Skin Problems and Your Pet: Tips for Prevention and Treatment
Is your pet scratching, licking, or chewing excessively? Your furry companion could be suffering from allergies, parasites, or ticks, among other things. The condition of your pet's skin is a good indicator of their overall health.
Are you unsure if your pet is suffering from a skin condition? Here are some symptoms to look for:
- Hot Spots (skin inflammation in one area)
- Excessive scratching, licking, or chewing of the skin
- Scaly patches of skin
- Dry, flaky skin
- Bald spots/patches
- Loss of fur (More severe than everyday shedding)
- Pus or drainage of blood from a sore
- Lumps or bumps
- Skin discoloration
What causes skin problems in pets?
Parasites: Fleas and ticks fall into this category. Parasites can be a huge factor in the well-being of your pet's skin. Fleas / ticks survive off of the blood in your pet's body, so when they feed off of your pet, they're leaving behind secretions in their bite, triggering an allergic reaction.
Ringworm: This isn't actually a worm at all but a fungus (called Dermatophytes) that lives on the surface of your pet's skin, causing a circular lesion and resulting in hair loss.
Mites: There are three different types of mites that can cause serious skin problems. The Sarcoptic Mange is a highly contagious infestation of burrowing mites. They dig into the skin and cause intense itching, making skin susceptible to infection.
The Demodectic Manage is a mite that most dogs are immune to. However, dogs with weakened immune systems can have a problem fighting off this mite.
Ear Mites live in a pet's ear, and this type of mite is most commonly found in cats.
Allergies: Seasonal and food allergies both have the potential to disrupt the health of your pet.
Just like humans, pets can have a hyper-sensitivity to allergens. Pollen, weeds, dust, trees, grass, and mold are all common seasonal allergies. Even seasonal changes, such as the transition from warm summer days to chilly autumn weather, can impact your pet's skin health. Winter is especially influential on your pet's skin as the cold weather can cause dry and flaky skin on pets.
Food Allergies among pets are, unfortunately, more common than not. Many pet food products have corn, soy, or wheat in them, and these fillers and colorings can wreak havoc on your pet's immune system, causing itching, hot spots, and rashes. (Check out the 5 pet food secrets corporations don't want you to know.)
Anxiety / Stress: Your pet could be excessively licking or scratching due to anxiety or stress. If your pet doesn't have enough physical or mental stimulation, your pet will become stressed and seek out other alternatives to soothe themselves, including excessive licking and scratching.
Hormonal Issues: Although we usually associate hormones with teenagers and pregnant women, your dog or cat can also experience hormonal and metabolic changes, both of which can affect the skin.
Are certain pets more prone to having skin problems than others?
Dogs tend to have more skin issues then cats, but there isn't a certain breed of dog or cat that is more or less prone than others. Some pet owners ask me whether the size or age of their pet can have an impact on skin problems, but the answer is no. What does impact your pet is his/her living conditions and their everyday environment.
How do I help my pet?
Visit Your Vet: Don't wait to visit your vet if you ever notice a change in your pet's skin or fur.
Schedule an appointment with your vet for a diagnosis, and your vet will do one or more diagnostic test on your pet. Your vet may examine your pet's skin for external parasites, test for ringworm, perform a skin biopsy to locate mites, conduct a blood test, or test for allergies.
Before arriving at the vet's office, make a written list of your pet's age, whether or not your pet has been spayed or neutered, whether your pet is mostly inside or outside, what products you groom your pet with, and the type and amount of food you feed your pet. Knowing this information, your vet will better be able to more quickly and accurately diagnose your pet.
What steps can I take to prevent skin problems in my pet?
- Keep your pet well-groomed, and use natural products when washing their fur
- Brush your pet daily
- Keep your pet indoors more often than not
- Provide healthy mental and physical stimulation
- Provide a calm, nurturing environment
- Feed your pets a high-grade and quality pet food (See my recommendations for dog food and cat food)
- Keep your home clean, free of dust and dirt
- Treat your pet monthly with a parasite prevention program (usually prescribed by a vet)
Treatment for skin problems
There are many different types of treatments available, so be sure to do your research and ask questions. Here are some treatments to consider:
If you would like to take a holistic approach, groom your pet with natural products, free of harsh chemicals. Give your pet dietary supplements (e.g. fish oil). Also consider purchasing natural and holistic treatments for your pets, such as Derma-Ionx, Aniextrex, and Defendex, all of which can be purchased at Vetionx..
For a more traditional approach, use topical treatments if your pet has parasites. For allergies, your vet might prescribe the following: antihistamines, antibiotics, and antifungal treatments.
Your pet's skin health is important and should be looked into as soon as you think there's a problem.