The skin serves a very important role, acting as the main barrier to infection from diseases in the outside world. From itchy skin, ulcerations, trauma, hair loss, growths, flaky or oily deposits, or changes in pigmentation, there is a wide array of issues that may occur with your pet’s skin. These issues can often be frustrating for owners (and vets) since determining the route of the problem may take time.
What are the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of bacterial skin infections?
Bacterial skin infections often arise due to an initial break in the skin barrier, allowing bacteria from the external environment to reach and grow within the deeper layers of tissue. The result is often very red and inflamed skin that can be moist and painful. Persistent skin infections that don’t respond to treatment will often require culture and sensitivity testing. It will help identify the bacteria involved and what antibiotics are needed to treat the infection. Consultation with your vet will help determine the cause for the infection and the most appropriate route of treatment (topical vs oral medications).
What are the causes, symptoms, and treatment for ringworms?
Ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin, hair, or claws. It is often spread by contact with other infected animals or objects that have touched those infected animals, such as a brush or furniture. People are also susceptible to infection from infected animals. Infected animals will have hair loss in patches most commonly on the face, ear tips, tail and feet. Diagnosis of ringworm often involves culture from skin swabs, but may also be done by microscopic exam of hair/skin or exposure to ultraviolet light. Depending on the extent of infection, treatment may require topical ointment/shampoos or oral antifungal medications.
What are the causes and treatment of allergic skin diseases?
Allergies are the result of an increased sensitivity of the body’s immune system after exposure to something from outside the body. It may be due to direct contact to the skin (such as grass), or something inhaled (like pollen) or ingested. Often, allergies are classified as either environmental or food related, but may be also be related to increased sensitivity to fleas or chemicals, such as those found in detergents and shampoos. Some breeds are predisposed to allergies and are often first seen in younger animals between 6 months to 3 years old. However, they can develop allergies at any time in their life. Inflammation from exposure to allergens usually causes red skin, swelling, and itching. Areas of the body that are most commonly affected include the belly, back, ears and between the toes. Treatment requires first identifying what is the cause of the allergy so that it can be avoided. Supportive treatment for itching or treating any secondary bacterial or yeast infections may also be required. For many, the cause of the allergy may not be found, therefore, supportive, lifelong treatments to limit itching and make your dog more comfortable may be required.
What are the causes and treatment for parasitic skin diseases?
The most common parasitic skin infections in our area are from fleas. Fleas feed and live on your pet in their adult life stages, but live in the home as eggs and larvae. Flea bites cause itching and sometimes significant rashes or sores depending on your pet’s sensitivity. A flea’s life cycle can last up to one year long in our environment, and therefore we recommend prevention year-round. Other skin parasites we commonly see are ticks, lice and mites. Each parasite is treated differently. Please consult your vet if you are concerned about any of these infections. For all these skin parasites, the best way to avoid infection is with preventative medications.
What are the causes and treatment for hormonal skin diseases?
Skin conditions may also arise due to hormonal changes internally, such as that from thyroid or adrenal gland disorders. If your vet suspects a hormonal connection to the skin condition, blood work will be needed to determine the most appropriate treatment.