Canine dermatology is perhaps one of the most frustrating yet potentially rewarding areas of veterinary life, when you are able to make a dog more comfortable. It’s also anywhere between 25-30% of our canine patients, so we get lots of practice at it. We see lots of itchy dogs!
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 Dermatolgy
Parasites are still very common conditions treated by canine dermatology.
We still see many cases where fleas, in spite of the owner’s best efforts to treat at home, are still the issue. Some pets are extremely sensitive to flea bites – they don’t necessarily need to be ‘infested’ and the odd bite will suffice to keep them scratting away.
We also see 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’ to try and find them
The good news is, parasites can be controlled and cured! We have a variety 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:
* Food allergies
* 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 vet can be very useful in these cases.
If your dog has an itch that always seems to come back, there is a reasonable chance it could 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 it’s an ongoing battle and some cases are always going to be easier to control than others. There are a variety of drugs which 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 normally resides undetected in the skin are able to multiply and add to the problem.
Bacterial infections classically look like spots 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) and shampoos.
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 to a familiar problem.
If you are worried that your dog may be suffering from a skin condition it’s important to speak to your vet. If you would like to speak to our vets, call us on 01604 648221 to make an appointment.