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Skin and Coat Health

Ringworm

Ringworm is caused by a fungus. The disease with the misleading name (it has nothing to do with a worm) is a common infection that often causes itchy red patches on the skin. Dogs, cats, and humans can be affected by the disease, which causes hair to fall out in affected areas. It’s easily transmitted between people and pets, and if someone (or some pet) in a household has it, all should be tested and treated, if needed. Treatment ranges from oral medications to topical products and can take weeks or months to resolve.

Overview

Ringworm in pets is most often caused by the fungus Microsporum canis. Although two other species of fungus can also cause ringworm infections, they tend to do so less frequently.

These fungi (also known as dermatophytes) invade the superficial layers of the skin, hair, and/or nails. Because fungi thrive in moist environments, dermatophytes are especially persistent in humid climates and damp surroundings.

The ringworm infection caused by dermatophytes is also known as dermatophytosis. It’s not only contagious to other animals, it’s considered a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans (and vice versa). Children and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk.

Signs and Identification

In pets, the fungal infection causes the hair to become brittle and break off, resulting in bald spots. These occur most commonly on the face, ears, and legs. Within these hairless patches, the skin may be crusty or mildly inflamed, especially around the edges (hence, the ring-like appearance). If claws are affected, they may become deformed as they grow, just as in a human with a fungal infection of the nails.

Typically, the infection itself is not itchy, though secondary bacterial infections (pyoderma) may elicit significant pruritus (itchiness). Some animals may show no signs but may be sources of infection nonetheless, shedding fungal spores into the environment and serving as a reservoir for infection.

Ringworm is typically spread by contact with an infected animal. Because animals can shed fungal spores and infected hairs into the environment, touching objects the infected animal has been in contact with, including bedding and brushes, can also lead to infection. Organisms that are shed into the environment can remain infectious for months.

The best way to diagnose ringworm infection in an animal is by fungal culture. The veterinarian will pluck a few hairs from several lesions and place them on a culture medium where the organism can grow. Because it takes time for fungal growth, results may not be available for two weeks or more. Preliminary results, however, may sometimes be obtained within five days.

Veterinarians might also examine skin lesions under a Wood’s (ultraviolet light) lamp. In some cases — but not all — the organism may glow yellow-green. Because this test is not always accurate, a fungal culture is still the preferred method of diagnosis. Nonetheless, Wood’s lamp testing can be helpful.

In households in which people are diagnosed with ringworm, all the family pets should be tested. The same goes for multi-pet households in which one pet has been diagnosed with ringworm. Other pets should be tested and treated if positive in order to eliminate sources of ongoing infection.

Affected Breeds

All breeds of dogs and cats are equally susceptible. Dogs and cats with compromised immune systems may be predisposed to ringworm infections.

Treatment

In healthy animals, the infection may be self-limiting, meaning that it will eventually resolve without treatment. However, treatment can hasten resolution of the problem and limit the spread of infection to other animals and people in the household.

Pets may be treated with topical products, oral medications, or both. Before applying a topical treatment, veterinarians may recommend shaving or clipping the infected area. Topical treatments include lime sulfur dip, anti-fungal sprays/creams or antifungal shampoos.

There are a number of oral medications for ringworm, such as griseofulvin and itraconazole. Griseofulvin should never be given to a pregnant animal because it may cause birth defects in developing puppies or kittens. It may also cause bone marrow suppression in cats, especially those with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Administration of griseofulvin may require periodic blood monitoring tests. Itraconazole is rapidly becoming the preferred oral treatment for cats because it has fewer side effects.

Thorough cleaning and treatment of the home environment is important to prevent recurrence and spread of the infection to pets and people. To eliminate fungal organisms in the environment:

  • Clip affected areas on the pet and dispose of all hairs.
  • Confine infected pets to one area of the house.
  • Thoroughly vacuum areas that were highly trafficked by the pet and dispose of the vacuum bag outside. Wash all bedding and toys in hot water.
  • Dispose of any carpets or rugs, if possible.
  • Clean exposed areas and kennels with chlorine bleach that has been diluted 1:10 or with an antifungal spray recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Repeat vacuuming and surface treatment at least monthly until infection is resolved.

Treatment may be required for six weeks or longer. Once skin lesions have resolved, fungal cultures should be performed again. Treatment should not be stopped until fungal cultures are negative. Discontinuing treatment based only on resolution of lesions may result in recurrence of the infection.

Prevention

It’s difficult to prevent ringworm infection 100% in pets that enjoy outdoor life. These organisms are in the soil and might be on other dogs in the dog park, for example. Keeping cats indoors is an obvious solution, but even they can be infected by humans or dogs in the household.

Once characteristic lesions are seen, however, owners should take care not to touch the lesions and take their pets quickly to the veterinarian to prevent the spread of this skin infection.

 

Pyoderma in Dogs

Pyoderma is a skin infection that can cause itching, redness, crusts, pustules, a rash, and/or hair loss at the site of the infection, among other, grosser symptoms. Dogs and cats both can get the condition, which occurs when something has happened to the skin that allows bacteria to grow unchecked. Pyoderma can be treated with oral or topical antibiotics and/or shampoos, but the underlying cause has to be addressed, too.

Overview

Pyoderma is a bacteria infection of the skin. It happens when the skin’s natural defenses break down, thereby allowing common skin bacteria to multiply. Opportunistic bacteria that don’t normally live on the skin can also colonize when the skin’s defenses have been broken down. Other organisms, such as yeast and fungal organisms, can also take advantage of the skin changes that occur with pyoderma and establish their own infections.

All pyodermas have an inciting cause. In general, any disruption in the immune system’s ability to keep Do you dread giving pills to your pet? Find out about an injectable antibiotic alternative.“}”>bacteria from overgrowing on the skin can lead to pyoderma, including:

  • Damage to the skin (bite wounds, bug bites, scratching, ringworm, mange, burns, chemical irritation, urine scalding, tumors)
  • Allergies to fleas, foods, or other allergens
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Immunosuppression caused by certain medications, viral disease, cancer, liver disease, thyroid disease, or other illness

Dogs and cats of any age can be affected by pyoderma.

Symptoms and Identification

The clinical signs of pyoderma may include:

  • Rash
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Crusts
  • Scales
  • Pus-filled blisters (called pustules)
  • Hair loss
  • Oozing sores
  • Foul odor

Diagnostic testing to confirm a Get more information about the signs of skin infection.“}”>bacterial infection and determine the primary cause may include several of the following:

  • Adhesive tape prep: Placing a small strip of adhesive tape against the pet’s skin or hair for a few seconds permits skin cells and other debris to stick to the tape. When your veterinarian examines the tape under a microscope, bacteria, yeast, inflammatory cells, cancer cells, skin parasites, and other abnormalities can often be seen.
  • Skin scrape: Gently scraping the surface of the skin with a dull scalpel blade or similar instrument can remove cells just below the skin’s surface. These cells are then examined under a microscope. Mites that cause mange can be identified using this technique.

Bacterial culture: A swab of the skin (or of a pustule) can be sent to the lab to determine what bacteria are present and which Is your pet difficult to pill? Click here to learn about an injectable antibiotic alternative.“}”>antibiotics should be used to treat the infection.

  • Fungal culture: Hairs from infected skin can be sent to the lab to be tested for ringworm or other fungal infections.
  • Biopsy: After a local anesthetic or sedation is administered to the patient, a small piece of skin can be removed and sent to the lab for evaluation.
  • Blood testing: A blood sample can reveal internal disorders that may have affected the skin’s barriers to infection. More extensive testing may be pursued to look for thyroid disease or other specific disorders that can cause or contribute to skin diseases.
  • Allergy testing: Along with food trials (for food allergy), blood and/or skin testing can help determine if an allergy exists, identify which allergens are causing a problem, and help your veterinarian determine whether specific treatment for the allergy is possible.

Affected Breeds

Dogs and cats of any breed can suffer with pyoderma.

Treatment

The infection itself can usually be taken care of with a course of antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian. Antibiotics can be administered by mouth, by injection, or applied topically in a variety of formulations (gels, foams, creams, shampoos, leave-in conditioners, and sprays). However, the underlying cause –– whether it’s parasites, hormonal imbalances, allergies or sanitary issues –– must be specifically addressed to prevent the problem and keep it from recurring. When a pet’s primary disease or husbandry problem is under control, chances are good that the animal will recover from pyoderma and not suffer a recurrence.

Prevention

The best way to prevent pyoderma is to address any underlying diseases, follow good basic hygiene techniques, and employ appropriate animal husbandry practices.

Ear (Aural) Hematoma

An aural hematoma is a pool of blood that collects between the skin and the cartilage of a pet’s ear flap. It’s typically caused by overly aggressive ear scratching or head shaking that results from an ear infection. Dogs and cats can both suffer ear hematomas, though dogs (particularly those prone to skin allergies and ear infections) are more prone to them. Treatments range from draining the hematoma with a needle, to surgical correction of the problem.

Overview

An ear hematoma is a pocket of blood that forms within the exterior portion of a pet’s ear flap. Although both dogs and cats can suffer ear hematomas, the condition is much more common in dogs.

Ear hematomas are usually caused by some kind of self-trauma — such as when a pet aggressively scratches at the ears or shakes his or her head, causing the ear flaps to slap against the skull. This trauma can cause blood to leave the vessels and pool in a pocket between the skin and cartilage components that make up the outer part of the ear flap. Usually, there’s an underlying cause for the scratching and head shaking, such as ear mites or bacterial and/or yeast infections of the ear canal. Because dogs that suffer from skin allergies are prone to ear infections, allergic skin disease can be an important part of the underlying problem.

It’s undeniably crucial to treat both the ear hematoma and the underlying parasites or ear infection and address possible allergies.

Symptoms and Identification

A pet with an ear hematoma will have a fluid-filled swelling on all or just part of the ear flap (called the “pinna”). Sometimes the swelling will seem firm, other times, soft and fluctuant. It may occlude the ear canal or simply involve the very tip of the ear.

A veterinarian can diagnose this condition during a physical exam. However, it is also important to diagnose underlying conditions that may lead to excessive ear scratching or head shaking. The veterinarian will most likely inspect the ear canal and swab it for a sample to examine under the microscope for signs of parasites or infection.

Allergic skin disease (including inhalant allergies and food allergies) is probably the most common condition underlying this disease in dogs. Definitively diagnosing this possibility, however, is not as easy as identifying organisms under a microscope. Food trials (to investigate food allergies) and other kinds of allergy testing may be in order.

Affected Breeds

Any dog or cat can develop an ear hematoma. Because allergic skin disease is a common cause, any pet prone to skin allergies in more likely to develop an ear hematoma. The problem develops easier in dogs with more pendulous ears, because heavy ear flaps easily slap against the side of the head during head shaking.

Treatment

Surgical repair is often considered the most effective treatment for ear hematomas. While under anesthesia, an incision is made along the length of the hematoma on the inner surface of the ear. After the fluid and blood clots are removed, the inner surface of the ear is tacked down to the outer surface of the ear with sutures. The sutures hold the inner and outer surfaces against each other so that when scar tissue forms, the two surfaces are smooth and not lumpy. The sutures generally stay in place for a few weeks while the incision is left open so that fluid will continue to drain as the ear heals. Eventually, the incision will heal on its own.

For a dog with droopy ears, the treated ear is often flipped up and bandaged against the head to prevent head shaking during recovery. An Elizabethan collar (a cone-shaped hood that fits over the pet’s head) is often recommended so the pet can’t scratch at the ears.

As an alternative, several small incisions may be made on the inside surface of the ear with a laser. In this case, sutures are not needed.

Another treatment involves the placement of a small drain, or rubber tube, in the external portion of the ear. The drain stays in place for several weeks as the fluid resolves and the ear heals. Some pets may not tolerate this, and cats’ ears are usually too small for this technique.

In some cases, veterinarians may draw out the fluid with a needle and syringe. Medication may also be injected into the space to reduce swelling and inflammation. However, it is very common for the hematoma to return with this procedure.

With an underlying ear infection or ear mites, the pet will most likely need to have the ear canals cleaned and treated with appropriate ointments or solutions. Resolution of the underlying problem will help prevent another ear hematoma. Allergic skin disease, however, has a way of leading to chronically affected ears that may suffer recurrent ear hematomas unless the problem is adequately addressed.

Without treatment, an ear hematoma will eventually heal on its own, but the pet often experiences weeks of discomfort. In addition, the two sides of the ear often form thickened, wrinkled scar tissue, so the ear won’t look or feel natural. This cosmetic issue may not make a difference to an owner.

Prevention

While ear hematomas themselves may not be easily preventable, preventing (or successfully treating) underlying issues that cause head shaking will certainly reduce the risk of this complication.

Seborrhea in Dogs

Seborrhea is a general term used to describe skin and hair that is excessively flaky or greasy. While primary seborrhea is a rare inherited disease, most cases of seborrhea occur secondary to other conditions, such as allergies, parasites, infections, and glandular or immune system diseases. Treatment for the underlying issue will often help resolve cases of secondary seborrhea but primary seborrhea is more difficult. It requires lifelong management with diet, supplements, and antibiotics for infection.

Overview

Seborrhea is a general term used to describe skin and hair that has excessive amounts of flakes (like dandruff) and/or grease. In most cases, the term describes the clinical signs and not a disease itself. This is what veterinary dermatologists often term, secondary seborrhea.

The exception is primary seborrhea, which is a relatively rare inherited disease in breeds such as Cocker Spaniels and Persian and Himalayan cats. Pets with primary seborrhea do not produce and shed/replace skin cells normally, or they may have a defect in the function of the glands in their skin. This seborrhea may be limited to one area of the body or may be more generalized. Primary seborrhea is also known as idiopathic seborrhea, meaning the exact cause is not known. Because it occurs more commonly in certain breeds, genetics is thought to play a role.

Secondary seborrhea is usually caused by an underlying disease process, such as allergies, bacterial or yeast infections, external parasites, hypothyroidism (low amounts of thyroid hormone), Cushing’s disease (too much of one particular adrenal hormone), or one of several immune system diseases.

Symptoms and Identification

In most pets, seborrhea describes the clinical signs that are secondary to an underlying disease process. The term seborrhea sicca is used to describe dry, flaky skin, and seborrhea oleosa is used for greasy, oily (and often smelly) skin that exfoliates in large flakes.

Your veterinarian will begin by taking a complete medical history of your pet. She or he will also perform a thorough physical examination.

Most diagnostic tests help determine the underlying disease condition that results in the signs of seborrhea. Your veterinarian may perform a skin scraping to search for parasites, bacteria, and fungi. This involves gently scraping areas of affected skin with a scalpel blade until they bleed slightly. Several skin scrapings are usually done at different affected locations, and the resulting samples of skin cells and debris are examined under a microscope.

Your veterinarian may also recommend blood tests to check for underlying diseases, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease. In addition, skin cultures or skin biopsies (tissue samples) may be required to pin down a definite diagnosis.

Affected Breeds

Primary seborrhea can affect Cocker Spaniels and Persian and Himalayan cats, among others.

Treatment

Unfortunately, primary seborrhea usually can’t be cured, but it can be managed. Treatment may involve a combination of a hypoallergenic diet, vitamin or fatty acid supplements, and antibiotic or anti-fungal medications to manage secondary skin infections. Medicated shampoos, and moisturizers may also be recommended.

Treatment of secondary seborrhea varies depending on the underlying condition. Once the underlying condition (such as allergies or hypothyroidism) is controlled, the seborrhea may resolve. Medicated shampoos can also be helpful in some cases.

Prevention

To prevent passing on the disease, pets with primary seborrhea should not be bred.

Sterile Nodular Panniculitis in Dogs

Panniculitis is a rare condition in which the layer of fat under the skin, which provides warmth, protection and energy to the body, becomes inflamed. While it may be caused by an infection with bacteria, fungi or other organisms, sterile nodular panniculitis is a descriptive term for an inflammation of the fat cells that does not involve infectious agents. In most cases, the exact cause is not known.

The inflammation results in bumps on the skin surface that can be soft or firm, and are sometimes painful. The bumps can rupture, releasing an oily discharge that may be clear, yellow-brown or bloody. Most pets with sterile nodular panniculitis are treated with drugs designed to modify the immune system, such as steroids, but Vitamin E may also be helpful.

Overview

Panniculitis is an uncommon condition in dogs and cats that is characterized by inflammation of the fat-containing tissue just under the skin, which results in nodules, or bumps, on the skin surface. In some cases, the inflammation is brought on by an infection with bacteria, fungi, or other organisms.

Sterile nodular panniculitis is a descriptive term for lesions that do not involve an infectious agent. It may be caused by an injection, such as a vaccine, trauma, systemic illnesses such as pancreatitis or autoimmune diseases, or vitamin E deficiency. Drug reactions have also been implicated in the sterile form of panniculitis. The majority of sterile cases, however, are classified as idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown.

Symptoms and Identification

With sterile nodular panniculitis, single or multiple nodules of varying size and consistency will appear just under the skin. The head, neck, chest and abdomen are more commonly affected than other parts of the body. Though unsightly, particularly when they eventually break open (fistulate) and drain an oily, clear, yellow-brown or bloody fluid, they may or may not cause the animal discomfort.

Diagnosis is achieved with skin biopsies along with cultures to rule out infection. It’s important, also, to evaluate the pet for evidence of recent drug administration, vaccination, or predisposing disease like pancreatitits or autoimmune conditions.

Affected Breeds

Dachshunds appear to be predisposed. German Shepherds have also been reported as affected. The mode of inheritance is unknown.

Treatment

Treating infection or underlying disease is paramount in non-idiopathic forms of the disease. In idiopathic forms, most pets are treated with immunosuppressive drugs, such as steroids, but Vitamin E may also be helpful. With single lesions, surgical excision is considered acceptable.

Prevention

Because the exact cause of most cases of sterile nodular panniculitis is not known, there are no specific strategies for prevention.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: There are more than 2,000 species of fleas. But the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the one most often responsible for the misery of cats and dogs. And for some pets, fleas are not only an annoyance, they are also a source of an allergic reaction called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). A pet that is allergic to flea saliva might scratch and chew at flea bites, and eventually suffer skin inflammation, hair loss, and sores. In addition to attending whatever sores or infections have resulted from the bites, treatment involves removing fleas from the pet and the pet’s environment — and keeping them off the pet and out of the pet’s living and play spaces.

Overview

Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to a flea bite that manifests in a pet’s skin. Both dogs and cats can develop FAD. Affected pets can have an extreme allergic reaction to certain proteins in the flea’s saliva, which the flea injects into the pet’s skin during biting and feeding. Some pets are so allergic that even a single bite can cause a severe reaction.

Make no mistake: FAD can make pets feel miserable. If left untreated, the associated severe itching and inflammation can lead to excessive scratching and chewing that will serve to damage the skin. Secondary bacterial or fungal infections are common as a result of skin trauma and localized inflammation caused by the allergic response and will invariably lead to more scratching and chewing while potentially compounding the allergic reaction.

Signs and Identification

Discomfort and itching are among the first signs of FAD. FAD can be more severe during warm/humid weather, when fleas are more active. However, if a pet’s home environment is infested with fleas or the pet lives in a place that is warm year-round, FAD can be a chronic, year-round problem.

Affected animals may scratch, bite, lick, and chew excessively at itchy and inflamed areas. Red, oozing lesions called hot spots may develop in areas where the scratching is most intense — typically on the rump, tail, and hind legs. Affected dogs usually exhibit thinning of the hair along the tail base in a classic, “Christmas tree” pattern. Affected cats will often remove large areas of hair and develop tiny scabs (called miliary dermatitis) that can cover most of their bodies, but affects their necks and rumps preferentially.

Other signs include:

  • Skin inflammation
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs and crusts
  • Oozing or crusted sores (hot spots)
  • Darkening or thickening of affected skin
  • Unpleasant odor (resulting from secondary infection)
  • Visual identification of fleas
  • Blackish debris at the base of the hair

This last sign is the result of flea feces. When collected and evaluated off the animal, this blackish “flea dirt” will dissolve into a rusty, bloody paste when wet.
Diagnosis is typically made through examination and on finding evidence of fleas. However, because a single bite can cause a reaction and because many pets, particularly cats, can do an excellent job of grooming fleas off themselves, evidence of fleas may not be found.

Allergy testing can help determine whether the pet has sensitivity to flea saliva. Because pets that are allergic to fleas are often allergic to other substances, additional allergens may be tested for as well.

Affected Breeds

No known breed predisposition has yet been determined in either dogs or cats.

Treatment

The only truly effective way to treat FAD is to completely prevent flea bites by removing fleas from a pet and his/her environment. Effective treatment targets adult (biting) fleas, but many products also target the other life stages of fleas (such as eggs and larvae), which can live in the environment and mature into adult fleas.

There are many safe, effective, and easy-to-administer flea-control products. These products are typically administered by applying the medication as a fluid directly to the animal’s skin — generally between the shoulder blades or at the back of the neck — or as a daily or monthly pill. Veterinarians may recommend more than one product to most effectively kill fleas and break the flea life cycle.

Once an infestation is established in any given environment, fleas can be very difficult to eliminate. Treating pets repeatedly while completely removing fleas from the affected pet’s environment is required.

Therefore, all other animals in the house must also be treated with appropriate flea-control products. The house (and possibly the yard) may need to be treated with flea-control products as well.

Vacuuming rugs, throwing out old pet bedding, and laundering other items may also be recommended to help remove fleas from a pet’s environment. Because many species of wildlife carry fleas, it may also be recommended that owners secure their homes and yards to prevent wildlife from inadvertently re-infesting a pet’s living and exercise areas.

Secondary skin infections that develop as a result of FAD may be treated with antibiotic or antifungal medications. In addition, veterinarians may prescribe a short course of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and itching so that pets can be comfortable sooner and so that infected areas may heal more effectively.

Prevention

The dedicated use of flea preventive medications in all household pets along with careful household parasite control is the only known means of flea allergy dermatitis prevention.

Abscesses and Bite Wounds in Dogs

Pets have a way of getting into trouble with one another. And when the seemingly inevitable altercations ensue, fangs and fur can fly. Unfortunately, a great many of these cases end in abscesses. A bite-wound abscess forms when the body can’t remove infection, inflammation, and damaged cells fast enough after one cat bites another, but there are other kinds of abscesses. An abscess causes a painful lump at the bite site, fever, and tiredness until the infection is cleared up, which will require antibiotics and possibly surgery, depending on the size and severity of the infection.

Overview

A bite wound abscess occurs when the body’s immune system can’t clear a bacterial infection originating from a bite wound. As a result, the wound evolves into a pocket of pus, which is a liquid collection of inflammatory cells, bacteria, and damaged tissue. Bite wounds are especially predisposed to abscess formation due to the bacterial populations associated with the mouth.

But bite wounds are only one cause of abscesses. They can form in any part of the body and can result from bacterial infections of tooth roots and anal glands, for example.

Signs and Identification

An abscess usually manifests as a painful, fluid-filled lump under the skin or as a swelling over the face or adjacent to the anus (in the case of dental or anal gland abscesses, respectively). An owner may notice a small scab over a puncture wound near the lump, but sometimes an abscess isn’t noticed until it breaks through the skin, pus oozes from the site, and a foul odor is noted. Sometimes thick fur covers the entire area, making the initial wound, scab, or abscess difficult to find.

Sometimes a pet will develop a fever before the abscess is obvious, and the only change the owner will notice is that the pet’s appetite and activity level have decreased.

The clinical signs of abscesses may include:

  • Limping (if the wound is on or near a limb)
  • A lump or swelling
  • Redness of the skin surrounding a puncture wound or crust
  • Hair loss in a circumscribed (defined) area
  • An oozing sore of varying size
  • Purulent discharge (pus) from a wound
  • Licking or grooming a particular area excessively
  • Foul odor
  • Localized pain
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite

The diagnosis of an abscess is usually made based on the obvious clinical signs listed above. Sometimes, however, a tiny bite wound in its earliest stage of infection may evade detection until it becomes a full-blown pocket of malodorous pus.
A veterinarian will often puncture a swelling with a sterile needle to obtain a sample of pus to positively identify the swelling as an abscess. Submitting a sample of the fluid to a microbiology laboratory for culture and sensitivity testing may be part of the diagnostic process in some cases.

In the case of dental abscesses, dental X-rays are required to positively identify the offending tooth root(s).

Affected Breeds

Any pet can get an abscess. Abscesses are by far most common in cats who have access to the outdoors and who play territorial games with their fellow felines. In this subset of the feline population, bite wounds sustained from other cats (and less frequently from encounters with wild animals) can develop into serious wounds that may require emergency veterinary care and result in prolonged healing times.

Treatment

Once an abscess forms, it’s very difficult for the body to remove the material and fight the infection by itself. Indeed, an untreated abscess can sometimes lead to deeper and more widespread infection –– even sepsis (bacterial invasion of the blood that can cause death). Therefore, pets should be treated by a veterinarian as soon as the possibility of an abscess is identified.

Almost inevitably, antibiotics are employed to help fight the infection. Draining the abscess via surgical puncture and sterile drain placement is also a typical part of the treatment process. This frees the abscess pocket of its infectious material and promotes continued drainage as the antibiotics and antiseptics do their work. The drain is then removed within days of the procedure for healing to progress unfettered.

In the case of long-standing or especially deep/extensive abscesses, multiple surgical procedures may be required along with longer-term antibiotic administration. Hospitalization for intravenous fluids and antibiotics may also be indicated depending on the severity of the wounds.

In some cases, as when wounds occur on the extremities, antibiotics and continued wound care at home may be sufficient treatment. Routinely soaking or warm compressing the area with Epsom salts, if tolerable to the patient, can sometimes resolve the problem.

Dental abscesses almost invariably end in dental extractions due to the advanced nature of the periodontal disease than tends to precipitate them. Similarly, anal gland abscesses –– if recurrent –– may result in surgery to remove the affected anal gland(s).

Other Considerations

One of the biggest concerns with bite wounds is the spread of infectious diseases like feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV, also known as feline AIDS), the feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and rabies. Only cats get FIV and FeLV, but rabies is a fatal virus that can be transmitted to humans. So it’s important to be aware that even if your cat’s rabies vaccination is up to date, state law may require your veterinarian to administer a booster vaccine if your cat has suffered a bite wound or a wound of unknown origin.

Any pet who is overdue for a rabies vaccine (or has never received one) should be vaccinated as soon as a veterinarian deems vaccination acceptable. This will inevitably depend on the presenting condition of the patient. It’s even possible that a pet will have to be quarantined and observed for signs of rabies. State and municipal governments generally have regulations regarding rabies exposure and quarantine procedures. Veterinarians are prepared to advise pet owners about laws that may apply.

 

Atopy – An Allergic Skin Reaction

You want your pet to look good and feel good. But if he’s suffering from atopy — an allergic skin reaction – neither is the case. The itching can make your dog or cat miserable, and redness, rashes, bleeding, and skin infections are worse. They can be caused by environmental allergies, which typically can be treated with a range of things, from removing known allergens from the environment to antihistamines and supplements to immunotherapy or immunosuppression, depending on the allergic reaction and the pet.

Overview

Atopy (also referred to as “atopic dermatitis” and previously known as “allergic inhalant dermatitis”) is a common canine and feline condition in which allergens present in the environment effect an allergic reaction in the skin. It is one of several known causes of There are 5 common causes of allergic skin disease. Discover the signs and causes of allergic skin disease.“}”>allergic skin disease, a common umbrella term for a group of allergies that manifest in the skin.

Atopy is believed to happen when certain proteins present in the environment are taken into the body through inhalation or direct contact with the skin. When they precipitate an allergic response, these proteins are referred to as allergens. When the allergic response happens in the skin, the result is almost always an inflammation of the skin we refer to as “allergic dermatitis.”

Common allergens include pollen (from grasses, trees, and weeds), mold spores, house dust/house dust mite proteins, insect proteins, and other miscellaneous proteins that may also come from human skin or natural fibers, for example. Atopic animals will display highly individualized responses to one or more environmental allergens.

A genetic basis is well understood to underlie atopic dermatitis in dogs, but this has not been proven in cats. In both species, other factors including geography (regional pollens and plants), the presence of other allergens (like fleas) and endocrine diseases (like thyroid disease in dogs) — can worsen, mimic, and/or underlie atopic disease.

Animals with atopy become very itchy; the resultant scratching leads to skin injuries and secondary Get more information about the signs of skin infection.“}”>skin infections. Atopy is usually first noticed in dogs and cats younger than 3 years of age, although older pets can also be affected. Unfortunately, pets that develop atopy are usually plagued by skin problems throughout their lives.

Signs and Identification

Atopic dermatitis is characterized by the variable presence of itching, redness, pustules (infected pimples), wheals (like hives), and crusts. The face, legs, feet, ventrum (belly, underarms, and groin), and ears are most often affected, but no area of the body is off limits. In dogs, ear infections are very commonly associated with atopy.

Cats usually display signs of excessive licking in a symmetrical pattern (on the belly, back, and behind the legs is most common) and/or they can develop tiny scabs around the neck, tail base, or elsewhere on the body.

A more comprehensive list of signs in dogs and cats includes:

  • Generalized scratching and rubbing
  • Redness of the skin
  • Hair loss from repeated biting, licking, chewing, and/or scratching
  • Skin rash, infections, and irritation
  • Scabs and bleeding
  • Unusual odor
  • Skin thickening and color changes
  • Ear infections
  • Scales and crusts on the skin

A hallmark of atopic dermatitis is that signs tend to be seasonal and tend to wax and wane in severity. However, pets that are allergic to house dust mites or other indoor allergens can have year-round problems, because exposure to indoor allergens is not dependent on season of the year.

Most pets are diagnosed based on signs, history, and response to treatments, but getting to a definitive diagnosis can be a complicated affair. Given that every affected animal suffers a highly individualized version of the disease, determining what an animal is allergic to may require intradermal (skin) testing and/or serum testing (blood testing).

Intradermal skin testing can sometimes be performed at your veterinarian’s office. However, because the allergens used for this test are very specific (they vary depending on your region of the country), your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary dermatologist.

Usually, an area of fur is shaved from your pet to expose enough skin to perform the test. Tiny amounts of each test allergen are injected using very small needles just under your pet’s skin in different areas. After a brief waiting period, your veterinarian will examine the injection sites to measure the degree of local allergic response (redness or a small hive). Allergens that your pet is not allergic to will not cause a reaction, and allergens that your pet is allergic to will cause a reaction that corresponds to the severity of the allergy. Pets are monitored carefully during the procedure in case a serious reaction occurs and treatment is required.

The other type of allergy testing, serum allergy testing, is becoming more popular. The test is performed at a laboratory using a small blood sample taken from your pet so that your veterinarian does not need to shave your pet or have special allergens on hand. As with intradermal skin testing, the results of serum allergy testing can reveal which allergens are not causing an allergic reaction in your pet, which ones are causing a mild reaction, and which ones are causing a more serious reaction.

Depending on which type of allergy test is performed, you may need to discontinue your pet’s allergy medications before the test. Otherwise, the test results may be affected. Your veterinarian will tell you which medications can be used and which ones may need to be discontinued.

Affected Breeds

Any breed of cat or dog may be affected by atopy, but in dogs it is most prevalent among Boston Terriers, Boxers, most Bulldog breeds (particularly English Bulldogs), Cairn Terriers, Shar-peis, Dalmatians, English Setters, Golden Retrievers, Irish setters, Labrador Retrievers, Lhasa Apsos, Miniature Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, Pugs, Scottish Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, and Wire-Haired Fox Terriers.

Treatment

Four categories of treatment have been described. They comprise:

1. Avoidance (removing allergens from the environment or changing environments altogether)

This is typically undertaken only after a list of allergens is identified via blood or intradermal testing.

2. Symptomatic therapy (as when using antihistamines, fatty acid supplements, medicated shampoos, and Does giving pills to your pet make both your lives hard? Discover an injectable antibiotic alternative.“}”>antimicrobials for common secondary bacterial and yeast infections) is the most commonly recommended approach to treatment, especially for pets with mild clinical signs:

Antihistamines: Drugs like diphenhydramine have few side effects compared with some other therapies. However, some pets will not respond to antihistamines alone. Avoid giving human drugs to your pet unless directed to do so by your veterinarian.

Fatty acid supplements: Special fatty acid supplements may help reduce skin inflammation and are often used in combination with other medications.

Topical treatments: Medicated shampoos, leave-on conditioners, and ointments can relieve a pet’s itching or help with secondary conditions such as fungal infections, Get more information about the signs of skin infection.“}”>bacterial infections, and scaling. Treatment should be repeated frequently for best results, but be sure to follow all label directions carefully. Avoid the use of human products on pets unless they are recommended by your veterinarian.

3. Immunotherapy (using specific allergens to desensitize a pet to the proteins)

Once a list of “problem” allergens is identified via blood or intradermal skin testing, a specialized “serum” containing small quantities of these allergens can be formulated specifically for your pet. Through injection of small amounts of the allergy serum over time, many pets experience a reduced response to the allergens.

This treatment, called immunotherapy, generally must be continued for several months to years to achieve results. With immunotherapy, the pet owner generally administers the allergy serum injections at home. If you are uncomfortable with giving injections, ask your veterinary care team if the injections can be given at your veterinarian’s office. The first injections are more diluted, and each following injection has a slightly higher concentration of the allergens. Your veterinarian will schedule theinjections according to specific guidelines — more frequently in the beginning, and eventually tapering to one injection every few weeks. Many pets respond to this program. Others may not, especially if they have other underlying conditions.

4. Immunosuppressive therapy (with corticosteroids like prednisone, cyclosporine, or other drugs)

Unfortunately, some pets’ atopic disease cannot be controlled by any of the above approaches and their quality of life may suffer drastically unless more intensive drug therapy is initiated:

Steroids: Drugs like prednisone or dexamethasone, which are called corticosteroids, are often used because they tend to be very effective and safe for short-term use. These medications can be given by injection, by mouth, or as topical ointments or shampoos. Corticosteroids can provide immediate relief but may have undesirable side effects, such as increased appetite, thirst, and urination. In some cases, repeated or long-term use of steroids can be associated with an increased risk of medical problems such as liver problems, adrenal gland problems, and diabetes.

Cyclosporine: Cyclosporine can be used to control atopic dermatitis in dogs and allergic dermatitis (including atopy) in cats. The medication is given once a day for 4 weeks (4 to 6 weeks in cats, based on response). After that, the dose can be tapered to every other day or twice weekly, as needed to maintain effectiveness. Researchers estimate that over 70% of dogs and cats respond to this treatment; however, cyclosporine can be costly, and its side effects may include stomach upset and diarrhea. Ask your veterinarian if cyclosporine may be a good choice for your pet.

Prevention

Many of the therapies described here can be used to control atopy over the long term. Avoidance of problem allergens may be the best way to prevent flare-ups for dogs and cats with atopy.

Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

Sometimes the phrase “mangy mutt” is used in jest. But sadly, some dogs really do have irritating mange caused by microscopic mites under the skin. These parasites can be transferred to other pets and even humans in the household. Signs in dogs include excessive itching and red, crusty, raised lesions on the face, edges of the ear flaps, elbows, hocks (ankles), chest, and abdomen. There are a range of oral, injectable, and topical treatments for the condition. Antibiotics are used to treat secondary infections and medicated shampoos can help relieve signs and soothe your dog.

Overview

Sarcoptic mange (scabies) is an intensely itchy skin condition of dogs caused by microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei.

These mites are highly contagious among dogs. Most dogs with scabies show signs, but some dogs may be carriers and appear to be relatively unaffected.

Dogs become infested when they come into direct contact with other infested dogs, or with fomites, inanimate objects that may carry mites. . Female mites penetrate the skin and lay eggs, causing intense itchiness. Once the eggs hatch, larvae tunnel under the skin, increasing the dog’s discomfort.

Occasionally, the mites can also be transferred to humans or other pets in the household. A pet owner with scabies may experience an itchy rash on the arms, abdomen, or chest. However, humans are not natural hosts for this mite, and infestations generally resolve on their own. Pet owners are advised to consult their doctors for evaluation and treatment.

While these mites may be transferred to cats in the household, they generally prefer dogs. Infestations in cats usually resolve without treatment. Cats with intense itching of the face and neck area are often infested with a different type of mite called Notoedres cati.

Signs and Identification

Dogs with scabies typically have red, crusty, skin lesions on the elbows, hocks (ankles), edges of the ear flaps, face, chest, and abdomen, although the lesions may spread to all regions of the body. The itchiness may become so intense that dogs will essentially mutilate themselves, scratching until the skin is raw and hairless. Once this occurs, secondary skin infections are common.

Your veterinarian will need to perform a deep skin scraping to reach the mites beneath the skin surface. This involves gently scraping several areas of affected skin with a scalpel blade until the area bleeds slightly. Several skin scrapings are usually done at different affected locations, and the resulting samples of skin cells and debris are examined under a microscope. A diagnosis is made when these tiny mites or eggs are identified on microscopic view.

Even with a skin scraping, mites are often difficult to find. That’s why your veterinarian may still recommend treatment if your dog’s signs are consistent with scabies, even though mites may not have been found with a skin scraping.

In some cases, a blood test can be conducted to check for antibodies to mite antigens, or substances that trigger the immune system. However, under certain conditions, these tests may indicate that a dog is positive for mites when it is not, and vice versa.

Occasionally, veterinarians may submit skin biopsies, or tissue samples, for analysis. Although mites are rarely found in biopsies, microscopic changes in the skin that are consistent with sarcoptic mange may be noted, and can aid in diagnosis.

If a dog shows signs that are compatible with sarcoptic mange, even when skin scrapes, blood tests or biopsies are negative, treatment is usually recommended.

Affected Breeds

There is no known breed predisposition for sarcoptic mange in dogs.

Treatment

It is important to treat all dogs that come into regular contact with your dog, even if they don’t show signs of infestation. Some dogs may be carriers of the mite, and your dog will continue to be reinfested if he is in direct contact with these dogs.

Several oral, injectable, and topical treatments are available. If topical dips are used, the entire dog must be treated, including the face and ears. It may take four to eight weeks for signs to resolve.

In addition to parasite treatments, your veterinarian may recommend antibiotics for secondary skin infections and soothing shampoos to help eliminate crusts and reduce itching.

Unlike other parasites, such as fleas, which can persist in the environment for many months, the mites that cause sarcoptic mange cannot survive off the animal for more than a few weeks. While environmental decontamination may not be necessary in these cases, it’s still a good idea to wash all bedding as well as collars and harnesses to avoid reinfestation.

Prevention

Preventing sarcoptic mange is a matter of keeping dogs away from other dogs with mange. However, some infested dogs may show no signs, and preventing exposure to other dogs at groomers or kennels may be difficult to control. There are topical products that are approved for the treatment or control of sarcoptic mange mites in dogs that can be applied on a monthly basis.

Skin Fold Dermatitis

Wrinkly dogs like Pugs are so cute. What’s not so cute? The skin disease that can result from improper care of the skin in those wrinkles. Skin fold dermatitis, which can also happen to cats with squished faces, is caused by the warm, moist conditions that can occur in deep skin folds on the face, at the tail, or around the private parts of females. It causes hair loss, skin irritation, and a bad smell in those folds, and leads to a skin infection called pyoderma. Treatment involves cleaning the affected areas thoroughly and applying or administering antimicrobials. In severe cases, a veterinarian might want to surgically remove the excess skin folds.

Overview

Skin fold dermatitis is a skin condition most common in breeds with pronounced facial, tail, and vulvar folds, in particular, though any deep skin fold anywhere in the body can be susceptible to skin fold dermatitis.

This condition occurs when skin folds are deep, causing abnormal rubbing and retaining moisture in an area that’s both warm and not well aerated. These conditions are ideal for the overgrowth of normal skin inhabitants like yeast and bacteria. The resulting skin inflammation, called dermatitis, typically leads to a skin infection called pyoderma. Chronic pyoderma is typical in cases of skin fold dermatitis.

Though not a genetic disease, per se, skin characteristics that include wrinkles and deep skin folds are more common in certain breeds. In pets already predisposed to skin fold dermatitis, obesity can exacerbate the condition. Underlying skin disease (such as There are 5 common causes of allergic skin disease. Discover the signs and causes of allergic skin disease.“}”>allergic skin disease) will also aggravate the condition, often severely.

Signs and Identification

Skin fold dermatitis is easily identified as typically hairless (alopecic), reddened, and malodorous areas of folded skin or creases/wrinkles. In the case of deep facial folds (typical of brachycephalic dogs and cats), brown staining of facial fur (secondary to components in tears) can make these folds look more pronounced.

Tail fold dermatitis (typical to dogs with corkscrew tails), when especially severe, can lead to deep, severe infections. These deep tail folds are typically identified by probing the tail base with a cotton-tipped swab to determine its depth.

Vulvar tail fold dermatitis can occur in female dogs that have excess skin folds around their private area. Urinary tract infection can occur as a consequence of vulvar skin fold pyoderma.

Affected Breeds

All brachycephalic (short-headed, flat-nosed) breeds that have facial folds are similarly predisposed to skin fold dermatitis of this area (Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus, etc). “Wrinkly” dogs like Shar-Peis and Bloodhounds are also affected. Likewise, dogs with corkscrew tails (English Bulldogs, for example) can be affected.

Cats that have facial folds (Persians, for example) or are overweight (creating more skin folds) are also at risk.

Treatment

Treatment for skin fold dermatitis involves cleaning of the affected areas and frequent use of topical or systemic (oral or Do you and your pet argue when it’s time to give pills? Learn about an injectable antibiotic alternative.“}”>injectable) antimicrobial medications to manage the resulting pyodermas.

Surgical intervention may be recommended for moderate to severely affected animals. Removing the abnormal skin folds will, in many cases, yield a complete cure.

Treating any underlying skin disease and maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce the severity or even eliminate skin fold dermatitis.

Prevention

To help keep your pet free of skin fold dermatitis, watch your pet’s weight, and carefully clean the skin folds regularly; be sure to used products that are approved for pets and (if facial folds are present) are safe to use around the eyes and face. Also, work with your vet on treating any skin conditions.

Atopic Dermatitis

You want your pet to look good and feel good. But if he’s suffering from atopic dermatitis — an allergic skin reaction – neither is the case. The itching can make your dog or cat miserable, and redness, rashes, bleeding, and skin infections are worse. They can be caused by environmental allergies, which typically can be treated with a range of things, from removing known allergens from the environment to antihistamines and supplements to immunotherapy or immunosuppression, depending on the allergic reaction and the pet.

Overview

Atopic dermatitis, which is also referred to as “atopy” and was previously known as “allergic inhalant dermatitis” is a common canine and feline condition in which allergens present in the environment effect an allergic reaction in the skin. It is one of several known causes of skin allergies, a common umbrella term for a group of allergies that manifest in the skin.

Atopy is believed to happen when certain proteins present in the environment are taken into the body through inhalation or direct contact with the skin. When they precipitate an allergic response, these proteins are referred to as allergens. When the allergic response happens in the skin, the result is almost always an inflammation of the skin we refer to as “allergic dermatitis.”

Common allergens include pollen (from grasses, trees, and weeds), mold spores, house dust/house dust mite proteins, insect proteins, and other miscellaneous proteins that may also come from human skin or natural fibers, for example. Atopic animals will display highly individualized responses to one or more environmental allergens.

A genetic basis is well understood to underlie atopic dermatitis in dogs, but this has not been proven in cats. In both species, other factors including geography (regional pollens and plants), the presence of other allergens (like fleas) and endocrine diseases (like thyroid disease in dogs) — can worsen, mimic, and/or underlie atopic disease.

Animals with atopy become very itchy; the resultant scratching leads to skin injuries and secondary skin infections. Atopy is usually first noticed in dogs and cats younger than 3 years of age, although older pets can also be affected. Unfortunately, pets that develop atopy are usually plagued by skin problems throughout their lives.

Signs and Identification

Atopic dermatitis is characterized by the variable presence of itching, redness, pustules (infected pimples), wheals (like hives), and crusts. The face, legs, feet, ventrum (belly, underarms, and groin), and ears are most often affected, but no area of the body is off limits. In dogs, ear infections are very commonly associated with atopy.

Cats usually display signs of excessive licking in a symmetrical pattern (on the belly, back, and behind the legs is most common) and/or they can develop tiny scabs around the neck, tail base, or elsewhere on the body.

A more comprehensive list of signs in dogs and cats includes:

  • Generalized scratching and rubbing
  • Redness of the skin
  • Hair loss from repeated biting, licking, chewing, and/or scratching
  • Skin rash, infections, and irritation
  • Scabs and bleeding
  • Unusual odor
  • Skin thickening and color changes
  • Ear infections
  • Scales and crusts on the skin

A hallmark of atopic dermatitis is that signs tend to be seasonal and tend to wax and wane in severity. However, pets that are allergic to house dust mites or other indoor allergens can have year-round problems, because exposure to indoor allergens is not dependent on season of the year.
Most pets are diagnosed based on signs, history, and response to treatments, but getting to a definitive diagnosis can be a complicated affair. Given that every affected animal suffers a highly individualized version of the disease, determining what an animal is allergic to may require intradermal (skin) testing and/or serum testing (blood testing).

Intradermal skin testing can sometimes be performed at your veterinarian’s office. However, because the allergens used for this test are very specific (they vary depending on your region of the country), your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary dermatologist.

Usually, an area of fur is shaved from your pet to expose enough skin to perform the test. Tiny amounts of each test allergen are injected using very small needles just under your pet’s skin in different areas. After a brief waiting period, your veterinarian will examine the injection sites to measure the degree of local allergic response (redness or a small hive). Allergens that your pet is not allergic to will not cause a reaction, and allergens that your pet is allergic to will cause a reaction that corresponds to the severity of the allergy. Pets are monitored carefully during the procedure in case a serious reaction occurs and treatment is required.

The other type of allergy testing, serum allergy testing, is becoming more popular. The test is performed at a laboratory using a small blood sample taken from your pet so that your veterinarian does not need to shave your pet or have special allergens on hand. As with intradermal skin testing, the results of serum allergy testing can reveal which allergens are not causing an allergic reaction in your pet, which ones are causing a mild reaction, and which ones are causing a more serious reaction.

Depending on which type of allergy test is performed, you may need to discontinue your pet’s allergy medications before the test. Otherwise, the test results may be affected. Your veterinarian will tell you which medications can be used and which ones may need to be discontinued.

Affected Breeds

Any breed of cat or dog may be affected by atopy, but in dogs it is most prevalent among Boston Terriers, Boxers, most Bulldog breeds (particularly English Bulldogs), Cairn Terriers, Shar-peis, Dalmatians, English Setters, Golden Retrievers, Irish setters, Labrador Retrievers, Lhasa Apsos, Miniature Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, Pugs, Scottish Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, and Wire-Haired Fox Terriers.

Treatment

Four categories of treatment have been described. They comprise:

1. Avoidance (removing allergens from the environment or changing environments altogether). This is typically undertaken only after a list of allergens is identified via blood or intradermal testing.

2. Symptomatic therapy (as when using antihistamines, fatty acid supplements, medicated shampoos, and antimicrobials for common secondary bacterial and yeast infections) is the most commonly recommended approach to treatment, especially for pets with mild clinical signs:

Antihistamines: Drugs like diphenhydramine have few side effects compared with some other therapies. However, some pets will not respond to antihistamines alone. Avoid giving human drugs to your pet unless directed to do so by your veterinarian.

Fatty acid supplements: Special fatty acid supplements may help reduce skin inflammation and are often used in combination with other medications.

Topical treatments: Medicated shampoos, leave-on conditioners, and ointments can relieve a pet’s itching or help with secondary conditions such as fungal infections, bacterial infections, and scaling. Treatment should be repeated frequently for best results, but be sure to follow all label directions carefully. Avoid the use of human products on pets unless they are recommended by your veterinarian.

3. Immunotherapy (using specific allergens to desensitize a pet to the proteins)

Once a list of “problem” allergens is identified via blood or intradermal skin testing, a specialized “serum” containing small quantities of these allergens can be formulated specifically for your pet. Through injection of small amounts of the allergy serum over time, many pets experience a reduced response to the allergens.

This treatment, called immunotherapy, generally must be continued for several months to years to achieve results. With immunotherapy, the pet owner generally administers the allergy serum injections at home. If you are uncomfortable with giving injections, ask your veterinary care team if the injections can be given at your veterinarian’s office. The first injections are more diluted, and each following injection has a slightly higher concentration of the allergens. Your veterinarian will schedule theinjections according to specific guidelines — more frequently in the beginning, and eventually tapering to one injection every few weeks. Many pets respond to this program. Others may not, especially if they have other underlying conditions.

4. Immunosuppressive therapy (with corticosteroids like prednisone, cyclosporine, or other drugs)

Unfortunately, some pets’ atopic disease cannot be controlled by any of the above approaches and their quality of life may suffer drastically unless more intensive drug therapy is initiated:

Steroids: Drugs like prednisone or dexamethasone, which are called corticosteroids, are often used because they tend to be very effective and safe for short-term use. These medications can be given by injection, by mouth, or as topical ointments or shampoos. Corticosteroids can provide immediate relief but may have undesirable side effects, such as increased appetite, thirst, and urination. In some cases, repeated or long-term use of steroids can be associated with an increased risk of medical problems such as liver problems, adrenal gland problems, and diabetes.

Cyclosporine: Cyclosporine capsules can be used to control atopic dermatitis in dogs; the drug is not approved for use in cats. Researchers estimate that approximately 70 percent of patients respond to this treatment; however, cyclosporine can be costly, and its side effects may include stomach upset and diarrhea.

Prevention Many of the therapies described here can be used to control atopy over the long term. Avoidance of problem allergens may be the best way to prevent flare-ups for dogs and cats with atopy.

Helping Your Itchy Pet

If your pet is forever scratching himself, he’s may be dealing with fleas, allergies or another medical problem. Here’s what you can do to help.

Itching is one of the most common problems veterinarians encounter, and they have an arsenal of weapons—from special shampoos to lotions, supplements and medications—to ease the Does your pet have the itchies? Click here to find out about signs of possible skin problems.“}”>incessant itching and prevent a simple twinge from turning into something more.

What Causes Itching?

Itching is usually a sign of an underlying problem. For example, if your pet has an allergy, exposure to the allergen causes a series of events to occur within the animal’s body, including the release of histamine, a chemical that is very irritating and leads to itching. Allergic reactions also cause the release of several other chemicals that contribute to irritation, inflammation, and itching. Some Do you dread giving pills to your pet? Find out about an injectable antibiotic alternative.“}”>bacteria and fungal organisms (which can be introduced into the skin when your pet scratches himself) also release chemicals that irritate nerve endings in the skin and cause itching. If an itchy pet doesn’t respond to an antihistamine (a medication that targets histamine), it may be because histamine isn’t the main cause of the itch.

Less commonly, some animals chew, itch or lick themselves excessively as a compulsive behavior, usually as the result of stress or boredom.

What Are Clinical Signs of Itching?

In addition to the scratching, your pet may also exhibit mild or severe:

How Is Itching Diagnosed?

Itching is a response to another condition, so identifying the cause is as important as treating the itch. Your veterinarian will likely take a complete medical history and do a physical examination of your pet. Your veterinarian may also recommend diagnostic testing that can include the following:

  • Combing your pet to look for fleas
  • Taking samples of hair and skin cells to look for mites and other skin parasites
  • Culture testing to identify bacteria or fungal organisms Allergy testing
  • Blood work to look for underlying medical issues that can affect the skin.

If the problem has been chronic or recurring, your veterinarian will likely ask what therapies you’ve already tried and whether they were successful. This information can provide useful information about the underlying problem.

How Is Itching Treated?

Managing an itchy pet can involve combining several approaches, because multiple factors can be contributing to the problem. For example, if your pet has an underlying allergy that’s complicated by a flea infestation in addition to a bacterial or fungal infection, all of these issues need to be addressed.

Treatment for an itchy pet can require a long-term commitment, since pets respond differently to medications. If a particular treatment doesn’t seem to be helping, or if your pet seems to be responding negatively, you should let your veterinarian know so changes can be made as needed.

  • Topical products: Your veterinarian may recommend a moisturizer, ointment, or lotion if your pet’s itch is mild or confined to one spot, or in addition to other medications. These products may need to be applied frequently—up to several times a day—to be effective. Be sure to follow all label directions, and consult your veterinarian with any questions.
  • Shampoos: Medicated shampoos can help some pets suffering with itchy skin, and they can be effective for a few days per use. What’s more, some shampoos can be used along with a leave-on conditioner to make the effect last longer. If you’re unable to bathe your pet, ask your veterinarian about other treatment options.
  • Medications: For many pets, corticosteroids are the most effective treatment for itching. They come in pill, liquid, and Do you and your pet argue when it’s time to give pills? Learn about an injectable antibiotic alternative.“}”>injectable formulations, but the powerful drugs carry side effects, and not every pet is a candidate for this treatment. Your veterinarian will determine if corticosteroids are a good option. Some pets with itching do well when given antihistamines, and other medications can heal Get more information about the signs of skin infection.“}”>bacterial or fungal skin infections.
  • Supplements: Fish oil, fatty acids and other nutritional supplements can help some pets, but the effectiveness of these products can vary. Ask your veterinarian if a nutritional supplement can help your pet.

If your pet is not responding to therapy, contact your veterinarian to see if modifications may be helpful. Sometimes, your veterinarian will combine several therapies for the best results. But every animal is different, so one may do very well receiving a combination of antihistamines with a shampoo and a nutritional supplement, whereas another pet may not.

Sebaceous Adenitis in Dogs

Sebaceous adenitis is a hereditary disease that causes the sebaceous glands in a dog’s skin to become inflamed and die. Fortunately, in most cases it’s a largely cosmetic skin disorder that affects only a handful of dog breeds. The problem usually starts at the head, neck, and back, causing scaly skin and matted, thinning hair as the glands malfunction. There is no cure for sebaceous adenitis, but secondary symptoms, such as yeast infections, must be managed on an ongoing basis, usually with frequent bathing and topical medication.

Overview

The sebaceous glands of the skin produce sebum, a fatty substance that keeps the skin moist and aids in basic immune functions. Sebaceous adenitis is a canine disease process during which these glands become inflamed and are eventually destroyed.

Some authors report two forms of this disease: The granulomatous form (that tends to occur in long-coated breeds) and the short-coated breed form. Young to middle-aged adult dogs are primarily affected with this largely cosmetic skin disorder.

Symptoms and Identification

Dogs affected with sebaceous adenitis will have whitish scaling of the skin with waxy, matted hair as a result of the scaling. The fur may have a moth-eaten appearance, or be sparse, dull, or completely absent. An affected dog’s fur is often said to lose its curl.

The head, neck, and back tend to be affected first, with a backward and downward spreading of the scaling, hair loss, and other lesions. Itchiness is not a primary component of the disease, but once the abnormal skin becomes secondarily infected with bacteria and/or yeast, the itching can become intense.

Non-dermatologic symptoms are rare but have been seen in the most severely affected breed, the Akita. In this breed, fever and malaise have been reported in conjunction with this disease process. Otherwise, the disease is 100 percent confined to the skin.

Veterinarians can diagnose the disease via skin biopsy.

Affected Breeds

The Standard Poodle is the quintessential sebaceous adenitis patient. The granular form of sebaceous adenitis is also seen in other breeds including the Akita, Samoyed, and Old English Sheepdog. The Vizsla is identified as being affected by the short-coated form of the disease.

Treatment

Long-term treatment of secondary symptoms is the primary approach to the disease’s management. Frequent shampooing and chronic/recurrent antimicrobial administration may be required. Specific supplements, such as fatty acid supplements, may also be recommended.

Prevention

Removing affected dogs from the breeding pool is recommended to help prevent the hereditary transmission of this disease.

Perianal Fistula in Dogs

A perianal fistula is a painful opening in the skin around the anus of a dog. The condition affects German Shepherds most commonly, although other breeds can develop the problem. There are several possible contributing factors, including genetics, allergic skin disease, and alterations in immune system functioning. If your dog strains to defecate, has pain and bleeding around his rear end, seems constipated, licks his bottom excessively, or has a smelly discharge from the area, a perianal fistula is possible. Treatments range from medication to surgery, though for many dogs the problem is persistent.

Overview

Perianal fistulae are draining openings in the skin around the anus that do not heal. The word fistulae is the plural of fistula, which is an abnormal tract or passageway from an abscess, organ, or body cavity to the body surface. The term perianal describes the area around the anus.

An affected dog may have a single fistula, or many fistulae that can encircle the anal opening. Although a hereditary component is presumed due to certain breed predilections, the cause of the condition is multifactorial. Allergic skin disease, conformation-related issues (as when dogs hold their tails close to their anuses), and abnormal functioning of the immune system are among the factors thought to play a role in the disease process.

Middle-aged to older dogs (usually seven or older) are most often affected.

Symptoms and Identification

Straining to defecate, perianal pain and bleeding, constipation, licking of the area, and a smelly discharge are typical.

Diagnosis involves evaluating age, breed, clinical signs, and physical exam findings. Rectal examination (under anesthesia, if necessary) is required in most cases. Sometimes, a biopsy may be recommended to rule out tumors or other conditions that can similarly affect the anal area.

Affected Breeds

German Shepherds are most notoriously affected, although Irish Setters and Labrador Retrievers are among the breeds that seem over-represented.

Treatment

Perianal fistula is a frustrating, difficult-to-treat disease. Though medical and surgical treatments have both been described, these approaches can be insufficiently helpful for some affected dogs. Dogs that do respond to medical treatment may require many months to recover, and relapses can occur.

Medical management typically involves the use of drugs that interfere with the inflammatory response. Cyclosporine and tacrolimus have both been employed successfully. Antimicrobials and antiseptics are often administered as well by way of treating the secondary infections almost always present in this especially bacteria-rich location.

The surgical approach to perianal fistula management relies on the removal of the tracts. More than one procedure is sometimes required. Tail amputation has also been described as potentially helpful for dogs whose tail conformation has been deemed a major contributing cause of the disease.

Laceration Repair

  • A laceration is a cut or tear in the skin that may include damage to the muscles and other structures beneath the skin.
  • While superficial (surface) wounds may sometimes be repaired using local anesthesia (which affects only the area of the wound), most laceration repairs require general (full) anesthesia of the pet.
  • After the wound is cleaned and assessed, the cut edges are generally held together with suture material or skin staples.
  • Lacerations should be repaired as soon as possible after injury to help ensure good healing.

What Is a Laceration Repair?

A laceration usually occurs as the result of a sharp object penetrating the skin and, possibly, the tissues beneath the skin. The resulting wound may be superficial, which involves a cut or tear in the skin only, or it may be deep, with damage to the tissues below the skin, such as muscles, tendons, blood vessels, or nerves. To repair a laceration, a veterinarian must clean and assess the wound before bringing the cut edges together with either suture material or skin staples.

When Should a Laceration Repair Occur?

If your pet has a laceration, see your veterinarian immediately. The longer the time between injury and repair, the more likely the tissues will become infected and healing will be delayed. Infections must be resolved before the laceration is repaired, to prevent bacteria from becoming trapped under the skin and forming an abscess (a localized area of pus and inflammation).

The skin may also contract and form scar tissue over time, which can make it more difficult to bring the tissue edges together. Prompt treatment will enable the veterinarian to determine if there is internal damage to bones and other structures that may not be visible on the surface.

How Is a Laceration Repair Done?

A laceration repair can be a minor surgery if the laceration is small or a major surgery if the laceration is large, deep, or infected. Superficial cuts can sometimes be repaired using local anesthetics, which affect only the area of the wound. However, thorough cleaning and exploration of lacerations usually require general (full) anesthesia of the pet. This allows immobilization of the area and minimizes stress and pain for the pet.

The veterinarian will clean the laceration and evaluate the extent of injury. In some cases, radiographs (x-rays) may be required to make sure there is no internal damage. The laceration is then repaired by bringing the ends of the severed tissue together with sutures (stitches) or skin staples. Deep wounds may require the placement of a temporary drain to prevent fluid buildup as the laceration heals.

Your pet may need to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking or chewing of the surgical site until it is healed. Sometimes bandages or other protective coverings are used to protect the area after surgery. Pain medications or antibiotics may also be prescribed if needed.

What Are the Benefits of a Laceration Repair?

A laceration repair will help the severed tissues heal faster, with less likelihood of infection or excessive scar tissue. If tissues beneath the skin, such as muscles and tendons, have been damaged, the repair should help ensure that your pet regains full function of these tissues.