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This summer appears to be an especially brutal one when it comes to our pups and their skin health. As if allergies weren’t enough, the drastic climate conditions on (dry spells, humidity, temperature extremes, rain) may be wreaking havoc on your dog’s coat.
How to Take Care of Your Dog’s Skin
Our Pet Doc points out how dry conditions are this time of year, and gives some tips you can do to help prevent skin dryness and damage problems (dermatitis):
- Leave in conditioner after bathing your dog.
- If you recently changed up your dog’s food, they may be having troubles with the new food. Try switching them back to one that they haven’t had reactions to in the past.
- Try giving your dog fish oil capsules at mealtime (1000mg once a day for the average size dog. Slightly less for smaller dogs, slightly more for larger dogs).
- If they’re having trouble sleeping at night because of prolonged itching, you can try and give them some Benadryl (one milligram per pound of body weight, not to exceed 50mg twice daily).
- If itching (pruritus in the medical world) is the biggest problem, there’s a chance your dog has fleas. You can easily check for these by combing your hand against the hair. If they’re there – you will see them jumping all over the place. Remember to administer tick and flea medications (i.e. Biospot, Advantix, Frontline) regularly during warm months.
Dog Skin Problems
When a patient rolls into the vet office with a “skin problem,” the vet usually knows it could potentially be a long day. Why? Because there are so many different types of skin issues that occur for a variety of reasons. Here are some common skin problems/ allergies/ diseases in dogs:
This category addresses skin problems that occur as a result of your dog’s interaction with the environment. Problems may arise from a change in the environment your dog interacts with – the grass, plants, dirt, bugs, etc. they come in contact with. Then there’s the issue of water, which can lead to a more serious skin problem often referred to as a hot spot.
Preventing “Hot Spots” or Moist Dermatitis
If your dog is licking their leg or other body part furiously, and even chewing at the hair, they may leave a patch of skin exposed. If they continue to mess with this area, it could leave them vulnerable to moist dermatitis (a lesion on the exposed skin area from moisture – ie. rain, water, or from constantly licking the wound that can get infected when exposed to bacteria). If you start to see such an area on your dog, please see your vet immediately.
A common cause of dog itchiness and skin problems stem from a lack of proper nutrition. The sad thing is, there’s plenty of pet foods out there that advertise themselves as containing everything your pet needs, when in fact they are very lacking in the basics. Your dog is not meant to be a vegetarian. It’s therefore important that their food contain meat as a top, if not the first, ingredient. Vitamins and supplements containing Omega fatty acids that are approved for dog consumption can also help.
Fleas, Mites and Other Critters
There are a number of critters, not just fleas, but a whole variety of mite species, that can give your dog skin and health problems. Your best bet, if your dog’s skin problem does not go away, is to roll in and see your vet and let them diagnose. There are several medicines that can be purchased to proactively keep these pests away, especially during warmer months when fleas and ticks flourish. Keep in mind that this past winter was very mild relative to normal, so fleas and ticks (along with mosquitoes and other bugs) are expected to be much more of an issue so get started now with treating your pup. Frontline, Advantix and BioSpot are among the more popular brands to protect your pet.
Skin Allergies and Your Dog
While your dog’s skin problems are likely caused as the result of poor nutrition, fleas, mites or “hot spots,” it is possible that your dog has skin problems as a result of skin allergies. Unfortunately, as increasing numbers of dogs are being poorly bred. These animals are becoming more and more prone to developing health conditions including allergies. At the present time, skin allergies are the most common reason that pet owners take their dog to the vet. Skin allergy symptoms are frustrating for both dogs and pet owners because there seems to be no reason for the symptoms that are being displayed. Fortunately with a trained eye and a little detective work it is possible to find the culprit for skin allergies in most dogs.
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is a reaction by the body to some sort of stimulant exposure. This stimulant can be something that is inhaled, something that is eaten or something that the dog is otherwise exposed to. It is important to note that a skin reaction does not necessarily result from skin contact with an allergen; it can just as easily result from consumption of an allergen. As the dog’s immune system recognizes the allergen as a “foreign body” it launches its defenses to attack the allergen and repel it from the body. In human beings this type of allergic reaction is most often seen with sniffling, sneezing, coughing and eye watering. In dogs the most common display of an allergic reaction is itching of the skin.
Types of Dog Skin Problems Caused by Allergens
Insect Allergies or Flea Allergy Dermatitis
The topic of dermatitis caused by fleas and other insects has already been covered above. These reactions occur as a result of an allergic reaction to the bite of the insect or to the insect itself.
Treatment for this type of skin problem involves elimination of the offending insect and treatment of the bite area with medication prescribed by your veterinarian (usually oral antihistamines or an anti-itch cream.)
Inhaled allergens, also known as canine atopy refers to allergens that a dog is exposed to by breathing them in such as pollen, mold and dust.
If your dog breathes in an allergen and shows symptoms of distress you should contact your veterinarian who may suggest administration of an antihistamine like Benadryl. It is CRUCIAL however, that you obtain information for the correct dosing of this human medication for your dog based on their weight and current health status.
Food allergies are caused by consumption of food containing a particular ingredient which causes the body to mount a defense against the offending ingredient. Food allergies can also include drug allergies.
Food allergens are the cause of approximately ten percent of all allergy symptoms seen in dogs. The fact is however, that food allergies are seen with increasing frequency in dogs these days as increasing numbers of poorly bred dogs are seen. This is just one reason why it is important for dogs to be bred only by those with the future of the breed in mind, those intent on breeding only healthy animals for betterment of the breed. Food allergies can usually be determined by a process of elimination in which certain food ingredients are removed from the diet one at a time in order to track the progress of symptoms. Some of the most common food allergies in dogs include: wheat, corn, soy, chicken and eggs. It is important to note that there is a difference between a food allergy and food intolerance. Food allergies result in symptoms such as skin problems and itching. Food intolerance presents with other symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea but does not include symptoms common to allergies. Food allergies in dogs is like a human who goes in to anaphylactic shock after eating something with peanuts in it, food intolerance is like a human who gets an upset stomach any time they eat spicy food.
Food allergies can be treated by switching to an allergy friendly variety of dog food. After a short period on the new diet, skin problems caused by the allergy will begin to clear up.
Unlike some of the other allergens listed, contact allergies are allergies caused by direct contact of a substance with the skin, for example chlorine in a swimming pool.
If your dog comes in to contact with an allergen that causes skin problems it is important to rinse off that allergen with cool water and consult your vet for any concerns over skin damage.
Hives and Your Dog
Hives are another skin problem that your dog may face at some point in his or her lifetime. Hives are a specific type of allergic reaction that affects dogs as well as humans and other animals. Hives appear as round raised bumps that itch. The fact that these bumps are raised causes the hair on the dogs coat to stick out in spots and swelling is also common in other areas of the body such as the eyelids. Unlike some allergic type reactions, hives are fast to appear and generally within half an hour of exposure to an allergen they will develop.
What Causes Hives?
As with humans that develop hives, hives in dogs can be caused by a number of factors including insect bites, topical applications and medications. For the most part once a stimulant that has caused the hives to appear has been removed, the hives will disappear within twenty four hours. Since the causing factor of hives can generally be pinpointed due to the rapid appearance of the reaction, treatment is usually applied quite quickly.
Depending upon what has caused the outbreak of hives treatment for your dog may differ. For most instances however, a veterinarian will recommend application of an antihistamine to control the swelling and discomfort of the hives themselves. In cases where hives have been caused by application of a shampoo or other topical ointment to the skin, dog owners should also rinse the dogs coat and skin to remove any excess allergen.
Have Your Experienced Dog Skin Problems?
Has your dog been itching, had fleas, allergies or other skin problems? If so, we would love to hear from you on any tips, advice or stories that might be helpful for other readers like you.