Causes of Cat Skin Conditions

royal canin logoCats are some of the best groomers and can spend up to 30% of their awake time cleaning their coats. As a very general rule of thumb, the healthier a cat’s coat, the healthier they usually are on the inside too. Sometimes however, you may notice that your cat is grooming much more than usual, or potentially evening scratching, and these symptoms may be an indication that they may have a skin condition or allergy that is bothering them. Cats that have itchy, irritated skin will generally increase their grooming habits to help relieve their discomfort. The exact cause of skin problems in cats can take some investigating, but the good news is that there are many treatment options available to help manage their issue and reduce their scratching, including certain diets.

 

Common causes of skin conditions in cats

Food Allergies

Adverse food reactions to their diet, or from your cat eating something they shouldn’t, can sometimes be the underlying cause of red or itchy patches on you might see on your cat’s skin. These adverse food reactions can also potentially bring about gastrointestinal issues like vomiting or diarrhoea as well. A trip to your local vet is the best way to go when these signs first appear in your cat, so that they can help determine what the cause might be. If your vet decides that a food allergy could be to blame, you will most likely need to undertake a food elimination trial for your cat, to help figure out the potential cause of their allergy, so that it can be avoided in their diet.

 

Cat Food Allergies

What is a food elimination trial?

A food elimination trial involves removing all the potential allergens in your cat’s diet including treats, dinner scraps and even certain chewable medications and toothpastes, over a period of time to see if there is any improvement in their skin issue. To help with this process, a special diet like ROYAL CANIN®’s Anallergenic and Hypoallergenic diets, will generally be recommended by your vet to help your pet avoid these allergic reactions to their food.  These diets have been specially formulated to use during these important food elimination trials, and can also be used as complete and balanced nutritional options long term if your cat suffers ongoing food related issues.

 

Cat Environmental Allergies

Environmental Allergies

The environment your cat lives in everyday can have a big impact on their skin health. Environmental allergies (also known as feline atopy) can cause your cat to constantly scratch because of their sensitivities to a range of different allergens including grasses, pollens and mites. You may see red and irritated patches or small bumps under your cat’s fur and you may notice stained fur in areas they are constantly licking. As many health problems can first present themselves with itchy skin as a symptom, it’s a good idea to head to your vet first to identify the cause and understand the best way to treat the issue. Environmental allergies are often diagnosed once other potential causes (such as adverse food reactions, dermatitis and infection) are ruled out. In cases of environmental allergies, it is often impossible to remove the offending allergen(s) from your cat’s environment, however thankfully certain medications and specially formulated diets can help ease their symptoms. The nutritional management of feline atopy usually includes a combination of nutrients to help protect the skin’s natural barrier role, alongside good amounts of omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil, to help minimise skin inflammation.

 

Cat Parasites

Parasites

For many dogs and cats, skin parasites can be a nuisance and the most common ones we see in cats are fleas and mites. If fleas are the issue, you will see your cat scratching a lot around their hindquarters. In some cases, severe irritation can lead to flea allergy dermatitis if your cat happens to develop an allergy to the flea’s saliva. On the other hand, ear mites are also incredibly common in cats. A strong indication your cat could have ear mites is if you see them scratching at one or both ears a lot, alongside a dark, dry discharge from their ears. If your vet determines parasites are the cause of your cat’s skin issue, then treatment will generally involve treating your cat with an appropriate product, as well as removing the infestation from your cat’s environment. If you would like to know more, please read of our “Common ear problems in cats” blog to learn about the symptoms you should look out for, as well as how best to treat ear mites.

Common causes of skin conditions in kittens

Your vet knows best

All cats will bite or scratch at their skin at times, but if these habits seem excessive and are accompanied by lots of licking or hair loss, it may be a sign of something more troublesome. For any kind of skin issue in your cat, it is always a good idea to check in with your vet to make sure there are no underlying health issues that are presenting themselves as a skin condition. Your vet will be able to give you the best treatment options available, and will help guide you through managing your cat’s problem skin.

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How to deal with your dog’s food allergies?

royal canin logo

Allergies are a very common cause of skin problems in pets and surprisingly, approximately 10% of all skin allergy cases in dogs are food related. Seeing your dog scratch constantly, rubbing up against furniture to itch and licking their fur more than usual, could be an indication of a number of potential skin issues, including a food allergy. Food allergies in dogs are typicaly due to proteins in their diet, with some of the most common causes being beef, dairy, chicken and egg proteins. Luckily, however, diagnosing and managing food allergies isn’t impossible – the hard part is figuring out exactly what an individual dog is allergic to.

 

How to deal with your dogs food allergies

What are food allergies?

Just like in people, a food allergy happens when a dog’s immune system thinks a certain type of protein in a food is dangerous. Their body will then fight off the so-called ‘harmful protein’ via the immune system that can trigger symptoms that are usually skin related. Other symptoms that may lead to the diagnosis of an underlying allergy can include ear infections, gastrointestinal problems (such as diarrhoea or vomiting), and excessive licking and scratching at certain areas of skin. Your first point of call should always be to contact your local vet if your dog is showing any of these symptoms. After a full physical exam and potentially a few simple diagnostic tests, if your vet suspects a food allergy, then your dog will likely have to undergo a food elimination trial to confirm this suspicion, as well as to find out what protein your dog is actually allergic to.

 

How to deal with your dogs food allergies

What’s a food elimination trial?

A food elimination trial works by feeding your dog a specially formulated diet with very low chance of causing allergy, so all potential allergens are completely removed from their diet. This typically takes around 8 -12 weeks to complete, and if your dog’s adverse reactions to their previous diet have cleared up, then it’s safe to assume that a food allergy to one or more proteins in this previous diet were to blame. After the trial is complete, you’ll need to reintroduce the original diet or suspected allergen to them again to see if they have a negative response, in order to confirm the diagnosis.

As dogs are generally only allergic to proteins, the specially formulated diets recommended by your vet will either feature a protein source your dog has never eaten before (novel protein diet) or a protein that has been broken down into tiny particles so their body doesn’t recognise the source (hydrolysed protein diet).

 

How to deal with your dogs food allergies

What’s the best food for allergies?

ROYAL CANIN®’s Hypoallergenic and Anallergenic diets take into account the nutritional needs of your dog both during a food elimination trial and as a long-term dietary solution to help manage their sensitivity to food.

Our Hypoallergenic diet uses soy protein that has been broken down into tiny molecules to stop your dog’s immune system recognising it and our Anallergenic diet uses feather protein hydrolysate, which is an alternative protein source rarely used in pet foods. We also have a selected protein diet called Sensitivity Control which contains duck and tapioca, and this could be used as a novel protein diet if your dog has never been fed duck before. On top of this, all three formulas use long chain omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil to promote a healthy skin and coat, and B vitamins alongside the amino acid histidine to help maintain the skin’s natural barrier effect. Both a hydrolysed protein diet and a novel protein diet like ROYAL CANIN®’s dermatology diets can be used as part of a short-term food elimination trial, or as a long-term nutritional solution if your dog is diagnosed with a food allergy.

http://healthypets.royalcanin.co.nz/blog/how-to-deal-with-your-dogs-food-allergies/

Don’t play it by ear

catdogitchingProblems with our pets’ ears are very common. Signs of these ear problems include scratching or rubbing at the ears or head, odour, discharge, redness or swelling, shaking their head or tilting it to one side, holding the ears down, pain around the ears or resentment to being touched, and even just a change in behaviour, such as depression or irritability.

Ear problems may be localised to the outside part of the ear (the pinna, or ear flap), inside the ear canal, or further into the middle or inner ear. In some cases, all parts of the ear may become affected, especially if treatment is delayed.

Allergies, parasites, infection from bacteria or yeast, foreign bodies such as grass seeds, trauma, excessive heat and moisture, the conformation of the ear, immune diseases, hereditary conditions and tumours can all cause ear conditions.

Because there are many potential causes and many different signs, in the majority of cases your veterinarian will need to investigate in order to make a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment. They may need to look down into the ear and take a sample with a cotton bud, to look at under the microscope. If your pet won’t allow this examination due to fear or pain, sedation or anaesthesia may be required.

No single treatment can treat all causes, and different conditions require varied treatment times, with some requiring frequent revisits to monitor progress. Some conditions are chronic in nature or reoccur.

While not all ear conditions can be prevented, the vast majority of them can. Check your pets’ ears weekly, clean them when necessary, and keep their parasite treatment up-to-date. If your veterinarian has prescribed treatment, make sure you are administering it effectively and as directed.

If you notice any of the signs indicating a problem with your pets’ ears, or any sign of pain or discomfort, don’t see how it goes – the sooner your pet sees the vet, the better.

When Dogs Go Weak at the Knees

cruciate

The cranial cruciate ligament is one of the most important stabilisers inside the canine stifle (knee) joint and unfortunately rupture of this ligament is one of the most common reasons for hind limb lameness, pain and subsequent arthritis.

Cranial cruciate ligament rupture can affect dogs of all sizes, breeds and ages, but rarely cats. Certain dog breeds have a higher incidence, and obesity and sudden strenuous activity increase the risk. Chronic changes can also be responsible with few or no symptoms until the ligament finally ruptures without an obvious cause.

Typical signs your dog may exhibit include non-weight bearing of the affected leg, general lameness (limping), swelling or pain in the knee, difficulty with normal activity such as getting up or jumping into the car, or seeming a little stiff in the back legs.

If you notice any signs of pain or discomfort in your dog, the sooner you consult with your veterinarian the better.

Your veterinarian will initially watch your dog walk and feel the stifle joint to determine if ligament rupture is indicated. X-rays will need to be taken to evaluate the extent of damage to the stifle joint, including existing arthritis, and help to determine the best course of treatment.

Treatment or management may be surgical or non-surgical, and will depend on the dogs size, age, activity level and degree of damage. Surgical treatment is usually considered the best treatment as it is the only way to permanently control the instability and pain. The ligament itself is not repaired; instead the tibia (shin) bone may be realigned, implants inserted to change the angle of the bone, or specialised suture techniques utilised to stabilise the joint.

Careful post-surgical management at home is critical to reduce the chance of the surgical repair failing. Unfortunately, 40-60% of dogs that have had one knee affected will go on to develop a problem in the other knee.

 

 

Letting the Cat out of the Bag

cat in bagCats are, by nature, enigmatic. Cats do not show their emotions as obviously as other animals, and tend to withdraw and become quiet. Acute problems may be recognised by sudden changes in behaviour, but when the issues are chronic, signs of stress and pain can be subtle and we may easily mistake them for normal cat behaviour.

Cats need to feel in control of their environment. Anything that interrupts their feeling of control can, over time, raise your cat’s stress level. Stress has been identified as a significant trigger for most cat behaviour problems and some diseases. Knowing the common warning signs when your cat is feeling stressed is essential in identifying their emotional well-being and making the changes necessary to improve their feeling of security and contentment, or seek veterinary help when necessary.

The cat that overeats, over-grooms, is inactive or sleeps a lot, may not just be the lazy fat cat you know and love, but instead be withdrawing to protect themselves from stress or pain. The cat that wees on the carpet, scratches the furniture or fights with other cats isn’t being naughty, but instead may be displaying signs of anxiety, pain or discomfort. The cat that sleeps on your bed with the other cat but creeps slowly past is in fact threatened by the other cat, and only just managing to tolerate its presence in order to be with you.

Understanding your cat’s environmental needs and behaviour can be difficult. There are many resources online to help but it’s crucial to seek quality and qualified advice from reputable sites, such as International Cat Care. If behaviour is causing problems or health issues are suspected, seek veterinary help as soon as possible.

Pheromone therapy like Feliway can be very useful to increase your cat’s sense of wellbeing in the face of stress whilst causes are identified and eliminated.

 In-clinic special: 33% OFF Feliway Diffusers, while stocks last!

When to say goodbye

7947371_origThere sometimes comes a time in a pet’s life where you as their owner have to make the heart-wrenching decision to say goodbye and elect for euthanasia. It may be due to accident, behaviour or an age-related disease. Vets are able to give advice but ultimately it is up to you, as the pet’s caregiver, to make the decision to end their life humanely. Some age related diseases give us time, but in other circumstances an urgent decision is required to prevent further suffering. Your pet’s quality of life is most important, but how do we measure that?

We know our own pets better than anyone, but it can be difficult to be objective about their quality of life when there is any sort of question around it. Here are some signs that may indicate your pet is suffering or no longer enjoying a good quality of life:

• Chronic pain that cannot be controlled with medication (your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is in pain).
• No longer eating or will only eat if you force feed them.
• Frequent vomiting or diarrhoea causing dehydration and/or significant weight loss.
• Incontinence to the degree that they frequently soil themselves.
• Loss of interest in all or most of their favourite activities – walks, playing with toys or other pets, eating treats.
• Withdrawing from family.
• Unable to stand on their own or falls down when trying to walk.
• Chronic laboured breathing or coughing.

If you recognise any of these signs in your pet, it is certainly time to have the discussion with your vet.

As difficult as it is, it pays to think about these things before you are called on the make the final decision. Discussing options with other family members may also be a good idea.

Cold and Creaky

arthritisThe cold weather has arrived and it might not just be us that finds it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. You might notice your pet taking longer to get up, seeming a bit stiff or lame, generally slowing down or getting a bit grumpy. Very often this is a sign of age related degenerative joint disease (DJD), or osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as simply ‘arthritis’.

DJD mostly affects cartilage, the hard but slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another, and absorbs energy from movement. In DJD, the surface layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Bone may grow on the edges of the joint and pieces of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, causing further pain and damage.

Most often we see DJD in our senior pets (generally considered the last 1/3 of their life expectancy). But just because age related changes are normal, doesn’t mean our pets should suffer in silence. There are many ways we can manage DJD, including specialised diets, supplements and various types of medications that help to slow down the damage and manage the pain. It’s very important that high quality products, designed for our pets, are used. The type, source, and quality of ingredients are crucial. Never give your pets human pain medications. They metabolise drugs differently to us, and in most cases human medications are unsafe or deadly to pets. One measure you can take at home is ensuring your pet has a warm, cushioned bed to sleep on.

Your veterinarian will assess what stage your pet is at and offer the most suitable options for managing their condition and maximise their quality of life. As with any health issue, the sooner we see them the better.

The Darkside of Backsides

catfdogback

Anal glands are two small semi-fluid filled sacs, located under the skin on either side of the anus, in dogs and cats. They are designed to empty their very smelly fluid onto the animal’s bowel motions. Most animals never have an issue with their anal glands, and you may not even know they exist. However, they can develop problems, ranging from irritating, to very serious.

The classic signs of anal gland problems in pets is “scooting”, where they drag their bottom along the ground. This is commonly mistaken as a sign of worms – although tapeworm infestation can occasionally cause scooting, it is far more likely to be anal gland irritation. Your pet may also chase, lick or bite at their backside or top of the tail. They may have trouble going to the toilet, or be in pain when trying. Sometimes they may have a swelling around their anus which could be very firm, or soft and inflamed, and find sitting painful.

Diet, being overweight, skin issues or allergies, and infection, as well as trauma or even poor anatomy can all be a cause of anal gland problems.

Impaction is the most common problem associated with anal glands. This occurs when the fluid builds up in the glands and thickens, and isn’t expressed with toileting, resulting in enlargement and irritation of the glands.

Anal gland infections cause irritation and inflammation and can develop into an anal gland abscess. Pus can build up within the anal gland until it eventually ruptures.

Anal gland tumors do occur, and although rare, are usually an invasive cancer growth called an adenocarcinoma, with a poor prognosis.

If you notice your pet bothered by their backside, it’s important to get them to their vet to determine the cause. Treatments can range from treating the underlying cause, providing supplements, antibiotics or pain-relief, manually expressing the anal glands, flushing the glands, and rarely, surgical removal.

Terrible Toxicities

toxinsWe’re approaching a time of year where we see a lot of animals with potentially fatal toxicities. Their natural curiosity makes them vulnerable to substances about the home that are harmful to their health. Most pet owners go to great lengths to care for their pets, but there are several hazards which are commonly overlooked, yet easily avoided.

Rat Bait

Most rat baits available to the public contain anticoagulants. These work by preventing clotting of the blood. Symptoms often do not appear until several days after eating as it takes some time for the clotting factors to be depleted. Unfortunately, rat bait is often ingested without the owner’s knowledge and an untreated animal can potentially die from blood loss.

Signs of rat bait poisoning are variable and are caused by internal bleeding. These include:
•Lethargy, depression
•Loss of appetite
•Pale gums
•Coughing or difficulty breathing
•Blood in stool or urine
•Vomiting
•Bleeding from nose or gums

Slug/Snail Bait

Most contain a toxin called metaldehyde that affects the central nervous system causing seizures. Initial signs of poisoning occur in as little as half an hour after ingestion. Death can occur within a couple of hours.

Signs of poisoning are usually progressive:
•Anxious behaviour
•Mild twitching
•Uncoordinated walk
•Salivating or excessive drooling
•Vomiting
•Diarrhoea
•Tremors
•Seizures
•Hyperthermia

Antifreeze

Most antifreeze formulations contain ethylene glycol. The sweet smell attracts animals, but it is deadly if ingested even in small amounts. As little as half a teaspoon can kill an average-sized cat. Unless you catch it early, the damage to pets’ kidneys is irreversible. Signs can be seen from 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion.

Signs of antifreeze poisoning include:
•Nausea and vomiting
•Mild to severe depression
•Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken-appearing gait (ataxia) or movement and knuckling of the feet
•Twitching muscles
•Short, rapid movements of the eyeball
•Head tremors
•Seizures
•Decreased or no appetite
•Ulcers in mouth
•Drooling
•Little or no urination

Think about your pets as you would your children when considering the dangers of using these products. There may be alternatives that pose less of a risk. Keep all products stored safely, well out of reach of your pets and any spills or leaks cleaned up immediately.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any of these poisons it is important to contact your vet clinic immediately. If you know the brand, inform the vet and if possible, bring the container with you. As with all emergencies, the sooner they get to the vet the better the chance of a positive outcome

Warm Wet Weather Woes

Funny guinea pig with little rabbit isolated on whiteIt’s hard not to mention the weather again because it so often causes a number of problems with our pets. Rabbits and Guinea Pigs are regularly seen at the clinic during warm, wet weather with a number of ailments that can be distressing or life-threatening.

Fleas, mites and lice can cause chewing and scratching, resulting in scabs and hair-loss. They are treatable, but drugs need to be used with extreme caution. Make sure any products you use are suitable for rabbits or guinea pigs and dosed to individual animals.

Teeth need to be taken care of too. A rabbit or guinea pig that can’t eat properly due to malocclusion (teeth that do not meet normally) may develop drooling, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, weight loss and lethargy. Veterinary attention is required urgently.

Fly-strike is a common and serious problem. Many infested pets are well cared for, but the signs of a problem have been missed with normal daily husbandry. Flies can strike a healthy animal that has loose stools, wet skin, or a wound, but at particular risk are aging, disabled, or overweight rabbits that cannot clean themselves. Within a 24-hour period an otherwise healthy rabbit can enter a terminal state of shock due to maggot infestation.

During warm, wet weather, carers need to be extra vigilant with cage or run hygiene, and check their pets daily for signs of a dirty bottom, moist skin, wounds or inactivity, especially if they like to sit where they toilet. If any maggots are seen, call your veterinary clinic immediately.

For more information on how to take care of your rabbit or guinea pig, please download a copy of A Guide to Keeping Rabbits & Guinea Pigs, or come into the clinic for a copy of our brochure. See also our Rabbit Calici Virus brochure and why you need to vaccinate your rabbits.