Dog owners and groomers should be able to recognize when something is wrong with the dog’s skin and coat. And to take action when it comes to coat and skin problems.
Often, these maladies are first detected by the groomer or owner and consequently dealt with before the dog is suffering unduly. Checking the dog on a regular basis will save valuable time and expense.
Coat problems and skin disorders come in many different forms, and are caused by a combination of factors, such as incorrect immune function, unsuitable diets and parasites.
Regular grooming, brushing and combing of a puppy or adult dog will help you to spot any skin disorders early on, so they can be dealt with promptly. You may need somebody more expert to help you with a diagnosis, so consult a professional groomer, vet, breeder or breed-club health officer at the first sign of detection.
Many dogs suffer from food intolerances without their owners realizing. Digestive upsets are often symptomatic of a food allergy, though they can also be caused by a number of other conditions. Your vet should be your first port of call. Once it has been ascertained that a food allergy is causing the ill health, he or she will help you to investigate which ingredient is responsible.
All breeds can suffer a low tolerance to gluten, found in most dog biscuits and complete, dry foods. Some manufacturers produce wheat-free food, but check that other gluten are also excluded. A rice-based diet is often recommended for dogs with gluten intolerance, as rice is a grass, not a cereal.
Some people go over the top with their ablutions and spray the dog with human perfume, not realizing that dogs can be highly allergic to the chemicals contained in it. So please, don’t use your favorite Dior or Chanel on your pet. If your dog rolls in something that he finds wonderful but that makes you cringe, bathe the dog — don’t try to cover up the smell with a perfume.
Some dogs are also allergic to household cleaning material, such as furniture polish. If you suspect this is the case with your dog, you must experiment with different types of polish until you find one that does not cause an allergic reaction, such as a skin rash. Your vet will help you to discover the likely cause of your dog’s contact allergy.
Some dogs develop skin problems after being vaccinated. Initially, the cause may not be obvious, but on inquiry one often discovers a booster shot or even a puppy’s first jab will have been administered within three months of the dog developing skin problems. A homoeopathic vet may need to be sought to help calm the reaction.
This can often be attributed to poor feeding or an allergic reaction to parasite invasion, such as mites, lice and fleas. In general terms, ectoparasites, which live on the skin, are the major cause of skin disease in dogs.
Any skin lesion or sign of irritation needs investigation by a veterinarian, but certainly the groomer must learn to recognize in an instant a dog suffering red, sore patches, sore spots or tiny blemishes that cause irritation, scratching and which sometimes weep. The skin will very often feel hot.
Treatment should be sought at once, as the eczema will be much more difficult to treat if it is left and gets worse.
Dogs, like humans, have individual smells, and certain breeds have their own distinctive odors. Some oily-coated breeds, such as, the Spinone Italiano, exude quite a strong odor that people either love or hate, and some spaniel breeds can smell very “doggie” when wet.
If you are concerned about doggie smells, consider sniffing the parents of the pup you intend to buy before taking the plunge, to make sure you are compatible.
If your dog smells unusual and you cannot identify the cause, it is worth consulting a vet, as odors can be symptomatic of underlying health problems.
Fleas, lice and mites are parasites that live on the dog, feeding from its blood. They can all cause the dog to become incredibly itchy, sometimes causing the dog to scratch so intensely that coat and hair loss leave the dog looking almost bald, with its skin red, raw and bleeding. With some invasions, such as the cheyletiella mite, the dog looks as though it has scurf. Unfortunately, this dandruff is of the walking, living kind, causing much distress. In some severe cases, it is necessary to call in a pest control firm to treat the house.
Prevention and early treatment is the answer, and using the correct preparation is essential. Your vet’s office is the best place to contact, as they will sell the safest, most effective products.
Fleas cause a huge number of skin allergies. The most common pest that invades the dog has a life that is completed off the dog. Eggs are laid in the dog’s bed and around the house. Frontline (available from the vet) is probably the most effective treatment. As well as killing the fleas on the dog, it is essential that the entire home environment (including furniture and carpets) is also treated.The secret is to analyze the problem as soon as the dog starts to itch. Fleas can be seen crawling across the skin when the hair is parted, though sometimes they have already hopped off the dog or cat to breed in the carpet. In this case, inspect the hair closely for tiny black particles (flea dirt).
A good way to determine if fleas are present is to comb along the skin with a very fine-toothed comb, lay the comb or its contents on a clean sheet of tissue and wet it. If fleas are present, invariably the tissue will show red spots, and this will show you the blood sucked from the skin by the parasite.
Anyone who has seen ticks on dogs will shiver at the thought of these blood-sucking horrors. Dogs have died from disease-carrying ticks, though some countries suffer these parasites to a far worse degree than others. Dogs frequently pick up ticks from walking in woods and fields.
Ticks look a little like a wart to begin with, and get bigger as their sacs fill with blood sucked fromtheir host. Surgical alcohol kills ticks and makes them easy to remove. There is also a tool (available from most pet shops) to aid this procedure.
If a dog appears rather itchy, you should inspect it closely. If there is nothing obvious lurking in the folds of the skin or under the belly and elsewhere (such as the base of the tail), it is quite possible that your dog has collected some mites. A very close inspection of the body (particularly the feet) could reveal tiny red spots. These are often early signs of harvest mites, and must be dealt with quickly.
Very often, immediately dousing three times daily for five days the red spots with cider vinegar will cure this problem. Alcohol also kills the red mite spots, and I have found that soaking the dog in a solution of half apple cider vinegar and half water is marvelous for eliminating the little horrors. Otherwise, a trip to the vet will be necessary so you can be prescribed an adequate parasiticide before the situation gets much worse.
A yeast infection could also be responsible for itchy ears — your veterinarian will advise.