My dog, Happy, is losing a lot of hair and scratching all the time. What is it and what can be done about it?
This is a familiar scenario. Skin problems are one of the most common complaints in veterinary medicine. There are a multitude of potential causes with some of the more common ones being flea dermatitis and skin parasites, atopy and food allergies, and immune-mediated and endocrine diseases. It takes a good physical examination and some diagnostics to get to the heart of these frustrating problems.
Flea allergy dermatitis occurs when your pet has not only fleas, but an allergy to the flea saliva as well. This can cause hair loss and red, inflamed skin that is itchy with sores and crusts. In addition to fleas, there are several types of skin mites and other external parasites that can cause similar signs The good news is that there are excellent preventatives and treatments for this set of “pesky” problems.
Atopy is a catch-all term used for dogs that are itchy as a result of
inhalant, environmental, and contact allergies. Molds, pollens, dust and
environmental contaminants are the biggest offenders. Animals tend to
show hair loss, inflamed and sore ears, and may particularly chew at their
feet, legs, tummy and flank areas.
Additionally, this type of dermatitis may be complicated with a bacterial or yeast infection on the skin as well. If the problem does not improve with standard medical treatment, allergy testing and injections can give some of these dogs much needed relief.
Food allergies are also very common and may present with similar symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. The good news is that if your pet is diagnosed with this, there are some wonderful hypoallergenic diets available that can help manage this condition.
Finally, there are several immune-mediated and endocrine diseases that can result in hair loss, thin skin, severe infection, open sores, crusts, and lots of itching. A thorough physical examination and bloodwork can help determine the source of these problems.
Symptoms of skin problems can present in a variety of ways and can be very similar and hard to distinguish. Therefore, an exam performed by a veterinarian will help pinpoint the cause and lead to some much needed relief for everyone.