What does pet health look like this month?
Welcome to the August edition of our ‘We Are One Health’ pet owner blog series for 2019, aimed at exploring and raising awareness on a whole host of topics related to our companion animals.
In August, with the days longer, the weather warmer, and holidays hopefully on the horizon, our daily routines change, and this can have a significant impact on our pets. It is really important to make sure that we are properly looking after animals’ skin and coat to make sure they are fully protected in the sun and the heat. In this blog we’ll be taking a look at some top tips for keeping your pets happy and healthy this summer.
Grooming is a really important way of keeping your pet in good health. Regular grooming, even for short coated pets, will help ensure that your pet is kept in the best of health and gives you a great opportunity to give your pet a quick check over for lumps, bumps and parasites and is a brilliant time to bond and share some quiet time with your pet. This could include carefully trimming fur where necessary and, more appropriately for dogs, a bath once every few months (or as necessary depending on what they have rolled in on a walk!!) Grooming has a further pro as sometimes small changes in the skin or fur can be spotted, which might need attention from a vet.
Overgrooming can also cause issues so it is best to consult your vet or professional groomer for a tailored advice. Check out our top tips from a professional groomer here.
What are the main skin conditions to watch out for?
There are a variety of skin conditions including itchy, flaky, dry skin or balding areas, that are caused by different issues, but the two most common are – (1) allergies, and (2) parasites, such as fleas, lice, ticks and mites.
While there may not be any obvious changes to your pet’s appearance or behaviour, symptoms that you might notice that something is amiss, include your pet scratching themselves more than normal, a change in the colour or texture of their skin, bald patches appearing or even a change in the colour of their fur. All of these can be symptoms of a variety of skin conditions, and sometimes even a more serious medical condition. Some pets are more susceptible to skin issues, especially pets with lots of extra skin. Common dog breeds to struggle with skin folds, are pugs, Shar-Peis and bulldogs. It’s important to keep a close eye on their skin, which might become irritated leading to infections in between the folds known as skin fold dermatitis.
Just like humans, pets can have allergic reactions to food, medication, parasites or environmental factors, and these can often cause a rash, red, itchy skin, or swelling of parts of the body. Food, environmental and parasitic allergies are quite common in our pets, and the PDSA highlights how irritating and painful these allergies can be for our animals. If you noticed any change in your pet’s coat, skin or behaviour, such as excessive licking of the paws and scratching, it is best to seek advice from your veterinarian as soon as possible. Allergic reactions to medication and vaccinations are less common, but they can range from mild swelling in certain areas to anaphylactic shock which can be life threatening. If you notice any swelling of your pet’s skin, face or elsewhere in the body, then seek advice from your vet as soon as possible.
Fleas, ticks, lice and mites
Preventing fleas, ticks, lice and mites is a really effective way of preventing skin care problems (and other potential diseases) for your pets. Your local vet or pet care adviser can help select the appropriate preventative treatment for your pet and their lifestyle, however, there are things you can do at home too, like vacuuming regularly, washing bedding at least 60 degrees, and making sure that all animals in your home are up to date with their parasite prevention.
Ticks are around all year but are more frequently found in summer months – and they are tiny and difficult to spot. Have a look at our tick advice here https://www.pethealthinfo.org.uk/ticks on how to keep you and your pets protected.
While allergies and parasites are two of the principal issues that can cause problems with skin, there are others that we need to think about. Cats can get into fights for example, and abscesses can form – these need attention from your vet. With cats being vulnerable to a number of skin conditions, check out our cat-specific advice here https://www.pethealthinfo.org.uk/help-my-cat-has-a-skin-problem.
And skin problems can also be a manifestation of some other underlying health problem, so it’s always best to get things checked out if you notice anything amiss.
Skin care in the sun
It’s not just humans who suffer from sunburn and skin cancer. As highlighted by Blue Cross, our pets are also at risk, especially cats, dogs and rabbits with light, white or thin fur. Sunburn can sometimes appear as red skin or hair loss and the nose, belly, ear tips and skin around the lips are all common areas affected. It’s easy to protect your pets by keeping them indoors or ensuring that they remain in the shade in the heat of the day, and even by using animal friendly sun cream. Skin cancer can take many different forms –if you’re ever worried about an odd-looking lump, bump, lesion or scab on your pet, take them to see your vet.
We spoke with Whitney Moseley to find out how she looks after her long haired Australian Shepherd and her short haired dalmatian mix’s skin – read her advice below.
How do you look after your pet’s coat and skin?
I think it is important to start from the inside out when dealing with coat and skin, which starts with nutrition. I make sure I use a food that is balanced and I also make sure they both are groomed regularly with weekly brush outs.
What do you do to protect their skin in hot weather?
The biggest way I can help protect my dogs’ skin in hot weather is by keeping them both in the shade and giving them plenty of water for hydration. I always make sure that the concrete is an appropriate temperature for walks by putting my hand on the surface for 10 seconds. If it is too hot for me, it will be too hot for their paw pads. I also will take their favourite dog toys and freeze chicken broth around them as a fun treat to keep them cool, or will freeze a cold cloth and lay it across their tummies if they aren’t able to cool down.
Have they ever experienced any coat or skin issues?
Yes, my short haired Dalmatian mix gets a “hot spot” or rash on his hind legs.
If so, what was wrong and what did your vet advise?
My vet told us that this was from anxiety or nervousness. To combat this we bring both dogs on regular walks as well as clean the area well and keeping him from licking the spot. We have found that adding fish oil into his diet has also lessened the area from becoming inflamed.