In our pet healthcare series, we will take a look at the eight steps you should take to ensure your pet remains in prime health.
This week, we will take a look at the seventh step: Skin Care. We take such good care of our own skin because it’s the first thing most of us see when we look in the mirror. We will spend hundreds of dollars a month on expensive cleansers and creams for acne, anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, redness reducing, moisturizing, calming, luminating, free radical fighting… You get the idea.
But what about your pet’s skin? Because they’re covered in fur, feathers or scales, we have a tendency to forget that there is skin (just like ours) under there. Your pet’s skin is an indication of her overall health. The skin is an organ and acts as a barrier to protect the body from infection and other harmful diseases. Excessive scratching, chewing and/or licking may be a sign of a skin problem. Other signs that may indicate a skin problem:
- Scratching, licking or chewing at scabs
- Redness or inflammation
- Hot spots (one particular area where itching is intense)
- Round, scaly patches on the face and paws
- Dry, flaky or otherwise irritated skin
- Hair loss, bald patches
- Drainage of blood or pus
- Swellings, lumps or skin discoloration
- Rubbing face against furniture or carpeting
If your pet is experiencing any of the above symptoms, take her to your veterinarian to diagnose the condition before it worsens. Many times your companion is experiencing one of the following skin problems:
Fleas: Bites and droppings from these pesky insects can irritate your dog’s skin, and some pets can have an allergic response to the saliva following a bite. Some dogs may also be sensitive to flea-treatment products; certain flea collars, for example, may cause redness and irritation around the neck.
Ringworm: This highly contagious fungal infection can cause inflammation, scaly patches and hair loss. You’ll want to treat it immediately to prevent other pets and people in the household from becoming infected.
Parasites, such as ear mites and lice.
Seasonal allergies: Your dog’s scratching may be allergies from common substances like pollen, weeds, dust, mites, trees, mold or grasses.
Food allergies: Many dogs develop allergies to common ingredients in dog foods, such as beef, chicken, wheat, corn or soy. Even fillers and colorings can be seen as foreign by your dog’s immune system and lead to itching and rashes.
Skin infections: Dogs can develop irritating bacterial or yeast infections when the skin is damaged due to the presence of another skin disorder.
Sarcoptic mange: This skin disease caused by infection from the Sarcoptes Scabei mite causes extreme itching and skin inflammation similar to an allergic response.
Grooming products: Certain shampoos and grooming products can irritate your dog’s skin. Be sure to only use grooming products that are meant for use on dogs.
Stress or boredom: A dog may lick her skin (especially her legs) excessively for many reasons. Some lick when not given adequate opportunity for activity or mental stimulation.
Metabolic or hormonal problems: Several common hormonal problems can cause change in skin color, coat consistency, thickness and distribution.
Seasonal changes: Many dogs, like people, get dry, flaky skin in the winter.
There are many causes of skin abnormalities in dogs, and identifying the underlying cause is not always simple. It is important you visit your vet for an exam as soon as you notice any abnormality in your pet’s skin or hair, or if your pet begins to excessively scratch, lick and/or bite areas on his fur.
- So how can you prevent your furry friend from getting skin problems?
- Use natural, hypoallergenic soaps and shampoos recommended for use in dogs.
- Brush your dog regularly to prevent matting of hair.
- Feed your dog a healthy, balanced diet without fillers or artificial ingredients.
- Implement a parasite-prevention or flea-treatment program as recommended by your veterinarian.
- Regularly clean and vacuum your home (and remember to always throw away the bag).
- Provide calm living conditions for your dog.
- Your vet may prescribe certain shampoos or oral supplements to prevent skin problems.
For more information about skin care treatments, please visit our website at www.myranchobernardopethospital.com or contact our hospital at (858) 451-1700 to set up an appointment to talk to our veterinarians.
By Yasuko Stephens, DVM
At Rancho Bernardo Pet Hospital, it is our mission to be the most reliable, responsible and respected providers of veterinary services to pets and their owners. It is through continuous education of our staff that we are able to better provide the care your pet needs to live a long healthy life.