Skin is the largest organ of the body. It interfaces with the environment and is the first line of defence from the external world. It protects us from a barrage of daily insults, but we tend not to think too much about it until something goes wrong: your pet starts itching, scratching, rubbing, chewing; their skin may become red, sore, moist, weepy, greasy, flaky or smelly.
Don’t assume the cause of your pets’ skin problems. A number of different diseases can cause the same symptoms. Sun exposure, parasites like fleas and mites, bacteria, yeast or fungal infections, contact allergies, food allergies, metabolic, hormone and immune diseases can be responsible for skin conditions. In other words, anything on, in or under the skin!
Although skin conditions are some of the most common health problems in pets, they can often be difficult to diagnose. However, a correct diagnosis is essential, and to do so your vet will often recommend testing, which can mean taking samples directly from your pet’s skin, and occasionally also blood samples.
Some conditions are seasonal, but these should still be investigated and treated to avoid worsening. Some conditions are life-long, such as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) and Atopy (a type of allergic skin disease), requiring vigilant lifetime treatment. Chronic conditions can be very frustrating for pet owners and although it is, unfortunately, not always possible to “cure” your pet’s skin problem, we can manage their symptoms and thus minimise their discomfort.
The current approach to treating skin conditions is to limit the amount of drugs we use and increasingly rely on topical treatments and diets specifically designed for skin health. There are also many supplements that can assist in the treatment of skin problems. A combination may be required for your pet. However, it’s very important to use pet specific and veterinary approved products and understand that human treatments may be inappropriate or even dangerous for our pets. In addition, treatments for one problem can exacerbate another if used incorrectly.
If you suspect your pet has a skin issue, please make an appointment with your vet now.