By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM
There’s a reason skin issues are one of the most common reason for veterinary visits- skin problems are very prevalent in the dog! It’s an organ, a barrier, and sometimes the source of a lot of misery when it’s in bad shape.
The number one mistake owners make when dealing with skin problems is waiting too long to go to the veterinarian. The problem with skin is that although irritated skin often looks the same no matter the source of the problem, until you have an accurate diagnosis as to the reason for your dog’s woes, it will never get better. Here are some of the more common skin issues in the dog:
Fleas and mites can wreak havoc on a dog’s comfort by causing intense itching, and often secondary infections due to all the licking and biting an uncomfortable dog undertakes. Getting rid of the parasites is step one; dealing with all of the secondary inflammation is step two. While fleas are visible to the naked eye, mites require a skin scrape and a look under the microscope to accurately diagnose.
Dogs suffer from three main categories of allergies: fleas, food, and the environment. All manifest in similar ways: recurrent ear infections, intense itching, red and irritated skin. Often owners will address the symptoms of discomfort but never discover the underlying allergies driving their problems, and get frustrated when the pet doesn’t improve. Depending on the allergy, pets are treated with medications, allergy shots, and hypoallergenic foods.
Bacteria and yeast, normally present and innocuous on healthy skin, have a field day when the normal barrier function of the skin is compromised. Skin that is red and irritated from allergic inflammation is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria; next thing you know, the pet needs antibiotics. Hotspots, the common name for superficial moist dermatitis, can spread very rapidly and cause massive discomfort.
Once skin issues are identified and treated, owners can take action to keep further problems from recurring. Regular bathing reduces the allergen load and gets rid of dead skin and loose hair. Some dogs with sensitive skin respond well to essential fatty acid supplements that support skin function. And of course, regular flea control is a must in areas where fleas are endemic.