Skin & Fur Problems
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Dog skin disorders are probably the most common disorders that dog owners have to deal with. The dog’s skin and coat is an indicator for its general health. Skin disorders in dogs are indicated by itching, skin rashes, or very dry skin, and fur loss. They can be caused by parasites, allergies, bacterial and fungal infections. Skin disorders can be long-lasting problems requiring persistent treatments by dog owners.
Parasites are the most common source of skin problems and irritation. Due to the scratching and rubbing a dog will do to relieve the itch, many secondary problems may arise for example infections. Fleas and ticks are the easiest parasites to see, and if not eradicate, at least control. Mites on the other hand are microscopic parasites that a veterinarian will need a microscope to diagnosis. The two most common mites found on dogs are the causes of demodex mange and sarcoptic mange.
Mange is an irritation of the skin, primarily resulting in hair loss and sometimes including itching and inflammation. The mites embed themselves in the hair follicles or skin, depending on the type. Both types of mange can be treated with parasiticidal shampoo, topical or oral medication, or injections, but it takes time and patience for repeated applications, and almost always requires veterinary care.
Demodectic/ Demodex Mange
Demodectic mange is caused by an overpopulation of Demodex canis, a mite that occurs naturally in the hair follicles of most dogs. In most dogs, these mites never cause problems. However, in certain situations, such as an impaired immune system, intense stress, or malnutrition, the mites can reproduce too rapidly, causing anything from mild irritation and hair loss on a tiny patch of skin to severe inflammation, infection, and–in rare cases–a life-threatening condition. Small patches of demodicosis often correct themselves over time, although treatment is usually recommended.
Minor cases of demodectic mange usually do not cause much itching but might cause pustules on the dog’s skin, redness, scaling, hair loss, or any combination of these. It most commonly appears first on the face, around the eyes, or at the corners of the mouth, and on the forelimbs. In the more severe form, which usually develops in dogs who have previously suffered minor cases, hair loss can occur in patches all over the body and might be accompanied by crusting, pain, enlarged lymph nodes, and skin infections.
This variety of mange is not generally contagious; these mites thrive only on very specific hosts (dogs) and transmission usually occurs only from the mother to nursing puppies during the first few days after birth.
Also known as Canine Scabies, sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious infestation of Sarcoptes scabei canis, a burrowing mite. The canine sarcoptic mite can also infest humans and cats, although usually not severely, as its natural host is dogs. These mites dig into and through the skin, causing intense itching and crusting that can quickly become infected. Hair loss and crusting frequently appears first on elbows and ears. Skin damage can occur from the dog’s intense scratching and biting. Affected dogs need to be isolated from other dogs and their bedding, and places they have occupied must be thoroughly cleaned. Shaving is sometimes warranted.
Diagnosis of Mange
Veterinarians usually attempt diagnosis with a skin scraping, which is then examined under a microscope for mites. Because they are burrowing creatures, mites are not always present on or near the surface of the skin when the scraping takes place. As a result, diagnosis is often based on symptoms rather than actual confirmation of the presence of mites. This also means that mange is occasionally misdiagnosed as other medical conditions, and vice versa.
Ear mites cause severe irritation in the ears. Often, an affected dog will scratch the hair off the back of its ears. Ticks, lice and fleas may transmit other diseases, in addition to causing irritation. Ear mites, which are barely visible to the naked eye, appear as small white objects. The black debris commonly seen in the ears of dogs with ear mites is a combination of dried blood, normal ear wax and discharges from inflammation. Ear mites can be readily treated Initially, your veterinarian may recommend a thorough cleaning of the dog’s ears while the animal is sedated. This treatment can be followed up with home treatments using special solutions or ointments to kill the mites and prevent infections.
Allergies are another common cause of skin problems. A dog, like a human, can be allergic to almost anything. Dog allergies are also known as several names, the most common are atopy, allergic skin disease, or allergic inhalant dermatitis. Other common causes of allergies in dogs are pollen, dust, mold, grass, food, shampoos to even carpet cleaners and powder deodorizers. Canine dog skin allergy symptoms include rashes, very itchy skin, scratching constantly, rubbing the face often and/or frequently chewing on their paws Others will have red hot to the touch ears, and/or frequent ear, bacterial and yeast infections may occur. Owners wishing to know the exact causes of their dog’s allergies can have their veterinarian do allergy testing. Once the nature of the allergy is determined, the cause can possibly be removed from the dog’s every day life. If the allergy is from things that are uncontrollable such as pollen, grass and mold spores, the veterinarian can arrange to have an antigen made up specifically for the dog. This will be administered by injection and will usually show dramatic results.
Other Common Allergies Include:
Flea allergies are seen on a regular basis by veterinarians, this is caused by an allergic reaction to the slavia produced by the flea.
Food Allergies. According to veterinary allergists, animal protein can be an allergen (cause of allergies). Some of our pets are allergic to beef, some to chicken, turkey, and most to horse meat. Some dog are also allergic to the preservatives that are added into dog food.
Bacterial infections are often a secondary infection to another conditions. A dog that has scratched or rubbed at an area and left opened skin without proper cleansing or antibiotic treatment will often have a bacterial infection set in. The infected area or wound becomes red, swollen, warm to the touch and very painful. This infection can worsen and cause a discharge of pus that will require a veterinarian to treat.
Hot spots are usually seen in dogs that have heavy, dense coats like the Collie, Samoyed, German Shepherd and so on. Hot spots seem to appear overnight and without warning. They worsen quickly as the dog licks and chews at the skin to find relief from the pain caused by the moist, swollen, foul smelling area. Hot Spots can cause incredible amounts of surface damage within 12-48 hours. The initial irritant could be anything that itches from an insect bite, an ear infection, a matted coat, or anal gland irritation, and most commonly a local reaction to fleas and ticks. Treatment includes thorough cleaning, topical and systemic antibiotics, and anti- inflammatory agents.
Pyoderma. Pyodermas include a wide range of infections which result in the formation of pus. Pyodermas vary in severity. All areas of a dog’s body may be involved, but most cases are confined to the trunk. The chin is one area commonly affected. Called chin acne, this condition is actually a deep bacterial infection. Obese dogs and dogs of the pug-nosed breeds are frequently affected by pyoderma in the skin folds on their face, lips and vulva. Treatment is similar to that for hot spots, but typically is longer term. Shampoos and rinses are also helpful.
Ringworm is not a worm it is a fungal infection that causes inflammation, scaly patches and hair loss. Ringworm is seen most commonly in young dogs. The fungi live in dead skin tissues, hairs and nails. Hair loss, usually in circular patches, may appear. If infected, the center of the patches may have a dry, crusty appearance. The head and legs are most commonly affected by ringworm, although the disease may spread over other parts of the dog’s body if not treated. Dogs may scratch the lesions. Treatment may involve shampoo and creams available from your veterinarian. In severe cases, oral drugs may be prescribed. Ringworm can be passed to other animals and to humans. Infected dogs should be kept away from children and other dogs and cats until the infection is cures — which can be as long as 2-3 months or more after the treatment begins. Adults should be careful to wash their hands thoroughly after handling an infected dog. If treated early, ringworm is readily controlled in humans. Other household pets should also be examined for ringworm.
Hormones are extraordinarily powerful chemicals. Even tiny amounts can have powerful effects. Pets that produce too much estrogen may lose fur along their flanks and belly, and their remaining fur may feel greasy. High estrogen levels are sometimes caused by ovarian cysts in cats and testicular tumors in male dogs or cats. Conversely, spayed females will occasionally produce too little estrogen. This also causes the fur to get thinner. In addition, the underlying skin may get thin and fragile.
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