Skin Problems in Pets
Skin problems in dogs and cats are relatively common. They manifest themselves in visible changes on the skin or/and fur but they can also result in changes in your pet’s behavior such as compulsive scratching, licking and chewing. The most common culprits of skin problems in pets include:
– Yeast and Fungal Infections
If your dog is constantly scratching his ear or/and shaking his head, there is a great chance that he has yeast infection. The same yeast species can also cause an infection on other parts of the body, resulting in skin redness and scabby/crusty patches. In cats, problems with ears usually don’t indicate yeast infection but rather mite infestation. The latter can be recognized by dark, coffee-colored deposits in the ears. Fortunately, both types of ear infection are relatively easily treated with topical medications.
Ringworm is another relatively common skin problem that is caused by fungal infection and can affect both dogs and cats. Characterized by circular, ring-like skin lesions, ringworm is highly contagious and can also be transmitted to humans and vice versa. This skin problem requires an immediate treatment with anti-fungal medications and a series of measures to prevent the infection from spreading to other pets and humans.
– Bacterial Infections
Just like in humans, many bacterial skin infections in pets are caused by bacteria that are naturally found on the skin and under normal circumstances cause no harm. But when the balance between the microorganisms on the skin is disrupted, for example by a disease or skin damage/injury, the normally non-pathogenic (harmless) bacteria can become pathogenic. The good news is that most bacterial skin infections can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Signs and symptoms depend on the bacteria species that is responsible for the infection.
– Parasitic Infections
In addition to mites that can cause a very unpleasant ear infection and other skin problems including sores, scabbing and hair loss/bald spots (mange mites), symptoms such as skin redness, itching, flaking and similar skin/coat changes can also be caused by other parasites such as fleas. Fortunately, they can easily be treated at home with flea control products, many of which also provide protection against other parasites, both internal and external.
– Allergic Reactions, Seasonal Changes, Stress
Skin problems in pets can also indicate an allergy to food, environmental factors and even pollen. Symptoms such as dry skin and flakiness, on the other hand, may be due to seasonal changes – pets have drier skin during the winter too. Skin problems are sometimes also the result of compulsive scratching, licking and chewing which in turn can be triggered by a number of things including stress.
– Underlying Medical Condition
Changes in the appearance or texture of the fur may also be a symptom of a disease such as diabetes, immune system disorder, hormonal imbalances, metabolic problems, etc., ranging from minor health concerns to potentially life-threatening conditions.
Contact Your Vet If
Your pet has any visible skin/coat changes or is displaying discomfort in the form of scratching, licking or chewing. Note that it is normal for dogs and cats to shed. However, take your pet to a vet as soon as possible if hair loss is severe or if having any bald spots.