For both us and our dogs, our skin is the largest organ of the body – ultimately meaning there is a great surface area for things to go wrong on! Skin allergies, non-cancerous masses and infections are among the top 10 reasons why dogs frequent the vets.
Symptoms of skin problems are;
- Scratching, licking and chewing
- Rubbing face and/or body on furniture and the floor
- Dry, flaky or greasy coat and skin
- Redness and/or inflammation
- Hair loss
- Hot spots
- Scabs, rashes or lesions
- Cracked, weeping or bleeding skin
Unfortunately, although many skin conditions are relatively easy to treat, the difficulty is in finding what condition your dog is suffering from for you to then treat. Here we list the more common problems our dogs suffer from.
Fleas are never a good thing to see on your dog, and their presence can be unpleasant for both dog and owner. Flea saliva can cause localised itching when a dog gets bitten by one, however it is very common for dogs to develop a flea allergy. The reaction to flea bites is far worse if this is the case, and itching can spread throughout the whole body. Fleas and their dirt can be seen by the naked eye, but completely removing them from your pets and your home can be difficult and costly. Prevention is always best, whether it be in the form of a repellent, collar, supplement or treatment.
Sarcoptes Scabei Mites also known as Scabies are contagious to both animals and humans. The mites burrow into the skin resulting in extreme itching, raised rashes and a crusty appearance. Excessive scratching can cause hair loss. Mites can be killed using a topical prescription cream and to eliminate an infestation, owners need to wash every bit of clothing, carpeting and furniture. While being treated for mange, dogs should be kept quarantined due to being highly contagious.
Also known as Red Mange, Follicular Mange and Demodex. It is an overbalance of Demodectic mites, which are naturally present in every dog. Dogs with a compromised immune system cannot keep a healthy balance and become infested. Demodectic Mange is not as severe as Scabies as most of the time it is self-limiting. The symptoms are hair loss, sores and thickened, inflamed skin. If in small areas, 90% of cases will clear up on their own. If widespread and severe, long term medication may be necessary to control the condition.
Despite the name, ringworm is not a parasite. It is a highly contagious fungal infection, to both animals and humans. It causes itchy, scaly patches of hair loss and can have a ‘bullseye’ appearance. There may also be inflammation of the skin surrounding the dog’s claws. Quarantine procedures should be carried out while being treated for ringworm, an antifungal prescription cream.
Diagnosing allergies can be complicated and costly. Symptoms tend to manifest in multiple ways and can be hard to pinpoint what they are a result of. The best thing to do is take a list to your vet stating all foods, treats and table scraps that the dog eats. Along with the time of year outbreaks tend to happen, any change in bedding, laundry detergent and home circumstances.
You will then be able to eliminate things from your dog’s diet to see if there is a difference or change environmental factors. Hypoallergenic foods such as The Natural Dog Food Company do not include ingredients such as wheat, soya, dairy or maize that commonly trigger dietary intolerances. Some vets will test your dog for allergens and can usually suggest a treatment plan. See our article ‘Can Dogs get Hay fever?’ to learn more about seasonal allergies.
Most minor skin infections are caused by opportunistic yeast and bacteria that enter the body through existing abrasions. They can cause pain, itching and bleeding. Most require strong steroids and antibiotics to treat.
Harsh shampoos and prays can irritate sensitive skin and cause rashes, itching, redness and hot spots. Make sure to only use dog specific products and always read the instructions before use. If your pup is especially sensitive, there are formulated ‘soothing’ shampoos on the market. If in doubt, ask your vet for suggestions.
Even behavioural issues may manifest themselves as skin problems, chewing and excessive licking of areas such as the legs is a common anxiety response. Stress from separation, changes in home life or lack of mental and/or physical stimulation may cause this behaviour. A lick granuloma typically results from the dogs urge to excessively lick one or both of their legs. The lesions can initially be red, swollen, irritated, and bleeding, similar to a hot spot
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