Caring for an animal with skin disease
The skin is the largest organ in the body and therefore we are used to seeing many different skin complaints in animals! When a skin problem occurs, your pet may show some of the following signs:
- Scratching, licking or rubbing at areas of skin
- Redness or inflammation
- Hair loss
- Flaky skin
- Swellings or lumps
- Ear disease
Here is a list of some of the more common skin problems that we see in our surgery.
There are many different parasites that like to live on your animal! Fleas, ticks, lice and mites are some of the common parasites that we see. If you bring your pet in we will always look for parasites and can take samples to check under our microscope. There are many different products available for prevention and treatment and any of our team will be happy to advise you what is best for your pet. You can find more information in the fleas and ticks section on our website.
Allergic skin disease
Allergic skin disease is the most common skin condition that we see. Often pets which have repeated skin or ear infections are suffering from underlying allergies. Pets can be hypersensitive to substances in the environment such as pollens and house dust mites or to certain foods. The reasons allergens cause itchy skin is because when they are in-contact with the body they trigger your pet’s immune system to release inflammatory substances which then act on the skin. Some allergies are seasonal and you may notice that your pet is only bothered at certain times of the year.
If your pet is suffering from allergic skin disease then there are many different treatment options available.
1. If your pet has a skin infection then antibiotics are required. Skin infections usually need a long course of treatment – sometimes up to eight weeks of medications, to ensure the infection is completely cleared. It is very important that you bring your pet back for recheck appointments, as we need to extend the antibiotic course at least one week after the skin looks to have improved. We may take samples to get an understanding of what bacteria are involved, discovering resistance to specific antibiotics and allowing your vet to pick the best antibiotic for your pet.
2. Your pet may be uncomfortable and therefore we sometimes prescribe steroids to reduce inflammation and itchiness. These are often very effective drugs but can have side effects. These include increased thirst and subsequently increased urination, increased appetite and panting. For these reasons we always try to control inflammation with the lowest possible dose of steroid. Your vet can discuss in depth the pros and cons of this specific medication.
3. Cyclosporin (Atopica) is a drug which is effective in treating allergic skin disease in dogs as tablets, and in cats as a liquid form. It takes about four weeks to become effective and can be used long-term or seasonally. Potential side effects are vomiting and diarrhoea.
4. We have a wide range of medicated shampoos at the surgery which are often used to help treat allergic skin disease.
5. Animals with allergic skin disease require strict flea control as they will be more likely to react to flea bites, even from a single flea!
6. If you pet is suffering from recurring skin problems then we often advise an allergy test to determine exactly what your pet is allergic to. This involves collecting a blood sample which is sent to an external laboratory. In order to complete this test your pet has to have time off from certain medications as these will affect the results - we are happy to advise you prior to carrying out the test.
7. If your pet is allergic to environmental substances then it may be possible to avoid the allergens by reducing carpets in the house, avoiding certain plants on walks and using cleaning sprays in your house. However, it is not always easy if the allergens are wide spread and some of our patients are given allergy vaccinations. This involves injections of the relevant allergies in order to desensitise your pet. It may take several months before you see the benefits and the dose can be reduced over time, although treatment is generally required for life.
8. If your pet is allergic to food ingredients then we are happy to recommend a suitable hypoallergenic diet for your pet. There are several brands available and we can order them for you at our surgeries.
9. Should your pet be diagnosed with allergic disease, they will require close monitoring for flare ups and often this involves frequent visits to the vets. We aim to provide the best management plan for your pet, tailored to their individual needs.
Swellings and lumps
If your pet develops any lumps or bumps then it is best to have them checked out by a vet. We will then be able to advise you on the treatment required or the monitoring of skin masses. Our vets will sometimes take needle samples to be either checked in our own laboratory under the microscope, or which can be sent to an external laboratory. Surgical biopsies may need to be taken under an anaesthetic in order to determine the exact diagnosis of the masses present on your pet.
If your pet has a wound then it should be assessed by our vets as soon as possible. Often larger wounds require surgical treatment and this is best done before the wound is contaminated.
Changes in the skin can be related to more generalised health problems and therefore the vet will ask a wide range of questions and give your pet a thorough examination. The most common hormonal conditions involve the thyroid gland and the adrenal gland and we are able to perform different blood tests in order to diagnose your pet.