What skin conditions commonly occur?
Skin conditions are very common problems in dogs. They can arise from a number of different causes including infections (eg ringworm, bacterial skin infections), parasites (eg ticks, mites which causing mange and fleas), and allergies, although many underlying health problems may be reflected in a poor coat.
Common symptoms to watch for include hair loss, poor coat, scaling (dandruff), itching (scratching, chewing or biting) and inflammation of the dogs skin.
What causes skin conditions?
Mange is the lay term for a parasitic skin infection caused by microscopic mites. Commonly found in dogs, it can occur in other domestic and wild animals. Symptoms of mange can include hair loss, itching and skin inflammation. Different types of mange occur and they require a different treatment. One form, sarcoptic mange, which causes intense itching can lead to scabies in humans and urgent treatment should be sought if you suspect sarcoptic mange.
Ear problems are often caused by ear mites, which can cause itching and a heavy build up of typically dark wax in the ear canal. This is particularly common in puppies. Older animals can develop bacterial or fungal infections in their ears which may be related to underlying allergies, foreign bodies or other disorders. Veterinary advice should be sought as soon as ear problems develop because prompt treatment will reduce the chance of long-term recurrence of ear disorders.
Ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection of the skin that can affect any part of a dogs body. Spread by skin-to-skin contact and contaminated bedding, symptoms include skin scaling and hair loss. Ringworm infections may also affect humans so careful attention to hygiene is important. Although ringworm may resolve spontaneously it can prove a persistent problem and spores can remain in the environment for long periods. Both medication and environmental treatment are important to successfully manage a ringworm problem and veterinary advice should be sought.
Whilst runny noses and eyes or wheezing are common allergy symptoms in humans, dogs with allergies commonly show symptoms relating to itching. Common areas affected for inhaled allergens such as pollens, moulds and dust mites include the face, ears, feet, belly and around the anus. This syndrome is known as atopic dermatitis and alongside fleas this is one of the most common causes for itchy dogs in the UK. Other important allergens for dogs include flea saliva (in flea allergic dermatitis), food (dietary sensitivities).
A variety of products are available to help treat skin conditions. For further information on the successful management of skin diseases contact your veterinary surgeon for advice.