Dog skin – cat skin – skin problems in pets – Pet tip 143
The skin is the largest organ in the body. This is true for all animals. Being the largest organ in the body also means that it is very important to the health of the animal. If the skin and associated hair coat of an animal is not healthy, it is likely that there is something else causing this problem that you do not know about. Thus, the skin is an important determinant of overall health and well-being. In human medicine, dermatology is a specific area that focuses on the skin and associated structures (such as hair, sweat glands). But did you know that there are also veterinary medicine specialists, dermatologists, that deal strictly with diseases and problems that relate to the skin of your pet?
Skin problems are one of, if not the most commonly seen problems in a veterinary clinic for dogs and cats. There are a wide variety of factors that can cause issues with the skin, one being allergies. Allergies bother the skin of your pet so that they will itch, scratch and lick at their skin excessively. However there are also many other diseases and problems that can cause the same effects on the skin. Some include fleas, dermatitis, Cushing’s disease, and dust mites.
The itchiness and obsession with licking themselves can often lead to self-mutilation and open sores in your pet. This can be very frustrating as there is not really much you can do for your pet, and having to listen to a dog itching throughout the entire night can be really annoying! This can definitely put a lot of strain on your relationship with your pet, but remember it is even more frustrating for him/her. It can be very difficult to diagnose the skin problem, but unless the primary cause is found, whatever else is done will only last for a short period of time until the itching returns. Steroids are often prescribed by veterinarians to help stop your pet’s itching troubles, but, long-term use has the potential to cause health problems. It is most important to look for the underlying cause to properly treat your pet.
Allergies to fleas are the most common cause for skin problems in dogs and cats. An animal with flea allergic dermatitis must be completely free of fleas, and not have the chance of getting bitten by one or else they will show symptoms. Now, it is not the actual flea that causes the allergies, but the flea saliva that enters your pet’s skin after the flea bites the skin. Even though fleas are very small, it only takes a couple of bites to cause an allergic dog to become excessively itchy. In fact, you may not even notice that your dog has fleas or be able to find any on its coat because your pet will itch a lot of the fleas away. Fleas are tricky little creatures – they might even fool you by causing your pet to itch in the winter (when you would think the fleas wouldn’t be able to survive). However, fleas are able to survive in low numbers in the house all year due to the warm temperature. Strict flea control is recommended year round for this reason, and must be adhered to – one flea bite can trigger the allergies.
When we mention ‘allergies,’ fleas probably aren’t what you think of, instead you think of food allergies, which are quite common among people. They are also quite common in pets! What happens is that your pet could become especially sensitive to a specific component in their diet. Usually the problem is a certain protein or carbohydrate ingredient like chicken, pork, beef, corn, wheat, or soy. If food allergies are the suspected cause of your pet’s itchiness, they should be put on a new trial diet. This special food contains new ingredients that your pet will not have eaten before. However, this is quite a lengthy process and will definitely test your nerves, as you will likely have to put up with an itchy pet for a period of 10 to 16 weeks before you see any results. How do you tell if it’s a food allergy? If the itching has stopped by the end of this time period, your pet will be put back on its original diet. If the itching returns, it is safe to say that your pet’s allergies were being caused by the food.
Just like allergies in humans, there is no cure – only ways to control them. If your regular veterinarian is unable to determine the cause of allergies, there are special dermatologists they can refer you to. By controlling the allergies, hopefully your pet will be less stressed and itchy and you will not have to try and fall asleep by counting scratches instead of sheep.
By Laura Platt – Pets.ca writer