Under all that copious fur there is skin. Skin that is susceptible to a myriad of diseases and afflictions just as we humans are. The difference being that in humans we can readily see a health problem. In a dog, skin health problems are not readily apparent until the dog gives us an indication. Usually, the indications are excessive licking and scratching. In general we humans tend to take our skin for granted. If we go out into the sun, we use sun screen. If we have dry skin, we use a lotion. And occasionally we notice irregularities and then we go to the doctor. We’re pretty complacent and tend to think of skin as the wrap that molds our body. With dogs, the skin goes beyond being a mold. It is an organ in itself. This organ regulates the heat in a dogs body and works in conjunction with the foot pads which allow the dog to perspire.
As with humans the skin communicates sensations such as pain, heat, cold, touch, etc. to the brain. An animals skin also processes vitamin D just as we do. When we take our pet to the veterinarian, one of the usual examinations done is one of the skin. When the veterinarian back brushes the fur he/she is not only looking for parasites such as fleas and mites, but they are also looking at the skin. Dry skin and fur can indicate illness. Yellow skin can indicate jaundice and blue skin can indicate heart problems. Rashes can mean allergies.
Dogs can have seasonal and environmental allergies as well as food allergies. Food allergies may not always be associated with new foods but can also come from foods they have eaten for years and have become sensitive to due to many reasons. So called “hot-spots”, for example may be a result of a dog no longer being able to digest a certain food. Your veterinarian will recommend ways to test your dogs diet and recommend a course of treatment. Many dogs such as spaniels have seasonal and environmental allergies which can manifest themselves not only with sneezing and watery eyes, but also with skin rashes.
Allergies to fleas and medicines can also cause skin rashes. There are now veterinarians who are specializing in animal allergies and dermatology. Should your veterinarian find it necessary a referral could be made for diagnosis and treatment.
There are also genetic skin disorders and glandular skin disorders. There are several diseases associated with ovarian and testicular problems. Diagnosis and treatment can be made by your veterinarian. Dogs are also susceptible to various types of skin fungus. They are highly contagious to humans and other animals. Mange is another skin disease that is contagious. Quick diagnosis and treatment is essential.
In addition to the previously mentioned skin problems, there are also seborreic (seborrhea) skin diseases, tumors, melanomas, infected sores, mites, etc., that can be diagnosed by your veterinarian.
The purpose of this article is to make owners aware that the care and regular examination of your dogs skin is essential. Before buying a dog, consult with the breeder and a veterinarian. Know the diseases which are specific to the breed you desire. Know your dogs body as you should know your own. Check for skin problems during regular grooming.
If you find an area of concern, consult your veterinarian immediately. Do not make a self diagnosis and start a course of treatment. Only a veterinarian can make a proper diagnosis and recommend oral and/or topical treatments. Delay in proper diagnosis and treatment can cause delay in recovery and possible spread of the ailment and unnecessary prolonged discomfort for your beloved pet.