By Rachele Baker, DVM – Question: Robert writes: I have five-month-old male Rottie. He licks the left side of his back a lot. What can cause him to do this?
Answer: Hi Robert. Without the ability to perform a physical examination on your puppy and perform any indicated diagnostics, I do not have the ability to diagnose your dog. However, I can tell you some things that may cause this kind of behavior.
Since he is licking one particular area of his body a lot, it could be due to some level of discomfort, pain, or itchiness. If you have not already done so, I would suggest that you examine the area that he is licking to see if you see any signs of hair loss, redness, papules (red bumps), crustiness, insect bites, fleas, ticks, lumps, or any other problems.
Is he on flea control? If you have not yet started him on flea control, I would recommend that you do so. The bite of even one flea can cause intense itchiness that can last five days or more and you may never see that flea. I would recommend that you use a good quality flea control product such as Frontline (or another brand that your veterinarian may recommend since not all over-the-counter flea control products are safe) on a monthly basis year round.
Has your puppy received any baths? If so, what did you bathe him with? Some shampoos such as flea shampoos can dry out the skin and cause itchiness. Shampoos made for humans should never be used in dogs. The pH of human skin is different than animal skin. Human shampoos used on dogs can dry out their skin and cause irritation. If you have not yet bathed him, or you have bathed him with flea shampoo or human shampoo, I would recommend that you bathe him with an aloe oatmeal moisturizing dog shampoo. This will help to soothe and moisturize his skin and relieve itchiness.
Has he rolled around on the lawn or anywhere where his skin could have been exposed to something that is irritating his skin? Dogs can be allergic to anything that touches their skin including lawn chemicals, carpet powders, and other substances. If you think he may have rolled around in something that could be irritating his skin, I would recommend that you bathe him with a gentle, moisturizing dog shampoo as recommended above.
If there is a patch of hair loss in the area where your puppy is licking, it is possible that he has mites such as demodex or sarcoptes. Your veterinarian can perform a skin scraping of the lesion, look at the scraping under the microscope, determine if your pet has mites, and, if so, prescribe the appropriate treatment. If you see an area of hair loss in the area where your puppy is licking, I would recommend that you take your puppy to your veterinarian for an examination. An area of hair loss can also be caused by ringworm. This is also something that can be diagnosed by your veterinarian.
If you see red bumps or crustiness where your puppy is licking, he may have an infection. If this is the case, I would recommend that you take him to your veterinarian so that he can get antibiotics if needed.
If you see an area of redness, a lump, or any discharge in the area that he is licking, it is possible that he has a foxtail or some other small piece of foreign material under his skin that is bothering him. Your veterinarian can remove any foreign material and give your puppy antibiotics if needed.
If you have followed all of my suggestions as outlined above (or if none of the above apply to your puppy) and your puppy continues to lick the left side of his back a lot, it is possible that he has food allergies or allergies to airborne allergens (atopy) such as pollen, molds, and dust mites. Please read my Ask The Vet post “My Dog’s Ears Are Hot and He Licks His Paws A Lot” for more information about food allergies and atopy.
I hope you find my suggestions helpful.