Skin Problems in Dogs-I

Most itching, scratching, biting and licking is what is called “pruritus” (means itching in Latin). Many canines experience skin problems at some point during their life time. Most of these diseases are chronic, but can be controlled if not cured. The kind of problems are similar to some issues which humans face such as eczema, dermatitis, warts and acne. There are also some skin problems caused by fleabites, allergic food reactions, medication or bacterial infections. Dogs skin and hair coat serve as a good indicator of a dog’s general health.

Skin problem in dogs can be classified into 6 categories

A. Parasitic B. Environmental C. Allergic D. Nutritional E. Neurogenic F. Infections

Following a thorough diagnosis, most skin and coat abnormalities can be classified in one of these categories. This is the first part in the 3-series on Skin problems and Skin care in which we would be covering Parasitic Infections.

Fleas- You see your dog itching or scratching or biting more than usual. What’s your first observation? “He must have fleas”. Most of the times, this is a correct diagnosis. Fleas are about the size of pin-head. They are big enough to be seen scurrying along the skin surface trying to hide within the fur.  Flea dermatitis is usually characterized by continuous itching. The itching is caused due to sensitivity to the flea saliva.  Fleas thrive on dry skin. Make sure your dog diet has sufficient fatty acids to maintain a healthy skin. Repeated exposure to fleas can result in a hypersensitivity to even a single flea and also expose the skin to secondary skin infections. Pulling out fleas can be a difficult task as they fly. Flea combs work best in most cases, but you do need regular care for removing them entirely.

In flea infestation– watch for

· Patchy hair loss

· Constant itching around haunches and tails

· Flea excrement– called flea dust-brown flaky substance

· Hot Spots– Acute moist dermatitis or bacterial infection (pyoderma)

Ticks- Tick is a blood sucking parasite. They latch on to the dogs’ body and can keep sucking blood until full. Following this, it detaches itself and drops off. Tick infestation can lead to  major disease transmission. In their 4 stages of life, a tick can go from being a small black speck to a full grown tick which can be the size of a raisin. Ticks migrate to an area where there is less hair so its easier to latch on like ears, paws. So don’t forget to check your dogs’ paws after every walk. When pulling out ticks make sure you pull them from their heads and preferably not with bare hands. Ticks most times tend to leave an ulcer like lesion which takes some time to heal. A tick latched on is very irritating for the dog. If you notice the dog intermittently scratching just one area, check for a tick in that area immediately.

Walking dandruff- These creatures live on the skin surface and seem like dry flakes of skin. But when inspected under a microscope, one can see that these “flakes” are actually moving around. Diagnosis usually involves skin scrapings. The scientific name for this is Cheyletiella Mange. Symptoms include dry skin, which may be accompanied by hair loss. In some cases the skin becomes flaky with crust like formation. If you find your dog experience a persistent dandruff like problem, check with the vet to rule out the possibility of Walking dandruff. The dog in this case may not itch persistently.

Scabies- The scientific word is Sarcoptic Mites. These mites burrow right under the skin and diagnosis can be difficult. This is characterized by intense itching, skin rashes, inflammation and patchy hair loss and lesions on ear margin (pinna region). It can be very localized and infestation can be sudden. The mites burrow deep and lay eggs. Scabies can affect humans as well. So if you notice excessive itching make sure you visit a dermatologist.

Demodex Mites- Also called Mange, these parasites reproduce under the skin surface in hair follicles and oil glands of the skin.  These are more common in young dogs. In adult dogs, getting mites is attributed to poor nutrition, stress, immune system disorders and even severe weather. Demodex causes very little itching and hairloss can be seen in patches. They can be identified under a microscope by taking a skin scraping.

Prevention of walking dandruff, scabies and demodex mites

Use shampoos specifically for sensitive skin. Oatmeal shampoo works best for most skin conditions. Anti dandruff shampoos and medicated shampoos are also available in the market today. Few of these are: PetDerm, Petben, Patina shampoo, Venky’s Oatmeal Shampoo

Flea & Tick prevention

Most products available in the market work on fleas and ticks together. Here are some of them:

Flea Collars: They don’t kill fleas, but repel them. They come with an expiry date after which they need to be replaced. Remove it while bathing your dog. Wash your hands after you have handled the flea collar.

Soaps & Shampoos- A variety of shampoos are available today in the market. Neem shampoos work best as flea repellants. Notix brand is most common.

Powders-  Dusting powders also repel fleas and ticks,  and can be applied daily.

Spot treatments- Frontline, Revolution, and Advantix are the 3 products available which guarantee 95-98% clean up. It’s a small tube with the medication available depending upon on dog weight. Needs to be applied on the spine as its difficult for the dog to lick. Part the hair and apply directly on the skin. Do not bathe your dog for 10 days at least.

Home remedies for parasitic infections

Neem- Neem is a very effective way of treating most skin problems be it mange, fleas or ticks. There are of course a variety of neem products available in the market, but you can also use neem leaves in its raw form on a regular basis to give your dog a healthy skin and a shiny coat.  A herbal touch will never go waste.

  • Neem paste: Make a paste of neem leaves and apply it over your dogs’ skin/ coat or over the affected areas. Leave it on for sometime before you wash it off. Works well for scabies
  • Neem Oil- Avoid using concentrated neem oil on dogs. Instead dilute it with any light carrier oil like almond in a 1:10 proportion and give your dog a massage. Leave it on for a few hours before you wash it off. Make sure the dog does not get any rash, in case of which wash off immediately. For Demodex Mange, increase this proportion to 1:1.

Aloevera– A  natural remedy which works very well for dogs with skin issues. You can use it in its natural form by scooping out the gel from the leaf. If you have noticed any intensive itching or licking, apply a bit on the affected area. As Aloe has a bitter taste, chances that the dog would avoid licking the area, thus giving the wound time to heal.

Eucalyptus Oil– Works very well against fleas and ticks as it acts as a repellant. Apply Eucalyptus oil on the skin and hair coat. Leave it on for a few hours and wash it off with regular shampoo. Not only will you have a nice smelling dog, but also a shiny coat and a healthy skin.

The best part about herbal remedies is that even if the dog does manage to lick some off its body, it does not cause vomiting or any other side effects. Adding such natural products to your dogs diet can also do wonders not just for the skin but also for digestion and immunity problems.