I have a ten year old Shih Tzu that continues to chew and bite the base of her tail. I don’t think she has fleas but she is not comfortable. What do you think is going on?
Itchy in Garden Oaks
It seems like a vet visit is in order to rule out anything serious, but my money’s on allergies. According to vets, Shih Tzus are a breed that is especially prone to allergies. Your buddy may have an inherited tendency to develop allergies, including inhalant allergies, flea allergies and food allergies. In some cases, an allergy may worsen the breathing difficulties, (due in large part to Shih Tzu’s flattened faces) but allergies in dogs are far more likely to show up as skin problems.
Your dog may be allergic to the same kinds of things you are, such as airborne pollens, dust and molds and even human dander. She could also be allergic to an ingredient in the shampoo you use to bathe her or the laundry detergent that you use. Such allergies to things in her environment generally will cause symptoms in your Shih Tzu like licking and chewing at the pads of her feet, rubbing her face and incessantly scratching. Inhalant allergies may start as seasonal symptoms, plaguing your pooch only a few weeks during the year; but over time, they can begin to bother her constantly.
Allergies can’t be cured, but the good news is that your vet can offer ways to manage the symptoms and make your pooch far more comfortable. A few small changes that you can make might be the difference between comfort and misery for your pooch. Vets recommend trying the following to see if your pet’s symptoms seem to abate:
• Adding essential fatty acid supplements to your dog’s diet (salmon oil, fish oil, krill oil, etc.). A lack of omega-3 fatty acids is an extremely common cause for dry, flaky skin.
• Daily brushing
• Regular baths with oatmeal shampoo (once a month)
• Finish bath with a moisturizing rinse and/or anti-itch spray
• Antihistamines (if severe)
• Install humidifiers in living/sleeping areas
If your vet rules out environmental allergens as the problem, an elimination diet might be the next step, to rule out food allergies. Even after years of eating the same food with no problem, dogs can sometimes suddenly develop an allergy to certain ingredients in their food. Items such as wheat, soy and meat are all common food allergens. A hypoallergenic dog food will likely be just what the doctor (or, vet) ordered to alleviate symptoms of a food allergy in your pup.
Do you have a question for Tabby? If so, email her at email@example.com
Pet of the Week
Meet Roman. This 1 year old Black and Tan Hound mix is the perfect dog for an active family. Roman has learned all of his manners but still doesn’t enjoy the crate, so he’d prefer a home where he wasn’t left alone for long stretches of time. Roman is also a jumper, so he’d like it if you had a tall fence to help keep him contained. To learn more, contact K-9 Angels at: www.K-9AngelsRescue.org or www.facebook.com/k9angelsrescue.