An itchy case of the month - meet Tigger

Tigger is a 1 year old Shih Tzu cross who had no ailments up until November this year when she started licking around the base of her tail and dragging her bottom. The other dog that lived with Tigger had recently had the same complaint.

Tigger's owners had been diligently bathing her in a flea wash and they had never seen any fleas on her. They thought that she may have been allergic to the type of shampoo they were using.

When Dr Clare examined her she found that she had a "pyoderma" or a "hot spot" at the base of her tail. That is an area of skin inflammation and infection.

Tigger was treated with a course of antibiotics, a medium acting cortisone injection to stop the itching and an Elizabethan collar to stop her licking. She also started on a good quality, spot on, monthly flea control product.

Dr Clare advised Tigger's owners that the most likely cause of the skin infection was an allergy to fleas. This was for a number of reasons.

1. Both dogs in the house were not on a good quality flea control program and the other dog had similar symptoms.
2. It is the flea season (warmer weather)
3. The distribution of the skin lesion was in the place ‘where flea allergy dermatitis most commonly occurs.
4. You do not need to see fleas or evidence of fleas for a flea allergy dermatitis to develop. This is because one bite from a flea can set off the allergic reaction. Once the allergy develops, the dog becomes itchy, bites, licks and scratches the area and a skin infection develops.

For these reasons, Dr Clare stressed to Tigger's that both dogs in the house must be on good, monthly flea control to prevent similar problems arising again. A flea rinse or wash only kills the fleas that are on the body at the time of application. Therefore they are not good flea control products.

Dr Clare advised Tigger's owners that if the itching symptoms continued after good flea control had been achieved, then it would be more likely that she had an allergy to something else. Dogs can develop skin allergies to many things including grasses, pollens, house and dust mites, certain plants and certain foods. However, fleas are the most common cause of skin complaints.