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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 20909
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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What can I do about alleviating the "itch", my Maltese X is

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What can I do about alleviating the "itch", my Maltese X is suffering terribly with it and is practically hairless with it
regards June

Hello, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with Chloe today.

To give me a clearer picture of her situation:

Can you tell me how long she has been showing signs?

What areas of her body is she targeting?

If you look at the skin in these areas, any signs of redness, scales, crusts, inflammation, ulcers, sores, scabs, pimples or pustules?

Has there been any diet changes within the few months prior to the onset of her signs?

Do you think its worse in the warmer weather or year round?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Chloe has had this bout for the last two days.

patchy all over back from waist down.


No change of diet.


warmer weather.

Thank you for the additional information about Chloe.

As I am sure you can appreciate, the mystery of what makes a dog incessantly itch, chew, or pull out hair can be a real challenge to get to the bottom of. This is because itchiness and hair loss can be caused by a number of things.When we are in situations like this where the dog doesn’t have an overt disease affecting the skin (be it bacterial pyoderma or mite infestations), we then have to focus on the more generalized causes for itchiness. In these cases, that means allergic skin disease. And in this species, we can see this potentially triggered by literally anything in their world. This includes parasites (like fleas saliva, not the actual flea), pollens, new dietary proteins, environmental agents we use in the house, and anything that they essentially come into contact with.

Furthermore, her targeting just from the waist down may just be a hint of diffuse allergic disease (and she is just itching what can reach), but we do have to also consider that she could also be showing this sudden behaviour if she has anal gland issues (ie impaction, infection) since dogs who cannot reach their rectums will often show displacement behaviour by chewing a nearby site they can reach.So, if need to keep in mind that if she is scooting or rubbing her bum on anything or if she doesn’t respond to the home treatments I will now discuss, this would be something to have her vet check for you.

Turning our attentions to potential allergens, without any new dietary introductions or changes in her food’s recipe, food allergies can be put lower on our list right off the bat. As well, with the itch distribution and the fact you haven’t noted any new environmental exposures (ie new carpet powder, laundry powder, etc), contact allergies are also less likely for Chloe.

From there, the first to consider is flea saliva. Now her pattern of itching does suggest that fleas are less likely here but if she is not up to date on flea treatment it would be prudent to do so now (it will cover your bases and is a cheap way to just make sure they aren’t to blame). The reason why we want to make sure that these critters are ruled out is because flea allergy is one of the most common types of allergies of the dog. The problem with dogs with sensitivities to fleas that they aren't allergic to the fleas themselves. They are allergic to its saliva. So, all it takes is one flea having a nibble to start things off. The body releases histamines and the allergic response takes over. This is itchy and sore, so our petsmay itch, scratch and some will even start pulling out tufts of hair. They scratch which can irritate the skin even more, and its a vicious cycle (they itch b/c its itchy, but its itchier because they itched, if you know what I mean). As well, as they are causing damage to the skin from scratching, they will open the door for bacterial infection (which makes it even itchier). And if her signs are flea saliva induced, the flea that may have bitten her is probably long since dead (so we may see no sign of it when examining the coat). Dogs caught in this kind of allergic response often respond well to religious flea treatment but sometimes need additional short term medications to soothe the inflamed immune response and help break the itchiness cycle.

With that rule out, we then have to consider the more frustrating environmental allergies. Now as I mentioned before, we can also have allergies to the world around them. I have had patients that have been allergic to grass (which I think is such a cruel joke of the universe). Sometimes these animals will only show signs during particular seasons or in certain parts of the world (if there is a pollen in your current environment that is something their immune system has never seen before). But in some climates, we can see these be year round irritation. With environmental allergies, they do tend to cause itchiness where the most contact has been made but if they are airborne, the dog can itch anywhere because of them. That said, dogs often target easy to reach areas (ie belly, backside, groin, feet, etc). If these are the case, it is often a cause of supportive medical management during intense pollen seasons.

In regards XXXXX XXXXX approach here, while double checking her exposures to make sure there is no ongoing allergy trigger, we can try to settle the itching with an anti-histamine trial. These can help settle allergic skin reactions and decrease general itchiness and may just be enough to help give some relief. (LINK). A low dose (ie. 0.5mg per pound of body weight twice daily) can just be enough to break that itchiness cycle, and give the skin the chance in needs to settle. We like to keep the dose low in dogs they can have drowsiness with this medication (just like people). And of course, this medication shouldn't be used if your wee one has any pre-existing conditions or are on any other medication without speaking to your vet

Furthermore, I would suggest keeping upon your emollient baths and perhaps just bathing the irritated regions. If there is any broken skin or wounds from her self-trauma, then these can be salt water bathed (1tbsp salt to a pint warm water) a few times daily. While soothing the skin and decreasing the itch with anti-histamines, you do want to take steps to prevent her continuing to target this skin (since it won't heal and secondary bacterial infection can be more a risk if she continued to itch/lick/etc) To do this, you can place an e-collar (which you can pick up at the vets or pet stores) or you can alternatively try to cover this region with a small pair of boxer shorts turned backwards (so the tail goes out the little hole in front). This can just keep her from licking but also lets the skin breathe, dry out, and heal.

Overall, her signs point to a skin irritation that is likely allergic in origin. Therefore, we do want to monitor her interactions with the world to see if the culprit will become clear. But while doing that we do want to keep up on the flea medications (just since its an cheap way to rule that differential out completely), trial her on anti-histamines to block the 'allergic response' and take steps to topically soothe the skin but also prevent further self-trauma. This typically will settle the skin as long as the trigger for her signs does not remain. But if you do this and she is struggling to settle still, then you would want to consider following up with her vet at that point to have them treat her with strong injectable anti-inflammatory medication (ie steroids) and potentially carry out tests to pinpoint the ongoing trigger for her irritative skin issues.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

Dr. B.


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Dr. B. and 2 other Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hello Dr B
I have already replied to one of your several emails.
I have already thanked you for your help, giving you a very good mark.
The salt water is working and Chloe's hair is growing back.
Thank you


Good evening,

I am very glad to see that her skin and coat issues are settling. As well, I very much appreciated your positive feedback for our conversation back on the 13th.

Otherwise, just to note, I have sent no further emails since our original wee chat. I suspect that you are perhaps referring to the website's automated follow-up service. If so, I do apologize if the service has been misbehaving and sending repeated messages. If it continues to misbehave, then you can send a wee note to customer service HERE to have them fix this wee glitch.

Take care & all the best,
Dr. B.