Skin conditions are some of the most common diseases that affect pets, and they can cause severe discomfort for your furry friend. Often, a skin issue is a sign of an underlying disease that has yet to be diagnosed and managed, which, left untreated, can become much more complicated and difficult to treat. If your pet is suffering from a skin problem, we may diagnose her with one or several of these 10 conditions.
#1: Allergic dermatitis
Perhaps the most common cause of skin issues in pets, allergic dermatitis encompasses a wide variety of triggers—molds, pollens, grasses, trees, fabrics, chemicals, parasites, and foods are a few potential allergens your pet may face. Allergies in pets occur when the body becomes hypersensitive to a trigger, and mounts an abnormal, exaggerated immune response characterized by itchy, inflamed, or infected skin.
Two types of mange affect pets—sarcoptic and demodectic. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious and can easily spread from pets to people and other animals, but can be difficult to diagnose on a routine skin scraping. Demodectic mange also causes itching and hair loss, but is not contagious, as low numbers of these mange mites reside naturally on healthy pets’ skin. Due to a weakened immune system through genetics, disease, or medications, the demodex mite overwhelms the immune system and attacks the skin. Typically, demodectic mange is seen in young or old pets.
Ringworm, despite the name, is not a worm, but a fungus that is highly contagious to other pets and people. Characterized by classic bulls-eye lesions, ringworm causes circular patches of hair loss that may be mildly itchy. Ringworm fungal spores can thrive in the environment for up to 18 months, infecting new victims through shedding or broken infected hairs.
#4: Acute moist dermatitis
Acute moist dermatitis, better known as hot spot, is typically seen with allergies. The sticky patches of raw skin can pop up seemingly overnight, when an uncomfortable pet chews, licks, and scratches, trying to alleviate her itching. Some pets traumatize their skin so severely that they need sedation while their matted, sticky fur is cleaned and clipped away from the hot spot to allow healing. Antibiotics and steroids are also required to manage infection and soothe inflammation.
Flea allergies are so prevalent in pets that they have commandeered their own category. Flea-bite dermatitis displays the hallmark signs of hind-end hair loss and inflamed skin. Some pets can be flea-infested and show no signs, but pets who are hypersensitive to fleas can erupt in an itchy rash from a single flea bite.
#6: Yeast or bacterial infections
English bulldogs—we’re looking at you as the poster children for skin infections. Wrinkles and skin folds create the perfect moist environment where yeast and bacteria can thrive, and inflammation from allergies compound this skin condition. Deep-seated bacterial skin infections can take months of antibiotic therapy to be fully eradicated, and may require lifelong medicated shampoo for prevention.
#7: Acral lick granulomas
One of the most frustrating skin conditions to manage, acral lick granulomas tend to heal almost completely, only to pop back up overnight, or while a pet owner is at work. Lick granulomas appear as thickened, scarred, and irritated skin patches that may ooze, especially if a dog is continuously licking and chewing at the spot. While the cause is often not known, possible instigators include boredom, anxiety, injury, pain, allergies, inflammation, or a foreign object. A lick granuloma often pops up after an allergy flare, injury, or stressful situation, and is seen over joints and bony prominences, especially on the front legs, which are easy for the pet to reach.
#8: Autoimmune diseases
Lupus is a common autoimmune disease that appears as crusty skin sores that take a long time to heal. Mucocutaneous junctions where skin meets mucous membranes are often affected, and sores may appear around the lips, eyes, nose, and anus. Pemphigus is another common autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss, scabs, and ulcers around the head, face, and ears. Treatment for any autoimmune disorder often requires steroids to suppress the immune-system response.
#9: Dry skin
Dry skin in pets can have many causes, including nutritional imbalances and deficiencies, metabolic or hormonal diseases, skin allergies, organ disease, parasites, or digestive disorders. Treating the underlying cause of your pet’s dry, flaky skin is vital for healing, but moisturizing shampoos and conditioners, along with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, can help.
#10: Hair loss
Hair loss can be caused by any condition on this list, and is often a sign of a deeper underlying cause, from nutritional deficiencies and allergies, to autoimmune disease and pain. Pets pull out their hair because they’re bored, stressed, or uncomfortable. Cats with painful idiopathic cystitis may pull hair from their abdomen because of an inflamed bladder. Some pets may lose excessive amounts of hair from a poor diet, or have clumps of hair fall out due to a disease process.
At the first sign of a skin issue, schedule an appointment at our hospital, so we can help you and your pet sleep comfortably through the night.