September 2018 Observer Today Article
By Dr. Rebekah Frost
As a general practitioner in veterinary medicine, I have the opportunity to treat a variety of ailments. This past month the most common ailment in dogs and cats has been skin and ear conditions. Skin and ear conditions can be caused by a number of things which I will discuss in detail below.
Allergies. The number one cause of skin and ear conditions is an underlying allergy. Allergies can be caused by fleas, foods, contact sensitivities, and environmental allergens.
If your dog has allergies, you will see symptoms like itching, scratching, licking of the feet and legs, head shaking, facial rubbing, and bum scooting. You may see a rash, scabs, sores, or just excessive hair loss. Your dog may have a bad odor and you may see a build up of debris in the ear canals. Your dog may very easily get a secondary infection from the allergies. This most commonly includes a bacterial or yeast infection of the skin and/ or ears. Other dogs may get a secondary infection from a mange mite called Demodex especially if their immune system is compromised.
If your dog is having any of the above symptoms, we advise you to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Allergies with secondary infections can be uncomfortable and painful.
When I discuss allergies with owners, I start with a discussion on the easiest allergens to control. The first is a flea allergy. Flea allergies account for more than 80 percent of allergy issues in our area. Even if you are using over the counter topical flea treatments, sometimes these topicals do not last the full four weeks they are labeled for.
Newer products on the market like the oral flea and tick chews are doing a better job of treating the fleas. Ask your veterinarian what they recommend. We also recommend that you treat for fleas and ticks year round. With warmer winters, the fleas and ticks are surviving in the environment and in our homes.
The second allergy issue can be to different foods. Too many treats and table scraps may cause a food sensitivity. Food allergens can cause secondary ear infections and anal gland impactions. All other allergens are grouped into contact allergens and environmental allergens. Contact allergens may be a sensitivity to something your pet comes in contact with like different household chemicals and cleaners. Environmental allergens are the most difficult to control and include tree pollens, grass pollens, and more.
With environmental allergens, your vet will help keep your pet comfortable with different medications and topical treatments. We will make sure to treat any underlying secondary infection first, then give medications to help calm your pet’s itch.
Infectious. This time of year I also see some infectious causes of skin conditions. The number one infectious cause of skin conditions is fleas. Fleas can be easily transferred from one pet to the next. It is important to keep your pet on year round flea control. With wildlife on the move more in the fall, we also see sarcoptic mange. Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite that is commonly carried by our local wildlife. These mites can be extremely itchy and can cause severe secondary infections. Your vet will have to do special stains and look under the microscope to diagnose mange. Another common infectious skin condition is Ringworm. Ringworm and sarcoptic mange are both zoonotic, meaning they can be spread from animals to people. Ringworm is most commonly picked up in places where pets are in close confines like a shelter.
Metabolic. The last common cause of skin issues can be caused by an underlying metabolic condition like thyroid disease.
Thyroid disease in dogs is a condition of the thyroid gland where the gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This can lead to a variety of clinical signs which can include thinning of the hair and loss of the hair.
Cushing disease, a disease of the adrenal gland can also cause a rough hair coat and thinning of the hair and skin.
We at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic are happy to offer a variety of flea treatments, hypoallergenic diets, and safe topical and oral medications to help treat your pet’s skin condition. We are proud to be offering a new line of topical products that help lessen the amount of oral medication you may have to use on your pet. These topical products contain ingredients that help restore and protect the natural skin barrier from absorbing these allergens. We offer these products in sprays, mousses, and shampoos and have seen a noticeable difference in the pets we have been treating. Call and schedule an appointment for your pet today. 366-7440.