Many clients (and dogs) get frustrated when their dog keeps itching. Why does it keep happening? Is there a magic injection to make it go away?!
This is where canine dermatology comes in.
Common Canine Skin Conditions
Very broadly speaking there are 3 types of problems that might be present;
This is a bit of an oversimplification but most cases will have one of these as the underlying ‘driver’ of the itch. Some unlucky dogs have combinations of all three at the same time! These are the really challenging cases.
Treating Parasites in Canine Dermatology
Parasites are still very common conditions treated by canine dermatology We see many cases where fleas, in spite of the owner’s best efforts to treat at home, are still the issue. Some pets are exquisitely sensitive to flea bites - they don’t necessarily need to be ‘infested’ and the odd nibble will suffice to keep them scratting away. We also see frequent cases of sarcoptic mange (‘scabies’) - often picked up from indirect contact with foxes.
Demodectic mange is also common, more so in either very young or old dogs. As the mange parasites are not visible to the naked eye, we will often recommend ‘skin scrapings’ that we then examine under the microscope to identify their presence. The good news is, parasites can be controlled and cured! We have a variety of medications that are highly effective. We can stop the itching!
Canine Skin Allergies
Allergies (or ‘hypersensitivity’) are also extremely frequent. In most cases, this will be due to an individual dog overreacting to a particular allergen (or multiple allergens). Common allergens include;
- Pollens (from grasses, weeds, trees)
- House dust mites
There is a long list of potential triggers. Less commonly, an allergic/adverse reaction to food happens. Proving allergies is tricky but we have tests available that can help. A canine dermatologist can be very useful in these cases so it may be that our vets refer you to our dermatologist at Paragon Veterinary Referrals. If your dog has an itch that always seems to come back, there is a reasonable chance they have an underlying allergy to something. Unfortunately, allergies can only be controlled, not cured (in the same way we can’t cure human allergies like hayfever, eczema etc).
This means an ongoing treatment plan is needed, where ups and downs are to be expected. There are a variety of drugs which can really make a difference, but in most cases they need to be given long term, as it’s an incurable problem.
Skin Infections in Dogs
Infections of the skin are frequently secondary to either allergies or parasites. The skin is weakened and the bacteria/yeast that reside in the skin, normally minding their own business, leap in and add to the mayhem (and the itch). Bacterial infections classically look like spots (zits!) but can be sneaky and appear in a variety of guises. Yeast infections often make the skin seem greasy. If we aren’t sure, we’ll often take a little sample from the surface of the skin and have a look down the microscope to check what we are up against.
Treatment can involve oral antibiotics (some deep infections need long courses), shampoos and rinses. If you’ll pardon the pun, this barely scratches the surface of canine dermatology - some cases involve some real detective work and need teamwork from both vet and owner to achieve a happy outcome for your dog.
If you are worried that your dog may be suffering from a skin condition it's important to speak to your vet sooner rather than later so that a diagnosis and treatment plan can be started promptly.
Contact you local Calder Vets branch to book an appointment.