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Common Skin Problems in Dogs and How Your Veterinarian Can Help

Skin is one of the few organs that most people don’t put much thought into when it comes to their pets. Pet owners are likely to think more about possible heart, lung, or kidney diseases than skin conditions. Unfortunately, dogs and other pets can battle skin conditions as well. GCVS wants pet owners to understand some of the most common skin conditions that their dogs, cats, and other pets may face as well as how they can be treated and prevented.

Common Skin Problems

Skin conditions usually have symptoms that are much more obvious than symptoms of other conditions. Since skin conditions are so visible, watch out for problems such as:
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Rashes
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Lesions and scabs
  • Bald patches
  • Swelling
  • Lumps
  • Hot spots
Any of these symptoms signal that your pet may be dealing with a skin condition, but all skin conditions are different. A veterinary dermatologist can diagnose skin conditions and come up with a treatment plan that will make your pet more comfortable. A few of the most common skin problems that pets face are:
  • Allergic dermatitis: Allergies are a problem for animals, too. When they are allergic to things like food, pollen, grass, shampoos, and medicines, they have allergic dermatitis. Allergic dermatitis can cause an itchy rash that makes your pet scratch frequently.
  • Ringworm: Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes circular bald patches that are scaly and inflamed. Generally, this infection will be found on the head or legs, but it can spread to the rest of the body as well. Since ringworm is contagious, it should be treated right away. Ringworm is contagious to humans, to wash avoid touching areas you think could be affected, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling a pet that might be infected.
  • Yeast infection: Itchy, irritated skin around your pet’s ears or toes might be a yeast infection. Fortunately, yeast infections are not contagious.
  • Hot spots: Hot spots are caused by excessive licking, biting, or scratching one part of their body – generally due to an underlying condition. These spots, most often found on dogs, can go from the size of a quarter to the size of a grapefruit in hours and are red and swollen. Hot spots may ooze pus or a watery discharge. Hot spots can have a foul odor as well. Hair in the affected area may also fall out (or be chewed out).
  • Lick granuloma: Much like a hot spot, lick granulomas are self-inflicted sores caused by excessively licking a leg or foot. Lick granulomas can cause redness and hair loss. In some cases, the sores can even break open. This condition is sometimes anxiety-related and can be the result of separation anxiety, boredom, lack of socialization, and stress.
  • Fleas and ticks: When small pests like fleas and ticks start biting at your pet’s skin, the skin can become irritated, red, and itchy. These tiny bugs can make your pet very uncomfortable, and the problem gets even worse for pets that are allergic to flea and tick saliva. An allergy like this can cause the areas around the bites to become red, inflamed, and bumpy. Additionally, the fur in the affected area can fall out or become discolored, brittle, and dry.
  • Mange: Mange, which is caused by an overabundance of mites, can cause scaly, bald patches in your pet’s coat. It typically affects the ears, belly, and chest first but can occur anywhere on the body. There are actually different kinds of mange, including sarcoptic and demodectic.
    • Sarcoptic Mange: This type of mange is also known as scabies. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and can spread to humans, although, it doesn’t typically live long on human hosts.
    • Demodectic Mange: Demodectic mange isn’t usually contagious but has all of the same symptoms as other types of mange.

Treatments for Common Skin Problems

When you go in to see a veterinary dermatologist, they will be looking at your pet’s combination of symptoms, as well as diagnostics such as skin scraping, allergy testing, and microscopic evaluation, to determine what type of skin condition that they are most likely dealing with. Once a diagnosis has been made, the veterinary dermatologist will decide on a course of treatment.

For allergies, animals often respond well to the removal of the allergen. If it is impossible to keep the allergens away from your pet, however, the dermatologist might prescribe corticosteroids to help manage the symptoms. When it comes to food allergies, your veterinary dermatologist can help you determine an appropriate diet for your pet that excludes any problem foods.

Treating pests like fleas, mites, and ticks can include removal of the pests (especially for ticks) and using specialized shampoos, sprays, and powders, as well as long-term oral or topical medication. For the mites that cause mange, your pet may be given an oral or injected medication. When pests are present, you may also need to wash and treat carpet, bedding, blankets, and anything else that could house the little bugs in your home. It may also be worth throwing away bedding and starting over fresh.

Infections will often be treated with topical creams, oral medications, shampoos, or a combination of these. Both ringworm and yeast infections can benefit from these forms of treatments.

For hot spots and lick granulomas, the spots will generally be cleaned, clipped, and, in some cases, bandaged. The condition of the spots will need to be monitored to ensure that they are healing. If they don’t start healing after a few days, your veterinarian may prescribe a topical or oral medication or antibiotic.

Preventing Common Skin Problems

Preventing an allergic reaction can be difficult until you know that your dog has an allergy, and what they are allergic to. Once discovered, you can try to prevent an allergic reaction by keeping your pet away from the allergen. Food allergies may require a specialized diet to avoid flare-ups.

To prevent pests like fleas and ticks, consider using an oral or topical medication for your dog. The preventative products, when kept up, should keep your dog from getting into trouble with fleas and ticks.

Lick granulomas may or may not be preventable. If the cause of your pet’s licking stems from anxiety, your veterinarian may prescribe you some anti-anxiety medications or therapies. For animals that are bored or lacking social interactions, you can try to add more activity into their day. Consider sending your dog to daycare, scheduling a playdate, going on a long walk, or heading over to the dog park for additional exercise and socialization.

It is also very difficult to prevent fungal infections. One of the best ways to keep fungal infections away is to make sure your dog is completely dry after baths, swimming, outdoor playtime, or any other situation where he or she gets wet.

If you believe that your pet is suffering from a skin condition that is causing discomfort, you’re your family veterinarian contact GCVS right away. Our dermatology team can diagnose your pet’s skin condition and provide treatment that can give your pet relief from the pain, inflammation, and itchiness caused by skin problems. To set up an appointment, call 713-693-1111. GCVS is located in Houston, Texas.

Apr 4