Skin problems are common in dogs and cats and can be caused by hormonal disorders, allergies, infections, or parasites such as fleas and mites. These issues can be particularly difficult to treat and should be addressed promptly.
We can often diagnose a skin problem by simply examining your pet. Some conditions do require additional diagnostic procedures to ensure a correct diagnosis. Depending on your pet’s symptoms and the results of our physical exam, we may run blood work or perform a urinalysis, skin scraping, or biopsies.
Contact us if you notice your dog or cat scratching excessively or if he or she develops any bare patches, scabs, scaling, redness, inflammation, lumps, or bumps.
ALLERGIES and SKIN DISEASE:
Did you know that more than 50% OF ALLERGY CASES in dogs are CAUSED BY THE WORLD AROUND THEM?
Skin disease is the #2 reason pets visit the vet.
Below we will look at what allergies are, the symptoms we see in dogs, and ways to manage this often frustrating condition.
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Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease associated with allergies. Allergic skin conditions form the largest and potentially most complex and frustrating medical conditions that our pets may suffer.
Atopy refers to pets that suffer allergies to “inhaled” allergens such as pollen’s, dust and dust mites. Dogs are particularly prone. They inhale these allergens in through the respiratory system and actually react with allergic, inflamed skin.
So, what are allergies, and how do they affect dogs?
In the allergic state, the dog’s immune system “overreacts” to foreign substances (allergens or antigens) to which it is exposed.
Dogs may be allergic to all of the same allergens that affect humans. These include tree pollen’s, grass and weed pollen’s, moulds, mildew, and the house dust mite. Many of these allergies occur seasonally, such as the grass pollen’s. However, others are with us all the time, such as moulds, mildew, and house dust mites.
When humans inhale allergens, we express the allergy as respiratory problems. These include coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, and watery eyes. The dog’s reaction, however, usually produces severe, generalised itching.
Characteristically, the most commonly affected sites are the ears and the paws. These areas become inflamed, red and itchy. The dog starts to scratch, lick and rub. Secondary to this inflammation and self trauma, bacteria and/or yeast that lives on the skin surface in all animals, then starts to replicate and cause an ongoing infection. This infection is what we call “secondary” to the inciting allergy.The ears may also be inflamed, and recurrent ear infections are quite common in these patients.
So what causes my dog’s allergy?
That is not a question that can be answered easily. An individual animal can be allergic to many different things with the end result (itching) being the same. In some cases, allergy testing can make specific determinations, however, it is not always necessary to know the specific allergen for treatment to be successful.
So the big question is………………. HOW ARE ALLERGIES TREATED?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for atopic dermatitis. Skin disease may take time to identify and often requires long-term management. This responsibility will be shared between you and us, your veterinary team.
Management is the key, with three main strategies:
- removing allergens from the skin
- managing infection and inflammation
- and most importantly, repairing the skin barrier
1 – Removing allergens from the skin:
Many dogs are helped considerably by bathing with mild medicated or soothing shampoos. In addition to removing surface antigen, bathing alone will provide some temporary relief from itching and may allow the use of a lower dose of medications.
2 – Managing infection and inflammation:
The aim is to settle reactive cells that change when exposed to allergens (the allergic triggers).
This can be done by a number of treatments:
i. Antibacterial and anti fungal medications – Dogs that damage their skin by licking, chewing and scratching are quite susceptible to infections in the skin.
ii. Corticosteroids – extremely effective in relieving itching and inflammation, however, they do come with some possible side effects.
iii. Antihistamines – can alleviate itchiness and are far safer to use long term than cortisone, antihistamines can significantly decrease the amount of steroid needed to provide relief.
iv. Supplements – Fatty acids are a natural product with anti-inflammatory properties. Some examples are fish oil, or evening primrose oil. They cannot be used alone in the therapy for atopy, however, they can be used in conjunction with other modes of therapy.
3 – Repairing the skin barrier:
All animals lose a small amount of water through the skin. But atopic dogs lose higher amounts of water than normal dogs do. The higher water loss dries out and irritates the skin, but more importantly, it signifies that the skin barrier is not working properly.
Think of the dog’s skin like bricks and mortar – epithelial cells making up the bricks with lipids (fats) and proteins making up the mortar. Atopic skin lacks the bonds between the skin and the cells are weakened. This allows cells to, shrink and cause cracks allowing moisture to evaporate from the skin. If water is leaking out, allergens and irritants can then get in.
We need to strengthen the skin’s integrity to provide more of a barrier to allergens.
HERE IS WHERE THINGS GET EXCITING!!
Nutrition can play an active role in treating allergies and Atopic Dermatitis in dogs and thus, improving their quality of life!
SO HOW WILL NUTRITION WORK TO REPAIR AND RESTORE?
- SUPPORTS SKIN HEALTH FROM WITHIN – High-quality, highly digestible protein to support health of skin and hair, essential fatty acids, antioxidants & Vitamins and minerals to promote skin health
- HELPS RESTORE THE SKIN BARRIER – maintains the skin barrier and controls trans-epidermal water loss
- HELPS BREAK THE CYCLE OF INFLAMMATION – Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammatory production, antioxidants & polyphenols to inhibit histamine release
- HELPS SUPPORT A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM – Carotenoids and vitamin A to help regulate the immune response, antioxidants combat free radicals, Zinc controls the immune response
We feed our dogs each day – so why not incorporate a food that will aid in the repair and restoration of their skin too?
The skin is the body’s largest organ so the energy and nutrients required for continuous repair and restoration means these dogs have a major demand placed on their bodies often on a daily basis.
Hill’s Prescription Diet Derm Defense can play an integral part in the management of canine allergic skin disease, through its comprehensive nutrients, skin barrier strengthening, breaking the cycle of inflammation and promoting a healthy immune system.
Research and clinical trials done on dogs using Hills Derm Defense has proved skin flare ups are better managed and can aid in reducing the doses of medication and supplements needed to control itch and irritation.