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Dogs with skin irritations are hard to miss. They scratch incessantly, have hair loss and often smell bad.
1. Allergies: Allergies are a big reason for itchy skin. Dogs can be allergic to a particular food, to an airborne substance like pollen or human dander, or to fleabites. Any one of these irritants can cause the skin to become red and itchy. Skin irritated by allergens can develop a secondary bacterial infection as well.
The best way to deal with allergies in dogs is to first find the cause. Your veterinarian can help you with this. Have your dog allergy tested for a variety of substances, or do food tests with your vet’s help if he or she suspects your dog is suffering from a food allergy.
If fleas are the culprits, protect your dog with a monthly topical flea product administered directly on the skin. These products keep fleas from reproducing in the environment and biting your dog. Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate product for your particular dog’s needs.
Inhaled allergens are more difficult to control than food and flea irritants because they can be hard to identify. With the help of an allergy test, your veterinarian can discover the exact cause of your dog’s allergies. This will enable the vet to develop allergy shots for your dog to help desensitize him to substances in his environment that are triggering his allergies.
2. Bacterial infections: Dogs suffering from allergies sometimes develop secondary bacterial infections, which cause the skin to be itchy, ulcerated and smelly. Most often caused by the streptococcus bacteria, which enters the skin through the dog’s biting and scratching, these infections must be treated by a veterinarian. Your vet will likely prescribe oral antibiotics for your dog as well as a topical ointment. It’s important to control the allergy that caused the initial scratching as well so the problem doesn’t reoccur.
3. Fungal infections: The most common fungal skin infection seen in dogs is ringworm. Caused by either the microsporum and trichophyton organisms, this infection often results in a loss of hair in a circular pattern. A crusty scab may form over the area, and the dog may scratch at it.
Your veterinarian may do a skin culture to determine which organism is causing the problem and prescribe a medicated shampoo, along with a topical ointment.
4. Parasites: Tiny creatures that make their living on the skin can also cause considerable irritation to dogs. Sarcoptic and demodectic mange are two common skin conditions caused by mites. These parasites result in intense itching. With demodectic mange, dogs also experience hair loss, often in a circular pattern similar to ringworm. It’s important to get a diagnosis from your veterinarian to determine whether your dog is suffering from ringworm or demodectic mange because the treatments are very different. Sarcoptic mange is also itchy and causes considerable crusting of the skin.
Tick bites can also prompt itching and irritation, even after the tick is removed. But the most common parasite blamed for skin infections is the flea, since many dogs are allergic to its bite. Fleabites result in itchy hotspots, which are frequently scratched and chewed on by affected dogs.
If your veterinarian suspects mange, he or she will do a skin scraping and view the results under a microscope. The vet may prescribe regular dips to destroy the mites causing the condition. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, you will need to apply a topical antibiotic ointment.
5. Hormone problems: Some dogs with hormone imbalances can develop skin conditions. Over- or under-production of the pituitary, adrenal, thyroid and reproductive glands can result in a hormonal imbalance. The result can be hair loss in various parts of the body. Because these conditions can be dangerous if not treated, it’s important to have your dog examined by a vet right away should he begin to experience significant hair loss.
It’s important to remember that if your dog is suffering from a skin irritation, your vet is the best person to diagnose the problem and prescribe treatment. In the meantime, regularly bathing your dog with a quality shampoo that is easy on the skin, like COWBOY MAGIC® Rosewater Shampoo, can help keep your dog’s skin happy and healthy.