It is probably the most common reason for pets to come visit us, and it isn’t what you might think. Pet skin problems top the list of reasons that people make appointments for their furry family members here at Volunteer Veterinary Hospital. Read on to learn all you ever wanted to know about this problem in pets.
Pet Skin Problems
Pet skin problems can present in many ways. They can happen any time of year, but we do tend to see seasonal fluctuations in issues. It is often hard to miss if your pet is having trouble, but common symptoms of skin trouble can include:
- Red skin
- Hair loss
- Crusts, scales, or scabs on the skin
- Increased odor
- Obsessive licking (especially the paws)
- Ear trouble
If your pet is experiencing any of these issues, it is probably time for a trip in to see us. Don’t hesitate to let us know, as we can often help.
Causes for Concern
The trouble with pet skin problems is that many different issues can appear very similarly in our patients. That is why it is important for us to examine your pet when he or she is having trouble, so that we can get to the bottom of things and treat more effectively.
Some common conditions that are diagnosed in pets exhibiting skin problems include:
Parasitic infections – Fleas are the most common offenders when it comes to itchy, uncomfortable skin in pets. Even if you aren’t seeing these nasty little buggers, they can still be an issue. Pets can also be affected by other skin parasites like lice, mange (skin mites), or ear mites.
Bacterial or yeast dermatitis – Overgrowth of microscopic organisms that normally live on the skin can lead to itching, hair loss, scales, and other issues. This can occur secondary to another issue, such as skin allergies, thyroid imbalances, or immune problems.
Food allergy – Some pets may exhibit sensitivities to certain food ingredients with skin problems. Often the offending food is a protein source and must be determined by a strict hypoallergenic food trial.
Atopy – Atopic dermatitis refers to a condition in which the skin is prone to developing sensitivities to (often multiple) environmental allergens. Atopic pets may have allergic flares secondary to dust, pollens, grasses, weeds, and many other things.
Contact dermatitis – Contact with irritating substances, such as chemicals, detergents, or perfumes can cause skin issues in some pets.
If your pet is experiencing skin issues, we will likely recommend an examination and diagnostic tests in order to try and determine what the problem might be.
Helping at Home
If your pet is having skin problems, there are some things that you can try at home to help. If things are mild, you might:
- Bathe your pet in a hypoallergenic pet shampoo
- Use foot soaks to remove allergens from the paws and soothe the skin
- Avoid fragrance, smoke, and other chemicals in your home
- Take steps it minimize dust in your home
- Use an antihistamine (call us first to check if appropriate for your pet)
- Supplement with a quality omega-3 fatty acid
- Have your pet groomed routinely
- Use a recommended flea preventative regularly
If your pet is very itchy or has visible redness, sores, or other skin abnormalities, it probably best to get him or her in to be seen. Skin problems in pets can worsen very quickly, and we are usually able to treat most effectively when we see them early in their course.