By Nancy Cope
Skin health issues among dogs are among the most common problems encountered by owners and, in many instances, the most complicated to treat. These canine skin disorders vary in severity, frequency and duration from acute issues requiring little to no care beyond proper hygiene to chronic problems requiring lifetime treatment involving topical, oral and even surgical means.
See the Vet
Although most of the skin disorders mentioned in the following section are not considered as life-or-death emergencies, an accurate diagnosis is of utmost importance. Despite appearances, canine skin is highly sensitive so even the smallest hot spot can become infected when it is scratched for prolonged periods. The good news is that most skin disorders respond well to treatment, if and when these are accurately diagnosed.
The signs that it is time to see the vet are when the dog:
• Is excessively licking and scratching its skin and coat
• Shows changes in its coat and/or skin, which include redness, bald patches, discoloration and scaling.
Keep in mind that self-medication in dogs can worsen the skin disorders.
Skin Disorders Explained
Let’s take a brief look at several of the skin disorders among dogs and their possible treatment methods.
• Allergic Dermatitis – This is an allergic reaction (i.e., ugly rash) to food, grooming products and other irritants. Corticosteroids along with avoidance of allergens are the best treatment.
• Yeast Infection – Symptoms include excessive ear scratching and licking of toes. Treatment includes topical creams, oral drugs and medicated baths.
• Impetigo – Pus-filled blisters break out on the skin. Topical antibacterial creams are often sufficient to treat it.
• Ringworm – This is a fungal infection characterized by scaly patches, hair loss and inflammation. Antifungal treatments are the best treatment method.
• Mange, Fleas and Ticks – These are caused by parasitic animals that cause severe itching, red sores and even anemia in dogs. Special topical applications, oral drugs and medicated baths are necessary.
• Skin Tumors – These are characterized by hard lumps on the dog’s skin. Surgical excision is essential although cancerous cells will require more aggressive methods.
• Hot Spots – These red, irritated and inflamed areas of skin result from many conditions. Treatment is a two-pronged approach, clean the spot and treat the underlying condition.
In all of the skin problems among dogs, the most fundamental treatment is proper skin care. The topical applications, oral drugs and medicated baths will be of little to no use without proper skin care on a daily basis.
Tips on Proper Hygiene
The first step in proper hygiene for dogs is getting the right products. We are talking about shampoos and conditioners, deodorizing sprays, and even sunscreen and sunblock, among others. We suggest using these skin care products according to the manufacturers’ instructions and veterinarians’ advice.
Let’s first discuss the use of sunscreen and sunblock since many dog owners believe that their pets do not require these products. Dogs, especially breeds with naturally thin to non-existent hair coats should be applied with either sunscreen or sunblock when going outdoors, regardless of whether it is a sunny or cloudy day. This is because dogs are also vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer, just like their owners.
The usual routines in proper skin care for dogs must also be followed. Brush the dog before and after its bath, which will make the hair glossier, cleaner and less matted. Bathe the animal with moisturizing products containing vitamins A and E; silk, oat or wheat proteins; oils from sunflower and safflower; and humectants, among others.
It is also important to provide dogs with nutritional supplements along with a healthy diet and moderate exercise. Keep in mind that good skin care in dogs should be undertaken with a holistic approach.
Nancy Cope is the owner of four rescue dogs and Pampered Dog Gifts.