Tips & Information

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Addressing skin issues with your pet

Photo of a vet with small dogRemember that you are your pet’s best advocate.  If you are noticing a skin problem that does not heal on its own within a few days, please have your pet seen by the doctor as soon as you can.

There are hundreds of reasons why dogs and cats develop symptoms associated with their skin.  Unfortunately, the skin has a limited number of ways to react to these different conditions.  The skin can turn red (inflammation), purple (bruised), brown (like freckles), or white (often associated with hormonal diseases or frostbite).  Skin can develop pustules (pimples-small or large), erosions and ulcers (wearing away of the top layers of skin), or crusts.  In some cases, there is damage at the level of the hair follicles and the pet loses fur in patches or over whole areas of the body.  Animals with skin disease may or may not be itchy.

When your pet goes for a vet visit, the doctor may not even start by looking at your dog or cat.  He or she will begin by asking a series of questions known as “gathering a patient history”. How long have you noticed the problem?  Has it gotten worse in recent weeks?  What did it look like when you first noticed the skin condition?  Is your pet itchy? What is your pet eating? Depending on your lifestyle and the pet’s initial examination, the doctor may ask you other types of questions as well.

The type of treatment that will be effective varies greatly with the type of skin problem.  Skin parasites are treated completely differently than hormonal diseases. In many cases, there will be more than one type of medication used.  Oral antibiotics are commonly used to treat bacterial infections.  Some dogs and cats with food allergies respond very well to therapeutic diets alone, while others will require occasional remedies for yeast infections in the ears or on the skin itself. 

Anti-inflammatory medications such as steroids like prednisone can make a huge difference for dogs with moderate to severe skin disease.  Alternative therapies like homeopathy and acupuncture also may have a place in certain conditions.  Shampoos, creams, and drop-on products may improve the coat. 

Be patient with both your doctor and your pet when you first start addressing a skin problem.  They may have to try a few different combinations of medications before finding the right mix for your cat or dog.

Please consult your veterinarian before using any over-the-counter products. Working together, you can find the right solution for your pet.

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