Understanding Allergic Dermatitis in Dogs and Cats
Occasionally, our pets would bite and scratch at their skin, but excessive scratching that leads to redness, irritation, and hair loss may be a sign of something more serious; an allergic skin disease. Dogs and cats can develop a skin allergy from multiple things like: fleas, food, airborne particles, and contact with allergens.What is Allergic Skin disease?While they typically become visible through skin conditions, there are a number of other symptoms and warning signs to look for.Dog allergies can happen just like in their human companions. These allergies usually manifest themselves as skin conditions. What this will do is provoke the immune system of the dog to overreact in the form of a number of different symptoms, most notably a skin irritation. Unfortunately, allergies are becoming more common every day just as they are with humans.
- Allergic Dermatitis in Dogs and Cats
Our pets can have allergic reactions to grooming products, food, and environmental irritants such as pollen or insect bites. A dog with allergies may scratch relentlessly, and a peek at the skin often reveals an ugly rash. Corticosteroids can help with itchy rashes, but the most effective treatment is to identify and avoid exposure to the allergens.
- Yeast Infection
If your pet can’t seem to stop scratching an ear or licking and chewing her toes, ask your veterinarian to check for yeast infection. Symptoms include irritated, itchy or discolored skin. The infection usually strikes the paws or ears, where yeast has a cozy space to grow. Yeast infections are easy to diagnose and often respond well to a topical cream. In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe oral drugs or medicated baths.
Another type of bacterial infection, impetigo is most common in puppies. It causes pus-filled blisters that may break and crust over. The blisters usually develop on the hairless portion of the abdomen. Impetigo is rarely serious and can be treated with a topical solution. In small number of cases, the infection may spread or persist.
Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by a worm, but by a fungus. The term “ring” comes from a circular patches that can form from anywhere, but are often found on a dog or cat’s head, paws, ears, and forelegs. Inflammation, scaly patches, and hair loss often surround the lesions. Puppies less than a year old are most susceptible, and the infection can spread quickly between dogs in a kennel or to pet owners at home. Various anti fungal treatments are available.
- Mange (Mites)
Mange is a skin disorder caused by tiny parasites called mites. Sarcoptic mange, also known as scabies, spreads easily among dogs and cats, it can also be transmitted to people, but the parasites don’t survive on humans. The symptoms are intense itching, red skin, sores, and hair loss. Pet’s ears, face and legs are most commonly affected. Demodectic mange can cause bald spots, scabbing, and sores, but it is not contagious between animals or people. Treatment depends on the type of mange.
Ticks, like fleas, are external parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts. You can spot a tick feeding on your dog with the naked eye. To properly remove a tick, grasp the tick with tweezers close to the dog’s skin, and gently pull it straight out. Twisting or pulling too hard may cause the head to remain lodged in your dog’s skin, which can lead to infection. Place the tick in a jar with some alcohol for a couple of days and dispose of it once it is dead. In addition to causing blood loss and anemia, ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other potentially serious bacterial infections. If you live in an area where ticks are common, talk to your veterinarian about tick control products.
- Color or Texture changes
Changes in pet’s skin color or coat texture can be a warning sign of several common metabolic or hormone problems. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about any significant changes to your pet’s coat.
- Dry, Flaky Skin
Dry, flaky skin can be a red flag for a number of problems. It's a common symptom of allergies, mange, and other skin diseases. But most often, dry or flaky skin is nothing serious. Make sure you are feeding Fido high quality food. Like people, some dogs simply get dry skin in the winter. If this seems to cause your pet discomfort, consult your veterinarian.
- Acral Lick Granuloma
Also called acral lick dermatitis, this is a frustrating skin condition caused by compulsive, relentless licking of a single area -- most often on the front of the lower leg. The area is unable to heal, and the resulting pain and itching can lead the dog to keep licking the same spot. Treatment includes discouraging the dog from licking, either by using a bad-tasting topical solution or an Elizabethan collar.
- Skin Tumors
If you notice a hard lump on your dog's skin, point it out to your vet as soon as possible. Pets can develop cancerous tumors in their skin. The only way to confirm a diagnosis of cancer is to biopsy the tumor. If the lump is small enough, your veterinarian may recommend removing it entirely. This can yield a diagnosis and treatment with a single procedure. For tumors that have not spread, this may be the only treatment needed.
- Hot Spots
Hot spots, also called acute moist dermatitis, are small areas that appear red, irritated, and inflamed. They are most commonly found on a dog's head, hips, or chest, and often feel hot to the touch. Hot spots can result from a wide range of conditions, including infections, allergies, insect bites, or excessive licking and chewing. Treatment consists of cleansing the hot spot and addressing the underlying condition.
- Immune Disorders
In rare cases, skin lesions or infections that won’t heal can indicate an immune disorder in your pet. One of the best known is lupus, a disease that affects dogs and people. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. Symptoms include skin abnormalities and kidney problems. It can be fatal if untreated.
- Anal Sac Disease
As if dog poop weren't smelly enough, dogs release a foul-smelling substance when they do their business. The substance comes from small anal sacs, which can become impacted if they don't empty properly. The hallmark of impacted anal sacs is a dog scooting his bottom along the ground. Other symptoms include biting or licking the anal area. A vet can manually express full anal sacs, but in severe cases, the sacs may be surgically removed.
When to visit your Vet?If you suspect that your pet may have any of the following above, it is best to seek attention from a veterinarian to identify the best treatment possible.Although most skin problems are not emergencies, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis so the condition can be treated. See your veterinarian if your dog is scratching or licking excessively, or if you notice any changes in your pet's coat or skin, including scaling, redness, discoloration, or bald patches. Once the cause is identified, most skin problems respond well to treatment.