Scratch... itch... bite... chew... If your dog is constantly scratching at themselves or appears to have sore or sensitive areas of skin, then they may be suffering from a skin problem, or dermatitis. The word 'dermatitis' means inflammation of the skin (such as a rash) and any accompanying pain, itchiness and irritation. As well as being rather distressing to see, dermatitis can be very unpleasant for your dog, so understanding the causes and triggers for problems of the skin and coat is important for any caring pet owner. Dogs can fall prone to various different types of dermatitis for a variety of reasons, so it's good to be informed about possible problems that may arise and how to recognise them when they do. Here is a run down of some of the most common skin conditions which can affect your dog.
Ringworm, yeast and fungal infections or bacterial imbalances can all cause a multitude of coat and skin problems in dogs. Infections are easily passed on to other dogs and, in the case of ringworm, people too. Treatment usually involves clipping the coat off, applying hydrocortisone creams and managing the infection. Sometimes, imbalances and flare ups caused by infections of these types can be indicative of an underlying problem, such as an autoimmune condition or hypothyroidism- so you should consult your vet for both treatment and testing to uncover any possible root causes.
Fleas, ticks and other nasties can cause itching, inflammation and skin irritation in dogs. You can prevent this from occurring by treating your dog monthly or as often as your vet recommends with a high quality flea and tick treatment such as Advantix, Frontline or Effipro. All of these spot on dropper treatments treat both any existing flea and tick infestation, and prevent recurrence within their given term of effectiveness. You may also need to consider the possibility that your home environment is playing host to a flea infestation, and treat it accordingly with a household spray such as Indorex.Left untreated, flea infestation in dogs can lead to the entire surface of the dog's skin becoming sore, inflamed and raw, from both the flea bites and the scratching which they trigger. Over a medium to long term period of time, untreated or repeated flea infestation can lead to your dog developing a hypersensitivity to flea bites.Sarcoptic mites, scabies mites and demodex mites can also infest even healthy dogs, living underneath the top layer of the skin and irritating the dog to the point where they scratch themselves almost constantly. This can lead to areas of hair loss as well as extreme irritation, and most types of mites are easily transmissible to other dogs- and people. If you suspect your dog is affected by mites, make an appointment with your vet for tests and confirmation and to begin the appropriate treatment regime as soon as you can.
Nutritional dermatitis is caused either by incorrect feeding and a poorly balanced diet, or allergies to certain ingredients or colours and preservatives within your pet's food.Just because a food is sold as a complete diet for your dog does not necessarily mean that it is the most suitable foodstuff available, as all dogs are different, and their needs vary accordingly. Many dog foods, particularly supermarket brands and low cost brands contain artificial colorants, preservatives and flavour enhancers which can cause problems in a small but significant proportion of dogs. The best diet for any dog is one which you have decided upon in conjunction with your veterinary surgeon, and which is without unnecessary additives and bulking agents. If your dog is particularly prone to food sensitivities and allergies even when feeding a high quality complete food, you may need to look at feeding a diet specially tailored for the needs of dogs prone to skin conditions and sensitivities that are specially produced with that in mind.
Environmental dermatitis refers to an irritation and inflammation of the skin caused by external factors within your dog's environment, such as certain types of grasses, contact with irritant substances and plants and allergies to man made products such as some types of plastics and rubber.It can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of an externally triggered irritation such as grass seeds or plants, as your dog may well pass through several different areas of terrain and have contact with many different types of grasses and plants in the normal course of his day. You can try to narrow down the object, substance or area that is causing the problem by listing the places that you take your dog to on a regular basis or at the times when you notice a flare up, and removing them from your walks and monitoring for any change in condition.
Allergic dermatitis can be one of the most difficult skin conditions to accurately diagnose, as pretty much anything within the home or wider environment could potentially cause an allergic reaction in any given dog (or person.) It can be incredibly difficult to identify the cause of an allergy related flare up, and may take a goodly amount of detective work on the part of yourself and your vet, as well as multiple exposure tests and investigative consultations for your dog. Generally allergic dermatitis is only considered as a diagnosis when all other factors such as dietary causes and mite infestation have already been ruled out.
Neurogenic dermatitis is the term used when your dog inexplicably licks, scratches or irritates a specific area of the skin for no discernable cause after exhaustive investigation. Triggers such as stress, boredom and anxiety may come into play here, so it's important to take a holistic approach to resolving the problem and preventing recurrence. Dogs which are prone to over grooming or fixating on particular spots of the coat or skin should be supervised carefully, and prevented from doing so if at all possible. All external reasons for this behaviour should be ruled out before a diagnosis of neurogenic dermatitis is reached, and you will need to work closely with your vet in order to do so.