Almost every pet owner will experience, at least once, a pet that has skin issues. While many are treated fairly simply and uneventfully, others can be more complicated and require more specialized treatment.
The following information should give you an idea of what dermatitis is, what to do, and how you can best prevent it.
A dog’s skin (epidermis) is only 3 to 5 cells thick, while a human’s skin is at least 10 to 15 cells thick. Since dogs have less layers compared to humans, their skin is more sensitive.
And even though dog skin is covered in fur, it encounters toxins, pathogenic organisms, and physical stress. Therefore, the skin acts as an immune organ and is the body's largest organ. This is why it's essential to help keep it healthy.
To put it simply, dermatitis is inflammation of the skin. While age can be a determining factor for some of the different causes, any age of pet can be affected. Some terms you may have heard used with regards to dermatitis are ‘hot spots’ (actually called acute moist dermatitis), rash (papules, pustules, etc.), and pododermatitis (this is where dermatitis affects your dog’s paws). It can present in many different ways and anywhere on the body. Some examples of symptoms are:
The problem is that dermatitis can be caused by various things. Some causes include:
The best thing you can do for your pet if you notice any of the signs listed above is to take them to your veterinarian right away. While dermatitis isn’t an emergency, the sooner it is treated, the sooner your pet feels better, and the causative issues can be addressed. In the long run, this will be less expensive, hopefully, for you.
There are a few things that may make your dog more comfortable that you can try.
You will notice, usually in a few days to a week, that your dog is improving because the inflammation (redness and swelling), rash (papules - lumps), pustules (pimples), etc., will start to lessen. Your dog will not scratch as much to not at all. The skin, in general, will begin to look smoother compared to what it was.
Within the first few days to a week, you will know that your pet isn’t improving because the inflammation and the rash will not improve and will likely spread and worsen (the skin will get thicker and possibly begin to get pigmented – turn black). Your pet will continue to scratch at the area or new areas. Your pet will continue or start to lose more fur. There are times as well that your pet may have a decreased appetite.
If your pet isn’t showing signs of improvement, despite following all instructions given to you regarding medications, bathing, and food, you should contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may need to run additional tests and/or change the types of medications they initially prescribed your dog.
*NOTE* Improvements from food trials need to be given at least 12 weeks, but you should see some improvements in your pet’s skin sooner.
There are a few things you can do to help prevent reoccurrences. This, however, is dependent on the cause and not all dermatitis reoccurrences can be prevented.
As always, contact your veterinarian, as soon as possible if you notice any signs or symptoms returning. It is possible your pet can develop new causes for their dermatitis.