Common Pet Skin Issues and How to Treat Them

Dog scratching itself

Skin Issues in Pets

Does your pet frequently scratch, bite, or lick its skin? Allergies, parasites, and infections can cause a variety of itchy skin conditions in pets. These conditions are among the most common.

Flea Bite Dermatitis

Fleas aren't picky. They'll feed on any warm-blooded mammal, whether it's a pet or a person. Flea symptoms include round, red bumps on the skin, hot spots, scabs, and hair loss. In some cases, you may be able to see fleas on your pet's coat. Flea "dirt" is another telltale sign of an infestation. The dirt, which looks like black or brown flecks in the fur, are flea feces.

Dogs and cats are most commonly affected by flea bite dermatitis, but other animals can suffer from the itchy condition. If your dog or cat has fleas, your rabbit, ferret, hamster, gerbil, or guinea pig may have them too.

Treatment

Flea collars, sprays, baths, and ointments can kill fleas. Before using a flea product on a young, old, sick, or small animal, check with your veterinarian first, as some of the products and treatments may be toxic for these pets. Prescription chews, pills, and topical treatments kill mature fleas and larvae and can be used year-round to prevent flea infestations.

Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes raised, red rings on the skin. Other signs and symptoms include a circular pattern of hair loss, dandruff, and scaly, thick or crusty skin. Ringworm can be transmitted between people and pets. If your pet has ringworm, wash your hands after touching your furry friend and be sure to wash his or her bedding, dishes, brushes, and combs frequently.

Treatment

Creams, ointments, and medicated shampoo ease ringworm symptoms. These treatments may be combined with oral anti-fungal medication.

Allergic or Nutritional Dermatitis

Pets can suffer from allergies too. Red, blistered, thick skin along with hair loss can be a sign that your pet has allergic dermatitis. This is a condition that tends to make pets very uncomfortable. They may try to ease the itch by scratching, rubbing against furniture or carpeting, or biting and licking their skin.

Your pet may be allergic to pollen, ragweed, dust mites, mold, or other airborne allergens. They can also be allergic to the ingredients in their food. Allergies can develop at any time in your pet's life. Dermatitis can also occur if your pet eats poor quality food that doesn't meet all of his or her nutritional needs.

Treatment

Treatment for dermatitis depends on the cause but may include immunotherapy, change in diet, antihistamines, medicated shampoo, soothing topical medication, corticosteroids to decrease itching and inflammation, or antibiotics or antifungal medication to treat infections that occur as a result of frequent scratching or licking.

Scabies

Scabies, or sarcoptic mange, occurs when tiny microscopic mites make themselves at home in your pet's skin. Severe itching, rashes, red or flaky skin, and patchy hair loss can be signs of scabies. Although the infection frequently affects dogs, cats can get it too. Scabies is very contagious and can be spread through close contact with other animals. Wash your pet's bedding and clean his or her favorite restings spots frequently.

In some cases, sarcoptic mange can affect people. You may notice red bumps on your skin if your pet transmitted mites to you. Since the mites can't reproduce on human skin, the condition is much less serious in people. Humans can get another form of scabies that causes more severe symptoms. Human scabies cannot spread to animals.

Treatment

Your pet's veterinarian can prescribe several treatments that kill the mites and ease your pet's uncomfortable symptoms, including topical medications, injections, shampoos, and antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medication.

Is your pet scratching much more than usual? A skin condition may be to blame. We can help relieve your pet's itch and determine the cause of your furry friend's rash.

Sources:

Veterinary Practice: Treating Canine Scabies, 4/23/18

DVM360: Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs and Cats, 5/1/11

Veterinary Practice: Treating Canine Scabies, 4/23/18

Purina: Skin Problems and Skin Conditions in Dogs

Companion Animal Parasite Council: Pets and Parasites

Catster: 10 Cat Skin Problems and How to Handle Them

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