Skin Diseases and Parasites
Skin problems are one of the most common reasons that dogs are brought to see the vet. They can cause discomfort and irritation for the dog and often worry and frustration for the owner. There are a number of skin conditions dogs can suffer with but we’ve listed some of the more common and their symptoms.
Fleas are visible as small brown parasites moving about in your dogs coat. Flea dirt will sometime be noted before fleas themselves as dark brown/black specks in the coat. Fleas will make your dog very itchy and if scratching continues then the skin may become sore and infected. There are a number of ways to treat fleas but we recommend application of a spot-on product such as Frontline or Stronghold. Dogs and cat can share the same fleas so it is advisable to treat all dogs and cats in your household. It may also be necessary to treat the house, as fleas can live in the carpets and soft furnishings, please ask any member of staff for advise on these products.
If your dogs skin looks sore then we would advise a consultation with a vet as it may be there is a secondary bacterial infection which could require additional treatment.
Mites are not visible to the naked eye. There are several types of mites but the most commonly seen are:
Sarcoptic mange – A mite often associated with foxes. It buries beneath the skin surface and causes intense itchiness, crusting of the skin and hair loss. The ears, muzzle, hock and elbow regions are usually affected first but it can involve the whole body in severe cases. Diagnosis usually involves skin scrapes to identify the mites followed by treatment with an appropriate spot-on product.
Please be aware that humans can also develop lesions if they are in close contact with an infected dog. Please contact your doctor if you have any concerns.
Demodex – Most commonly seen in puppies but can occur in adults. The mites live within the skin and causes hair loss and scaly lesions. In the majority of cases these lesions are restricted to the head and feet. These mites are not particularly itchy but areas can sometimes be sore to touch. Diagnosis is through skin scrapes to identify the mites. Treatment usually involves a series of medicated baths and repeated skin scrapes.
Ticks are grey/brown parasites which attach themselves to the skin. They will feed from the skin’s blood supply until full, then drop off to lay their eggs. Fortunately in the UK it is rare for ticks to carry disease, however if your dog has picked up ticks whilst abroad then it is strongly advisable to seek veterinary advice as in some countries, ticks can pass on serious and sometimes fatal diseases.
Ticks can be treated either with application of Frontline or by manual removal with an appropriate tick removing device. DO NOT attempt removal of a tick by pulling on the body, this will invariably cause the mouthparts to snap off and remain under the skin. This can then lead to irritation, swelling and infection. Frontline and tick removers are available at all our branches.
Allergies (Atopic Dermatitis)
Skin allergies in dogs are common and cause varying levels of itchiness. This may be observed as scratching, chewing or rubbing and can affect any area of the body. Owners may observe that the skin appears red and inflamed, sometimes with raised lesions. The allergy can be to anything but most commonly to pollens, grasses, mites and occasionally food. Allergy testing can be performed to confirm an allergy and identify what your dog is allergic to. Where allergy testing is not undertaken then a diagnosis is based on ruling out other causes of skin disease and monitoring response to treatment. There are a number of treatment options for atopic dermatitis, your vet will advise you on the best options for your dog’s individual condition.
Ear conditions are often observed as shaking of the head or scratching of the affected ear. The ear may be visibly red, have a discharge and may smell unpleasant. It is always advisable to have your vet examine your dog if these symptoms are displayed. Although bacterial infections are the most common cause, the same symptoms may be seen with ear mites, foreign bodies and allergies, which will require different treatments.
Full anal glands can easily be confused for itchy skin. Dogs will commonly chew around the anal, tail and flank regions, or show classic “scooting” behaviour when they drag their bottom along the floor. A vet can empty the anal glands which usually relieves the symptoms. Sometimes anal glands can blocked and infected, if your dog seems in pain or if you notice any blood or swelling around the anal area, please book an appointment with your vet, your dog may require antibiotics and/or pain relief to help with this condition.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of skin problems encountered in veterinary practice but it includes the most common ones we see. If your pet has a skin condition please book an appointment with your vet so that the appropriate treatment can be given.