Does your dog continuously chew and scratch at themselves? Then there’s a chance your dog has a skin issue. Skin problems are the most common presented complaints at the vet, accounting for a quarter of office visits in a typical day. So what are the signs and what can owners do to keep a healthy, itch free dog?
Skin issue #1: Itchy Skin.
Referred to as pruritus, itchy skin is very common in the clinic — about 40% for all skin problems! Persistent scratching and chewing can consume a dog’s life, keeping both pet and owner up at all hours of the night. In addition of feeling miserably itchy, dogs may develop secondary skin lesions, infections, and hair loss from the trauma of teeth and nails to skin.
Skin issue #2: Allergies.
While flea bites cause a transient irritation to both humans and animals alike, dogs with a true flea allergy are hypersensitive. One bite can set off a chain reaction a systemic bout of chewing and scratching. Fleas are certainly a challenge to manage and require treatment of all household pets and the environment. Once the fleas are under control, so are the itching. This is why it is best to always make sure your pet is up to date on their prescribed flea preventative.
Environmental allergies (atopy)
Allergens can be inhaled, much like pollen or mite dander, or absorbed directly through the skin (as sometimes happens with grass). Atopy is a challenge to manage and dogs may require regular medication or allergy shots to keep them comfortable during the allergy season.
An allergy to certain foods may result in skin diseases are much less common the first two allergies. Typically, it triggers a hypersensitivity reaction to a protein that the body misidentifies as a threat. Your veterinarian's guidance is essential in sorting through a pet’s history for clues leading to a diagnosis of a food allergy, as it requires a process of strict elimination of diet to determine. Once the allergen is identified, the pet can be transitioned to a dog food that avoids the triggering ingredient.
Skin issue #3: Sores and Hot Spots
External parasites such as mites and fleas in non-allergic dogs and primary bacterial infections are common causes for what leads to sores nad hot spots. Hot spots, or moist dermatitis, can spread quickly. If you spot any red, sticky sores on your dog, get them to the vet before it worsens.
Skin Issue #4: Hair Loss
Hair loss in dogs is caused by a variety of problems, from parasites such as Demodex mites to thyroid disease to Cushing’s disease, an adrenal disorder. With careful examination and a breakdown of the pet’s medical history, a veterinarian may decide if the dog is losing hair in occurrence with a secondary systemic disorder.
Skin Issue #5: Dull Coats and the role of Fatty Acids
In addition to handling the management that comes with your pet’s diagnosed problem, many pets respond well to nutritional management. A dog with dry skin or a dull coat often improve with diets or supplements containing optimized levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega 3-fatty acids, often sourced from fish oil, play an important role in reducing inflammation. Omega-6 fatty acids also play a key role in maintaining the integrity of your dog’s skin as a barrier, reducing water loss and bolstering the strength of the skin cells. Linoleic is an essential omega-6 fatty acid, meaning the dog must obtain this from food sources.
A successful management of skin disease in dogs is a collaborative effort between you and your veterinarian. With proper diagnosis and comprehensive management, many dogs see a decrease or disappearance of their skin issues.