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For the past 6-8 weeks we have been having ongoing issues with our dog chewing himself on the lower back. It's always the same spot and as you can see from the photos, he really goes to town. He chews himself so much his skin is raw and bleeding and there is hair all over the home afterwards.

The first time this happened I assumed a hot spot, so put an e-collar on and treated the wound myself. It cleared up in a week or so and we took the e-collar off. Soon enough he did it again, but it wasn't so bad so again we just treated it. He then got neutered and was in a cone for 2 weeks anyway so we weren't sure if it had stopped, but soon after removing the cone, he destroyed his back (below) when we were at work.

We decided it had to be more than a hot spot and went to the vet, who diagnosed him with fleas, treated the wound and gave us flea medication. Neither of us had suspected fleas, or seen fleas but we trusted the vet and finished treatment (as well as fumigating our entire house!). His wound is now all healed and we took off his cone (again!) and he is still chewing the same spot! Luckily we caught him early this time so he didn't do much damage, but I'm at a loss for what is wrong with him. I've checked him with a flea comb again in case there were fleas, but there is nothing! Not even flea droppings.

Something is causing him issues on his back and I've no idea what it is. Perhaps allergies? I would suspect there would be more symptoms for allergies though (and I wouldn't think it would result in constantly chewing one specific spot). We also feed him raw food (always have) as the breed is prone to food allergies and I'd be very surprised if he is allergic to his food.

He is a Westie, who we know is prone to having skin issues, so I'm concerned this is going to be a lifelong issue (he's only 1). I feel terrible leaving him in an e-collar basically his entire life now, but if we don't he will just keep chewing his skin off.

Any advice would be much appreciated!

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If at all possible you should take him to a animal dermatologist...........it is better to find out once and for than to keep trying different things. The dermatologist should be able to test for any and all allergies both food and environment.
Remember also, that all it takes is one flea, one flea bite, for a dog that is highly allergic to fleas to have a severe reaction!
 

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Yeah a lady told us it just takes one flea to jump on him, bite, jump off and he could react like this. Something doesn't seem right with the fleas diagnosis though, why would it always be the same spot? Fleas are usually all over the body and particularly around the ears and legs etc.

I think we may have to end up going to a dermatologist, I really hope that it's covered by the pet insurance as I'm sure that stuff is damned expensive. I was hoping to avoid it for now and perhaps get some insight here.
 

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The base of the tail is one of the spots on a dogs skin that is the thinnest also the groin and areas around the ears have thinner skin and are more prone to flea bites....
so that is why .....yes your pet insurance should cover it, as long as your Vet has documented it, and it was not a pre-existing condition of course! and he rec. a specialist, but I would check with your insurance to see...
 

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Have you had his anal glands checked by the vet? Hot spots at the tail base are typicaly either started by fleas or impacted/full anal glands. If both of those check out then a dermatologist consult would be the best next step.
 

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It could be fleas, worms or anal sacks. Probably need to go to the vet and get it checked out. I'm willing to bet its one, or even more of those. In the meantime, you can rub some coconut oil into it each day to help sooth, and moisturize the skin. Coconut oil has skin healing properties big time, but you still need to go and get the main source of the problem taken care of.
 

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Could be fleas, dogs react differently to fleas, some quite violently. to be sure, though, you should get him to a dermatologist, before he gets himself infected with all the biting.
 

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Thanks for all the responses!

Have you had his anal glands checked by the vet? Hot spots at the tail base are typicaly either started by fleas or impacted/full anal glands. If both of those check out then a dermatologist consult would be the best next step.
I'm not sure specifically if they checked his anal glands last time we went in, but I did not see them do anything in that area so I doubt it. We have an appointment at the vet again tomorrow so I will ask them to check for that.

In terms of fleas, he has received treatment for fleas about 10 days ago and I see no fleas/droppings upon combing with a flea comb. To me that rules fleas out, unless he could still be reacting to a flea bite from a long time ago? I'm not sure how long a reaction would take to finish. I'd assume once the fleas are gone he will stop reacting basically immediately.

It could be fleas, worms or anal sacks. Probably need to go to the vet and get it checked out. I'm willing to bet its one, or even more of those. In the meantime, you can rub some coconut oil into it each day to help sooth, and moisturize the skin. Coconut oil has skin healing properties big time, but you still need to go and get the main source of the problem taken care of.
He's had some prescribed medication to rub into the wound and it is pretty much all healed up now, hence we took the e-collar off, but he soon went back at it when we did. Not much damage this time as we were there thankfully.

Could be fleas, dogs react differently to fleas, some quite violently. to be sure, though, you should get him to a dermatologist, before he gets himself infected with all the biting.
That will be our next step if the vet can't figure it out! I just checked with our insurance and dermatology treatment should be covered so that's a bonus.
 

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Few comments about above comments:
1) when fleas leave, their itch can remain for weeks or longer, particularly if the pet chews on him/herself. Flea saliva can cause an allergic reaction very similar to how poison oak causes on allergic reaction in us. Once the saliva is in the skin, the itching can last quite a long time, even when the fleas are taken care of. The allergy is now its own disease, fleas or no. Of course, as mentioned above, not all dogs react the same to flea saliva- some are severely allergic, some mildly and many not at all.

2) fleas are generally NOT all over the dog's body, and far prefer the rump to anywhere else. Most flea allergy dogs have sores, hairloss, scabs and inflammation exactly where that photo shows the hair loss on that westie above. In fact, one of the ways we diagnose flea allergy versus other skin allergies is where on the body the problem is. On the rump only- almost always fleas! Everywhere on the dog- COULD be fleas but probably not. On the belly and feet only- NEVER fleas. On the face only, rarely if ever only fleas. This does not mean that every rash or scabby rump is due to fleas, but certainly highly suspicious of them. As mentioned, there are a lot of other things than can make a dog's rear end itch, but generally those are NOT on the dorsal rump, but more under the tail (which is also a common flea allergy area).

Cats are not dogs, though still fleas prefer cat rumps... however, fleas do tend to run all over a cat's body, far more often they do on a dog's. Finding fleas on a dog or cats face is not rare, but finding a flea allergy there is less common.

3) in this situation, the problem could certainly have been fleas some time ago, but if enough damage was done to the skin, left over dermatitis/damaged skin can attract a dog's attention for long periods (years even) if not stopped or treated somehow. So many times we see dogs that had a flea allergy at one time and the pets are STILL chewing their rump even if the fleas have been gone for weeks to months. Dogs often chew anything that itches, and skin rashes, sores, scabs and infections itch.

4) as for seeing a dermatologist that is ALWAYS a good idea, but there are few tests that are reliable that show whether an allergy is due to fleas or not... that one is more a diagnosis of finding the fleas, flea dirt (poop) or the location (rump).
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Few comments about above comments:
1) when fleas leave, their itch can remain for weeks or longer, particularly if the pet chews on him/herself. Flea saliva can cause an allergic reaction very similar to how poison oak causes on allergic reaction in us. Once the saliva is in the skin, the itching can last quite a long time, even when the fleas are taken care of. The allergy is now its own disease, fleas or no. Of course, as mentioned above, not all dogs react the same to flea saliva- some are severely allergic, some mildly and many not at all.

2) fleas are generally NOT all over the dog's body, and far prefer the rump to anywhere else. Most flea allergy dogs have sores, hairloss, scabs and inflammation exactly where that photo shows the hair loss on that westie above. In fact, one of the ways we diagnose flea allergy versus other skin allergies is where on the body the problem is. On the rump only- almost always fleas! Everywhere on the dog- COULD be fleas but probably not. On the belly and feet only- NEVER fleas. On the face only, rarely if ever only fleas. This does not mean that every rash or scabby rump is due to fleas, but certainly highly suspicious of them. As mentioned, there are a lot of other things than can make a dog's rear end itch, but generally those are NOT on the dorsal rump, but more under the tail (which is also a common flea allergy area).

Cats are not dogs, though still fleas prefer cat rumps... however, fleas do tend to run all over a cat's body, far more often they do on a dog's. Finding fleas on a dog or cats face is not rare, but finding a flea allergy there is less common.

3) in this situation, the problem could certainly have been fleas some time ago, but if enough damage was done to the skin, left over dermatitis/damaged skin can attract a dog's attention for long periods (years even) if not stopped or treated somehow. So many times we see dogs that had a flea allergy at one time and the pets are STILL chewing their rump even if the fleas have been gone for weeks to months. Dogs often chew anything that itches, and skin rashes, sores, scabs and infections itch.

4) as for seeing a dermatologist that is ALWAYS a good idea, but there are few tests that are reliable that show whether an allergy is due to fleas or not... that one is more a diagnosis of finding the fleas, flea dirt (poop) or the location (rump).
Wow thanks for the insightful response that's very informative, you sound like a vet from the way you talk?

I never knew dogs could react for such long periods of time to fleas or wounds from a long time ago, but it makes a lot of sense considering what our pup is going through. It sounds as if he is doing exactly what you mention. The issue seems to be solely located on or near his rump area. He does not itch or chew any other area of his body. When we visited the vet there was obvious signs of fleas but now there are no signs at all so I do not think he has any, but I guess he may still be reacting to the wound area or the fleas from a while ago.

In this case what would you advise to do? Is allergy testing worthwhile? I believe it's an expensive process but I guess it would be quite definitive. If it provides lifelong information for diagnosing issues it's probably useful to get done anyway, but if he can become allergic to things later in life then perhaps not.

I somewhat feel we are maybe jumping the gun by returning to the vet so soon now you imply it's likely still the fleas from a couple of weeks ago, or the wounded area.
 

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Seeing your Vet now would be a good idea, he or she can help provide relief for the itching. Izrddr is absolutely correct when he says the itching can last for a long time after the flea issue itself has been resolved. Fleas are really nasty little ##[email protected]@!!'s and can really cause havoc for some dogs. Our dog, Samantha is quite allergic to fleas, so I am careful to keep her current on anti-flea meds. I learned, if she has fleas even for a day or two, and I then medicate her, she itches for a good week to 10 days after, even though there are no longer active fleas present. In my case, when she suffers, I suffer right along with her.
 

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So as a follow up we went to the vet yesterday (a different vet than the one that diagnosed fleas) and he was basically in agreement with this thread. He thinks it might still be effects from the fleas, or that George has sensitive, itchy skin in general, making him want to bite himself.

He said he wouldn't go as far as testing for allergies just yet. He actually said food allergy testing is so inaccurate it's almost worthless, and environment allergy testing might be worthwhile eventually, but even then most of the time there isn't much you can do about environment if he is allergic to something that is prominent everywhere. His opinion was it is easier to treat the dogs symptoms than it is to change the environment (which is a bit debatable, I'd rather find out why a dog is biting himself than just trying to prevent it).

Anyway, for now he is treating George with an anti itch shampoo (Douxo shampoo I believe?) and Apoquel (some sort of allergy medication).

Going forward though I hope this is a short-term thing and in a few weeks he will be over the fleas. The meds cost $80 for 2 weeks worth! I can't be spending that every two weeks to prevent him biting. We haven't fully explored over the counter itching/allergy products so if it comes to it I guess we will go down that road. I'm sure there are plenty of anti itch shampoos we can use that don't cost a fortune, and medication/sprays to stop the biting. I read Vet's Best has some good products (and reviews) for their hot spot sprays to prevent biting, could try that.
 
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