Skin conditions are a frequent problem for animals. On a daily basis veterniarians treat patients for rashes, hair loss, and itchiness. These symptoms can occur individually or together; and can be caused by several underlying health issues. Sometimes multiple factors can be contributing to a problem. This can complicate a diagnosis, and extend treatment times. Depending on the underlying cause, some conditions require life long therapy or prevention. This article is meant to be an overview of the most common skin conditions in dogs and cats, and is in no way meant to include all of the many skin conditions that can occur in these species.
Because we live in an agricultural community, there is high level of pollen in the environment. Residues from flowers, trees, weeds, and fungi contribute to allergies for both animals and people. In people it is very common to have symptoms of congestion or sneezing. This can happen in canines and felines too; however, allergies in animals more frequently present as skin problems. Allergies can be seasonal, year long, and/or began as seasonal and progress to year long.
Itchiness is a frequent complaint with allergies, and presents as scratching and/or licking at any part of the body. Itchiness can lead to hair loss or alopecia. Hives can be present as well. Typically the skin will appear very inflamed, can change in color from pale to dark, and become course or thickened. With repeated licking and chewing, a secondary fungal or bacterial infection can occur. Over time the skin can become very moist, with an odor; pimples or pustules can be present with or with out scales. Ear problems can also be secondary to allergies.
Pets can develop allergies to multiple items including but not limited to pollen, berries, food, fleas and other insects, detergents, fragrances, cigarette/cigar smoke, different types of clothing fibers, and more. Unfortunately allergy symptoms often get worse over time, with symptoms occurring more frequently and in a more severe manner. Treatment for allergies often includes therapy to stop the itchiness such as steroids or antihistamines, treatment for secondary infections such as antibiotics and antifungal, medicated baths, allergy injections, diet changes, flea/parasite control, fish oil, topical sprays, immune modulating medications, e-collars, allergy injections, alternative medications, and/or other therapies.
For every flea that you see, there can be up to 100 in the environment. If there are multiple fleas visualized, topical or oral flea control is not enough to resolve the situation. Premises control for the yard and/or the house is often needed at this stage. At Sierra Veterinary Clinic, we offer Frontline plus, a topical product for both cats and dogs. Oral Comfortis is also available for canines. We also offer combination products which also protect against Heartworm: Trifexis an oral product for dogs, and Advantage multi a topical product for cats.
Low thyroid or hypothyroidism is a frequent disorder in dogs and presents with a dull, lackluster coat and/or a thin coat with hair loss. It occurs more frequently in older canines; these patients are often overweight and have low energy. Doberman Pinchers often develop this problem as they age. Cushing’s is a condition in which the body produces too much steroid. Dogs with this illness can have a dull coat or hair loss; and often are overweight, drink a lot, pant, and/or urinate a lot. These ailments are diagnosed with blood and/or urine laboratory tests. Treatment involves oral medication for both of these conditions. Cushing’s is more complicated to treat and your veterinarian can discuss options with you. There are other hormone related illnesses that present with skin problems; but these are the two most common ones. Low melatonin can also result in hair loss, and can be treated with supplementation. Pomeranians have a tendency for this affliction.
Demodex is a type of mange that is commonly present in the skin of almost all dogs. If a canine has a compromised immune system, that patient may not have the ability to keep this parasite under control. In these animals, commonly puppies, or older dogs with other underlying health issues, hair loss can occur in small circular areas, and can spread to large areas all over the body. Many of these pets are not itchy; but others are mildly itchy. Demodex can be treated with oral Ivermectin. Other therapies include medicated baths and dips. This differs from the more severe type of mange caused by Scabies. Scabies also presents with hair loss; but it typically causes a severe itchiness at the pet’s face and feet, and is transmissible to people. Injectable Ivermectin is used for Scabies. Medicated baths and dips have been suggested in the past.
Ring worm or Dermatophytosis is a common cause of circular hair loss in both dogs and cats, and is spreadable to people. Long haired purebred cats such as the Siamese and Himalayan are thought to be carries of ring worm. Treatment can included shaving, medicated baths, oral antifungal medication, and other therapies such as Program.
In any skin condition with your canines and felines, it is best to not try to treat problems yourself with over the counter products. This can make it more difficult to diagnose the underlying health issue, and often delays recovery for your pet. Bring your cherished canine or feline to your veterinarian at the first sign of any skin problem. Skin conditions often can progress rapidly from a mild issue to a severe skin condition. Earlier treatment yields quicker comfort for your buddy. Do not bath your pet prior to a veterinary visit because this can remove debris, scabs, and other tissue segments that can help with diagnosis of the ailment. Some conditions, such as auto-immune problem, tumors, and others may require a biopsy to diagnosis the problem. In some patients, a referral to a veterinary dermatologist may be recommended.