Common Pet Skin Problems: A Primer
Want to know the most common pet problems most veterinarians see? It turns out that pet skin problems top the list. Because there are so many different types and causes of skin issues, it can be difficult to make a diagnosis and to develop a treatment plan quickly. Skin problems often require some investigation and a lot of finesse.
At Conrad Weiser Animal Hospital, our team certainly sees its fair share of patients with skin problems. These pets are often very uncomfortable, and it’s our goal to get them feeling better as soon as possible. With this in mind, let’s review some common skin problems and what owners can do to support their pets.
Causes of Common Pet Skin Problems
- Fleas – Flea allergies can be quite severe, even if you can’t see them on your cat or dog. Some animals are extremely sensitive to even one bite from a flea. Pets with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) can become very itchy, making rigorous flea control at home a top priority.
- Mange – Mange is a skin disease that’s caused by several different species of mites, some of which can infect people. Mite infections occur year-round and can be found in the skin, hair follicles, and ears. Demodectic mange tends to cause hair loss, bald spots, and sores, while sarcoptic mange can lead to intense itchiness, red skin, and sores.Symptoms vary depending on the type of mite, and signs can appear anywhere on the body. Mange is treated with oral or topical medications.
- Food allergies – Dogs and cats can become allergic to the food they eat. Most often, they’re allergic to protein; any form of protein that your pet has eaten in his life. Pets with food allergies usually have very itchy skin around the face, feet, ears, and anus. Some may also have gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea and vomiting. A prescription, hypoallergenic food trial is a good way to test for food allergies. We may recommend feeding your pet a specific diet (no treats or human food!) for 12 weeks to test the idea that your pet has a food allergy.
- Environmental allergies – Skin problems in animals can be caused by many things they encounter in their environment. Environmental allergies may or may not be seasonal, and usually first occur in young to middle aged pets.. Symptoms include severe itching around the face, paws, chest, tummy, and ears. Pollen, grass, or dust may be to blame, but it’s very difficult to determine exactly what’s causing the issue. Fleas, food allergies, and other parasites will likely need to be ruled out before a diagnosis can be made. Allergy testing may also be used. Limiting your dog’s or cat’s exposure to environmental allergens is ideal, but it may not be realistic. Management often involves medical washes, medications, environmental changes, diet adjustments, and allergy shots.
- Ringworm – Not really a worm at all, ringworm is a fungus that can be passed to other pets and humans, causing extreme itchiness. Ringworm lesions appear as red, circular patches which are often crusty. If you suspect your dog or cat has ringworm, please call us for an appointment so we can begin treatment right away. Treatment usually involves medicated shampoos and oral medications.
- Lumps and bumps – Cysts, benign and malignant tumors, and cancerous lesions can occur on or just below the skin’s surface.
What to do About Pet Skin Problems
Pet owners, take heart! There’s much you can do to protect your pet from skin problems. Here are some tips:
- Feed your pet a high-quality diet that supports skin and coat health. Consider omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
- Protect your dog or cat from fleas and other parasites year-round.
- Wash your pet’s bedding and vacuum and dust regularly.
- Groom your dog or cat frequently to remove allergens and extra hair from the coat and to condition the skin.
- Maintain your pet’s regularly scheduled preventive care exams.
Early Detection, Early Treatment
Although extreme itchiness in dogs and cats may be common, it’s not normal. If your pet seems uncomfortable, please give us a call. By catching your pets skin problems early on, we can help alleviate their symptoms sooner, saving you time, stress, and money in the long run. Although skin problems can be frustrating, we’re here to help every step of the way!
Conrad Weiser Animal Hospital:
Where big city medicine and surgery meet small town customer service and value.