraindications etc. : LINK