Similarly in humans, skin is the largest organ in your pet’s body. But unlike humans, your pet’s skin is concealed by a coat that hides any changes that may be occurring beneath it. Although humans easily detect small changes that may occur on the skin, certain pet skin ailments can only be detected by understanding pet behavior.
Excessive itching and scratching is the first symptom that can help you to understand that there is something wrong with your pet. Most of the time, it is this behavior that turns minor problems like cat dandruff and feline acne into serious skin problems like excessive feline hair loss and eczema.
A healthy skin and coat is a good indicator of the overall health of your dog. You may have noticed that the first thing that veterinarians do while examining pets is to run their hands over the coat of the pet. The skilled hands of the veterinarians can detect infections and distortions on the skin better than we can. They can notice infestation of parasites and many other disorders that may lead them to the final source of the problem.
A dog’s skin can be under attack for a number of reasons. These are classified into various types like autoimmune mediated, infections and infestations, genetic, and manifestations of internal ailments.
A weakened immune system of the dog often results in problems like:
- Recurrent infections - These infections can be bacterial or fungal in nature.
- Hypersensitivity - This includes allergic reactions to food, chemicals, environment, pollens, grass, weeds and household dust mites.
- Acute moist dermatitis or hot spots - This condition is created and worsened by excessive licking and scratching. A hot spot can spread rapidly resulting in secondary staphylococcus infection. This causes the top layer to break and form pustules that get caught in the hair. Spherical gram-positive parasitic bacteria tend to form irregular colonies. Some cause boils, septicemia or infections.
Infectious skin diseases can be contagious or non-contagious. They include all kinds of infestations as well. These are mostly caused by parasites, bacteria, fungus and viruses:
- Mange - This is a long lasting and contagious disease caused by microscopic mites that cause inflammation, itching and loss of hair.
- Other contagious parasitic infestations - Sarcoptic canine scabies is a common contagious skin disease. Infestation of Cheyletiella mite and lice are another two infestations that are contagious.
- Non-contagious parasitic infestations - Fleas and ticks are acquired from the environment, especially from areas where there are hosts that are already infested.
- Flea allergy dermatitis – This is the most common cause of skin disease. The flea saliva causes allergic reactions that lead to hair loss and eczema.
Some skin diseases are hereditary that promote atypical skin structures or functions. Certain dogs are more prone to a fragile, elastic and soft skin that easily forms welts and scars. Others can contract canine follicular dysplasia or alopecia due to a genetic predisposition.
Endocrinal disorders like hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome and tumors of ovaries and testicles can also manifest as skin diseases.
It is important to note that a dog generally does not indulge in excessive licking or scratching unless there is a reason behind it. It is extremely easy for dogs to contract skin problems since they accumulate and retain dust and water in their coat. A moist and dirty skin is very conducive to bacteria and mites. Even a harmless looking cut or a lesion can worsen if parasites and mites get attracted to it.
The one way in which you can avoid complicated skin problems is to ensure proper hygiene and regular checkups that can help in early detection.