Skin problems abound in the dog population of the United States. The high incidence is accounted for by the hot humid climate that lends itself to the rapid growth of parasites, and to the big neglected dog population that roams at large in most urban centers.
Here are the most common skin problems in dogs:
Certain breeds, particularly Labs, are prone to a dry coat condition or dandruff.
In most cases this is directly attributed to a lack of vegetable oil in the diet and the problem usually clears up in 3 weeks by mixing into the food daily about two teaspoonfuls of vegetable oil.
Likewise, dogs that go swimming a lot in salt water deplete their coats of natural oil and benefit greatly from the addition of oil to their food.
In any dog where scratching is excessive, in the absence of bald areas, ticks or fleas, the above condition may be suspected.
Mange is the most serious skin disease in dogs. Mange is caused by small mites burrowing into the skin thereby damaging the roots of the hair and causing it to fall out.
Until recently the most common form of mange – demodectic mange, had a low cure rate. However, with the advent of modern treatment about 85% of cases can be treated successfully.
Generally the first sign of mange is hair loss from the face, particularly around the eyes, and a so-called spectacled appearance frequently results.
The bald areas do not appear to be inflamed as a rule and it simply looks as though the hair has fallen out.
When more than 20% of the dog’s body is affected treatment becomes extremely difficult, hence the importance of an early diagnosis.
The situation frequently occurs where a healthy dog is surrounded by a number of dogs suffering from mange and as most dogs are not particularly discerning about the company they keep their owners are understandably concerned about the prospect of their pet contracting mange.
If the dog can not be kept isolated from its mangey friends the best preventative is to dose the dog weekly with one of the oral flea killing preparations that are available locally.
Most pups at some time or other suffer from impetigo during puppyhood.
Impetigo is a condition where surface bacteria invade the skin and small pustules develop, usually starting on the stomach.
In advanced cases the rash of pustules may extend over most of the body. In any young pup this condition may be treated in the early stages by washing the pup, and the mother if present, in very dilute Phisohex daily for 5 days.
Disposable bedding (newspaper is best) must be provided and changed every day. If the puppy has not been vaccinated and is off its food at the time the pustules are noticed, distemper must be suspected and a vet consulted immediately.
Everything that affects the skin of a dog which cannot be identified as due to a specific parasite, is generally described as eczema.
The distinction between mange and eczema is that the former is due to a parasite, and the latter is of constitutional origin, and is not considered infectious.
It may be inherited, however, especially through the male line.
The disease varies considerably in form and some cases closely resemble mange in appearance. Eczema may be described as a catarrh, inflammatory condition of the skin, causing irritation, soreness, and loss of coat, generally in patches.
Any part may be affected, but it seldom extends all over the dog at one time.
Eczema is very difficult to treat, as hardly two cases react to treatment in the same way. It is best to let an experienced veterinary surgeon prescribe when you have tried without success for a week or two.
Some cases yield to a change of diet alone, others to some particular remedy.
The question of diet is of considerable importance because it is generally believed that overfeeding and wrong feeding, which puts the blood, out of order, is responsible for 9 out of 10 cases of eczema.
What can I feed my dog with skin problems?
It is surprising how little common sense some people seem able to bring to bear on the subject of feeding dogs.
The dog by nature is a carnivorous animal. In a wild state he would be living entirely on flesh and nothing else, except that he would probably bite off and swallow a few blades of grass to keep himself free from intestinal parasites.
Yet one is constantly meeting people who avoid giving much meat, to their dogs and persist in feeding them on a starchy diet that is wholly different from what nature intended. Many people make the mistake of giving their dog white bread and potatoes, which contain starch.
It is important that every dog owner who sees signs of skin irritation in his dog to consider carefully whether the system of feeding is all that could be desired, taking care that meat and cereals are kept in a suitable proportion and are supplemented by the addition of uncooked chopped vegetables such as cabbage and carrots, which in this form can easily be sprinkled with gravy, which would ensure they’re being swallowed.
Preventive measures are the best safeguard against skin troubles, and dogs properly fed and not overfed and given sufficient exercise will stand a good chance of avoiding this troublesome disease.