Scratching and Skin Disease

Scratching and Skin Disease –

It is that time of year unfortunately, i.e. spring and summer when dogs often start to scratch continuously.

They rub their tummies, heads, tails …anything really, along the grass to try and relieve their discomfort and/or start licking and chewing at their feet and tail base. If you have a dog that sleeps in your bedroom this can be very annoying for you to listen to at night so imagine how frustrating it must be for your pet!!

The continued irritation and scratching not only lead to skin trauma, hair loss and secondary bacterial and yeast infections but can also be related to increased anxiety, lethargy, weight loss and inappetance. I often ask my clients to imagine how they would feel if they had constant skin irritation and couldn’t stop scratching themselves. It would be a fairly depressing experience I think. In our clinic we probably see at least 2-3 skin cases every day so it is a very common problem but also one that can be treated.

There are a number of reasons that pets chew and scratch. Very commonly its flea related (flea allergy dermatitis) and can be relieved by getting control of this pest in your environment (refer July/August 2012 blog) but other skin parasites (e.g. mites) may be causing irritation, your vet can check for these. Other causes include – Atopy (allergy to inhaled allergens such as mould, spores and pollens) and Contact allergies such as allergies to certain food and some plants.

In most cases the skin ‘irritation’ can be settled in the short term with an injection or course of tablets to help control your dogs’ response to the allergen. In some cases your dog will have antibiotic tablets, creams or shampoos dispensed to help resolve any secondary infection. The biggest problem with this of course is that apart from obvious parasites, it is often unknown what caused the allergy/skin reaction in the first place and some dogs continue to have unresolved,sporadic and or lifelong skin problems.

If the problem is recurring, talk to your vet about blood and skin allergen testing to try and determine what your dog is allergic to. That way you can try to prevent it from happening again by eliminating those allergens from your pet’s environment. In some cases a specific vaccine can be developed to help build up your dog’s immunity to the known allergen.

There are also a number of common plants (e.g. Wandering Dew and Scurvy Weed) that can cause skin reactions when walked over or rolled in …your local vet should be able to provide you with a list of these for your area. Skin cases can be very frustrating and difficult to treat but again, as is the case for most diseases, prevention is better than the cure so talk to your vet today and get your pet some relief.

About the Author
Dr Rebecca KneeHaving worked in the field of science and travelling the world for some years I went back to study to follow my passion and become a Vet. I now am happily employed as a country Vet in Lismore, NSW. I love being involved with Spot The Dog Walker and providing support and advice where I can!