Dog skin diseases: symptoms, treatment and prevention of dermatoses
Skin diseases in a dog are problems that are often very easy to observe, which, unfortunately, is not associated with the same ease of diagnosis and therapy… Skin diseases in a dog: photo of a dog with demodicosis
Everyone who decides to have a pet expects that their pet will look healthy, have a beautiful and shiny coat, shiny and pleasant to the touch fur, which will be pleasant to touch and stroke.
When assessing the purchased puppy or adult dog, we are not able to professionally determine many parameters, but we always see the appearance of the largest organ of the body, the outer shell, i.e. the skin.
It is here that we can see with the naked eye all skin diseases, pathologies, losses and baldness in a dog and observe, for example, external parasites.
I do not have to convince anyone that any deviations from the norm in the appearance of the fur are one of the decisive factors in the purchase of animals and are always the reason for visiting a veterinary clinic.
Any skin diseases, although sometimes difficult to diagnose and treat, noticed by the caregiver, they should be the reason for the dog's immediate return to the veterinarian.
It is worth watching your pets closely, because some skin diseases can pose a serious threat to all people who affect them, especially children.
We take care of the dog's skin also for the sake of our own health, because many diseases are common to us and animals.
The benefits of healthy skin and its products are therefore undeniable and mutual, and there is probably no need to convince anyone of the purposefulness and sense of such an action.
So what do we need to know about healthy skin, its diseases and a possible therapeutic approach, that is, in short, an introduction to the vast field of veterinary medicine, which is dermatology.
- What is it and what does a dog's skin consist of?
- Dog skin disease symptoms
- The most common skin diseases in dogs
- Diagnosis of dog skin diseases
- Wood's lamp test
- Brushing test
- Paper test
- Adhesive tape test
- Hair examination or trichogram
- Skin scrapings
- Pap smear
- Breeding study
- Intradermal tests
- How to treat a dog's skin disease?
- Shampoo therapy
- Topical medications
- Systemic drugs
- Dietary supplements
What is it and what does a dog's skin consist of?
Leather (lat. cutis, gr. derma) is the largest common shell organ of all vertebrates with a complex structure and multiple functions.
The area of human skin is approx. 1.5 - 2 square meters, and in animals, it largely depends on the size of the individual, i.e. the breed of dog or cat, but in general, along with the hair and subcutaneous tissue, it is about 12% of the total weight of the animal.
What is worth emphasizing is the largest organ in the body.
It performs various and extremely important functions, constituting a barrier (border) between the external environment and the interior of the system.
Thanks to its flexibility, it provides smooth movements to its owners.
It protects every living organism against harmful environmental factors, and therefore protects against all physical, microbiological and chemical substances or microorganisms lurking in the animal's environment.
Some of them have sensitizing and allergenic properties and thus cause serious and extremely unpleasant systemic diseases.
Not everyone is aware that by acting as a barrier, it determines the maintenance of the homeostasis of the system.
The subcutaneous tissue and the products of the skin, which are hair, condition the maintenance of the proper internal temperature, acting as thermal insulation.
We must also not forget about participating in the process of perceiving stimuli or feeling pain and other signals coming from the outside.
There are sweat glands in the skin involved in the thermoregulation process or the synthesis of certain vitamins (vitamin D) under the influence of solar radiation.
Being the outer shell, it contains the cells of the immune system that are important for the body, thus playing an important role in ensuring health, interacting with the immune system, of which it is part of.
These are just some of the main functions of the skin, making you realize how important an organ is essential for life.
Generally speaking, it is composed of three layers:
- subcutaneous tissue.
The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin that helps protect against harmful environmental factors (bacteria, viruses and fungi), consisting of:
- basal layer,
- spinous layer,
- granular layer,
- clear layer,
- the stratum corneum.
It consists of cells called keratinocytes but also melanocytes (pigment cells) or cells of the immune system (Langerhans cells).
The spaces between cells are filled with the so-called. "Skin film " which is a secretion of sweat and sebaceous glands.
The whole thing is an ordinary physical barrier supplemented, of course:
- immune proteins,
- unsaturated fatty acids.
The epidermis is inhabited by numerous saprophytic bacteria, which are a component of the natural skin layer and thus protect the multiplication of pathogenic bacteria.
The dermis under the epidermis consists mainly of:
- base substance,
- numerous pigment cells,
- immune cells replenished with blood vessels.
The tiny blood-transporting veins thus participate in the thermoregulation process and the nerves present here in the perception of stimuli coming from the external environment.
There are also products of leather hair growing out of hair follicles.
The vast majority of the subcutaneous tissue consists of fat (about 90%), so it acts as a warehouse for energy substances, protects against heat loss or absorbs falls and injuries.
These three mentioned layers, although different, constitute an integral whole that determines the possibility of life of every organism (existence without skin is impossible and always ends in death, as evidenced by, for example, cases of severe large-area burns).
It is a beautiful, shiny coat that is a sign of health, proper condition and proper functioning of the whole organism.
Veterinary dermatology is a very extensive field of knowledge and it is impossible to introduce in a short elaboration the most important issues concerning this important organ.
However, I can briefly introduce the readers to the most important symptoms of skin pathologies and the most common ones skin diseases in your dog.
Dog skin disease symptomsDog skin disease symptoms
However, we can all easily notice that something bad is happening to our pet's skin, or there are wounds or itching manifested by intense scratching.
Such symptoms can be seen with the naked eye, which should force the owner to seek veterinary help.
Very often, however, we are not able to professionally define skin pathologies, confusing the basic concepts.
So I believe that it is worth getting acquainted with the most important symptoms of the skin so that when visiting a dog or cat, you can more accurately describe the changes on the skin.
Of course, the data from the interview should each time be verified by a professional medical examination.
In human or veterinary dermatology, the basic concepts are primary and secondary eruptions describing changes in the skin.
So what are these mysterious changes?
Generally efflorescence that is exanthema are an essential element of the clinical picture of dermatological changes on the basis of which a clinical diagnosis can be made.
Hence, the knowledge of these changes seems to be crucial in the process of making an accurate diagnosis.
We distinguish primary and secondary eruptions.
Primary blooms they appear at the beginning of the development of dermatological changes and skin diseases and result directly from the disease in progress there.
They are not characteristic symptoms, but many times they allow you to find out what disease you are dealing with.
Secondary efflorescence and they most often develop from the primary ones and are a consequence of the disease or appear in the phase of its descent.
They are caused by injuries or inflammation.
Primary lesions include:
- A stain (lat. macula), i.e. an eruption lying on the level of the skin, differing only in color from the surrounding tissues.
- Grudka (Latin. papula), i.e. an eruption raised above the surface of the skin, with various dimensions (up to 1 cm), a fairly clear demarcation and cohesion different from the surrounding tissue.
It disappears without leaving a trace.
- A pustule (lat. pustula), i.e. a vesicle-type eruption, raised above the surface of the skin, containing purulent content from the moment of its appearance, or secondarily, when it is formed from blisters or vesicles as a result of secondary bacterial superinfection.
In other words, it is a slight lump of skin that contains purulent material.
- Cyst (Latin. cystis) a pathological space within the body, consisting of one or more chambers filled with fluid or gelatinous content (closed cavity with liquid and semi-solid elements).
- Guz (lat. nodus, tumor, tuber) is an eruption of large diameter.
- Guzek (lat. tuberculum) is a hard, elevated structure on the skin with a diameter of more than 1 cm, the efflorescence above the surface of the skin, associated with changes in the dermis, which may disintegrate leaving a scar.
- The vesicle (lat. vesicula) - the rash above the skin surface, less than 0.5 cm in diameter, filled with fluid, disappears without leaving scars.
- Bladder (lat. bulla), the eruption was above the surface of the skin, with a diameter of more than 0.5 cm, a change consisting in the separation of the epidermis from the dermis, filled with lymphatic fluid.
- Bubble (lat. urtica), the eruption is above the level of the skin or mucosa, of variable diameter, well demarcated from the surrounding skin, usually porcelain or pink in color, and with a smooth surface.
It arises as a result of local widening and increasing the permeability of blood vessels.
Usually it is accompanied by severe itching.
Its distinctive feature is its rapid onset and rapid fading.
The secondary eruptions include:
- The husk (lat. squama) resulting from the accumulation of dead superficial epidermis cells, which are peeled off.
- Erosion (lat. erosio) is a defect in the epidermis or mucosa epithelium, most often caused by mechanical trauma, contact with chemicals, or a disease process.
- Przeczos (Latin. excoriatio), i.e. a superficial loss in the skin, most often caused by scratching.
- Rift (Latin. rhagas) a deep, linear defect in the epidermis and skin, reaching the deeper layers of the skin, may heal leaving a scar.
- Scab (Latin. crusta) are made of cells and dried serous and bloody exudate.
Under it, the healing process of the cavity takes place.
- The plate (lat. plax, lamella) the structure was above the level of the skin, with a diameter of more than 1 cm, formed as a result of the merging of other eruptions, most often papules.
- Ulceration (lat. ulcus) defined as a deep tissue defect in the dermis, an open wound on the surface of the skin.
- Scar (Latin. cicatrix) skin lesion which is most often the result of skin damage and replacement of the defect with connective tissue.
According to other divisions, secondary eruptions also include:
- blackheads, i.e. clogging of hair follicles by sebum and epidermal cells,
- erythema or red discoloration of the skin,
- ulcer - a deep defect in the skin, a fistula from which the fluid is oozing,
- discoloration and discoloration.
Symptoms of skin diseases are probably well-known for everyone itching and all the consequences associated with it, i.e. baldness, hair thinning or mechanical skin self-damage as a result of constant scratching or licking.
Each animal keeper will also carefully notice the symptoms of dermatitis, such as redness, exudation, skin pain in the area affected by the disease.
The same applies to tumors, skin wounds or any deformities present on it.
Skin diseases can also have general symptoms in the form of:
- feeling worse,
- nervousness and irritability,
This happens especially with very severe symptoms or, for example, a strong, long-lasting itching, which can really be very troublesome for the affected animal.
So we can see exactly how diverse the clinical symptoms of skin diseases can be and how wide is their range and possible combinations of occurrences.
We should always remember one thing, skin diseases often cause great discomfort and suffering to a dog or cat, hence the necessary quick response on our part.
The most common skin diseases in dogsthe most common skin diseases in dogs
At the very beginning, I would like to point out that in a short article it is impossible to describe in detail all skin diseases so that the reader can find a detailed answer to every question that bothers him about the skin disease of his client.
This is for a simple reason, because we simply have too many skin diseases that are precisely described and many of unknown etiology that we try to treat symptomatically.
Nevertheless, skin diseases occurring in our animals can be broadly divided into several groups.
And so we have bacterial skin diseases, which include:
- skinfold inflammation otherwise known as phlegmon,
- cutaneous mucosal phlegmon,
- impetigo, or superficial pustular dermatitis,
- acute, oozing dermatitis, i.e. hot spot,
- superficial pyoderma,
- canine acne,
- purulent rhinitis, rhinitis,
- purulent inflammation of the interdigital spaces,
- deep pyoderma,
- abscesses after being bitten,
- atypical granulomas,
- feline acne,
- tuberculosis, and others not listed here.
Fungal skin diseases are represented by:
- mycosis fungoides,
- histoplasmosis and others.
A large number of skin diseases are caused by the invasion of a wide variety of ectoparasites.
And so we can talk about:
- local and generalized demodicosis in dogs,
- feline demodicosis,
- Canine scabies (Sarcoptes)
- feline scabies (Notoedres cati, Otodectes cynotis- ears),
- Cheileitellosis or migratory dandruff,
- diseases caused by fleas,
- head lice,
- dermatitis caused by hookworm larvae.
Some viruses can also cause dermatological symptoms:
- distemper of dogs,
- feline herpesvirus or calicivirus infection,
- canine neosporosis,
- feline pox virus.
Disturbances may also result from hypersensitivity.
And so, for example, we will include here:
- hives and angioedema,
- atopic disease,
- food hypersensitivity, which is a skin food reaction,
- flea allergy dermatitis,
- feline atopy,
- hypersensitivity after insect bites, e.g. mosquitos,
- allergic contact dermatitis.
Skin disorders can also have an immunological and autoimmune background, excellent examples of which are:
- deciduous pemphigus,
- pemphigus erythematosus,
- ordinary hives,
- bullous pemphigoid,
- cutaneous lupus erythematosus,
- systemic form of lupus,
- cutaneous vasculitis,
- drug-induced skin changes,
- toxic epidermal necrolysis.
All types of alopecia in the skin may be congenital or acquired and may manifest here, for example, numerous endocrine or hormonal diseases.
And so, of the most common ones we can mention:
- canine overactive adrenal cortex or Cushing's syndrome,
- canine hypothyroidism,
- sex hormone-dependent dermatosis in uncastrated dogs,
- sex hormone-dependent dermatosis in bitches,
- alopecia X,
- pituitary dwarfism,
- congenital sparse hair,
- patterned alopecia in a dog,
- hair follicle dysplasia,
- excessive licking,
- alopecia areata,
- injection site reactions,
- anagen and telogen hair thinning,
- alopecia of the auricles,
- many other.
Congenital diseases can also appear on the skin, for example:
- blistering epidermal detachment,
- cutaneous mucinosis,
- leathery bay,
- juvenile cellulitis,
- lurking dermatomyositis,
- cutaneous asthenia or Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
Pigmentation disorders are another group of skin diseases:
- snow nose,
- cutaneous choroid syndrome,
- pigment spots,
- post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
A large group of diseases are keratosis and sebum production disorders manifested by seborrhea.
We include here:
- primary seborrhea in dogs,
- fish scales,
- Vitamin A-sensitive dermatosis,
- inflammation of the sebaceous glands,
- zinc-dependent dermatosis,
- cutaneous hepatic syndrome,
- dermatosis of the edges of the ear in dogs,
- familial hyperkeratosis of the pads,
- tail gland hypertrophy,
- feline acne.
Many disorders and pathologies cannot be easily classified into a given group.
And this is how we distinguish:
- licking granuloma,
- furunculosis of the paws in dogs,
- water sports,
- Canine eosinophilic granuloma,
- dermatosis caused by solar radiation.
In cats, for example:
- eosinophilic plaque,
- eosinophilic granuloma,
- penetrating ulcer,
- dermatosis caused by sunlight,
- paraneoplastic changes,
- plasmocytic inflammation of the finger pads.
We must not forget that skin diseases also include skin diseases around the eyes, perianal sinuses or frequent pathologies of the auditory canals:
- inflammatory skin conditions of the eyelids,
- ear hematoma,
- perianal sinus disease,
- otitis externa,
- claw infections of a fungal nature.
Finally, a huge group of skin diseases are those of a cancerous nature:
- squamous cell carcinoma,
- hair follicle tumors,
- mast cell tumor,
- perianal sinus tumors,
- malignant histiocytosis,
- cutaneous plasmacytoma,
- skin melanoma,
- cutaneous histiocytoma and many more.
So we can only see by listing some of the skin diseases how many different diseases can affect the skin and it is impossible to even briefly describe them all in the article.
Diagnosis of dog skin diseasesDiagnosis of dog skin diseases
In the case of any disease, including the dermatological background, correct diagnosis and implementation of effective treatment require from us in the first place:
- Conduct an in-depth interview with the tutor.
- Then a clinical examination of the animal.
- Only after that, all the necessary additional tests, without which it is often impossible to make a proper diagnosis.
Many skin diseases can look very similar, hence making a diagnosis without additional tests may be extremely difficult and often end with therapeutic failure.
Any changes on the skin, although visible to the naked eye, may be difficult to interpret, hence many doctors resign from their implementation, considering such diagnostics to be complicated.
However, much of the research is really simple and easy to do and interpret.
I will mention just a few of them.
Wood's lamp test
It is a device that emits ultraviolet radiation with a wavelength of 253.7 mm and is used in the diagnosis of mycoses.
The test is performed in a dark office by heating the lamp itself for 10 minutes.
Some dermatophytes (e.g. Microsporum canis, M. gypseum or Trichophyton) have a fluorescence that looks like a greenish apple.
This test has its drawbacks, of course, such as the fact that some bacteria may also fluoresce (e.g. Pseudomonas) or even antibiotics, but it is still worth using.
It is an extremely simple test consisting in combing the hair with a dense comb and then transferring the material to a white surface, e.g. paper.
In such a study, we can show the presence of parasites, for example:
- flea droppings.
An excellent, extremely simple test is paper test consisting in placing on a damp white substrate, e.g. lignin of tiny black combed flea droppings.
In contact with water, a red rim appears around them due to the presence of blood in the faeces.
Adhesive tape test
We put the tape to the surface of the skin, which means that parasites present on it may stick to the tape.
The following are left on the tape:
- parasite eggs,
Then we look at the whole thing under a microscope, sometimes performing appropriate staining.
Hair examination or trichogram
This test involves viewing the hair under a microscope.
The indications for its implementation are baldness or hair loss, thinning.
This test is extremely helpful in diagnosing:
- pruritic dermatoses,
- hormonal alopecia,
- hair follicle dysplasia,
It is also extremely simple and does not require expensive equipment, which is undoubtedly a huge advantage.
It is one of the basic diagnostic tests that should always be performed when parasites (demodicosis, scabies) are suspected.
It can be superficial or deep.
Place a drop of mineral oil (10% KOH) on the slide, then scrape the layers of the epidermis with a scalpel and place the collected material under a microscope.
We can perform them using a fine-needle biopsy or an impression preparation.
This test evaluates the cellular material and makes a diagnosis based on it.
We have different cells involved in various disease processes.
The indications for its implementation are all primary and secondary lesions.
It is especially helpful and useful in diagnosing fungal infections and purulent dermatitis (along with cytology where granulomas are present).
The collected material is sown on special substrates (e.g. DTM or Sabouraud) and then, after a certain period of time, the growth of pathogens is assessed and identified.
Remember, however, that some pathogens are not very eager to grow on substrates, hence many false-negative results.
We should perform them if we suspect neoplastic diseases, non-healing wounds and ulcers as well as dermatoses that do not respond to treatment.
For the skin biopsy, we use a punch with a diameter of 6 to 8 mm.
The collected material is placed in formalin and sent to the laboratory where the material is further processed, dyed and assessed.
We perform biopsies under local anesthesia.
For a long time they were considered the basic research in allergology and their advantages are undoubtedly good tolerance among patients and the immediate result of the test.
They are used for the diagnosis of skin allergies and for the detection of an allergic factor.
For this purpose, ready-made allergen kits are used, which are administered by intradermal injection.
The skin appearance at the site of the allergen injection is then assessed and compared with the histamine test.
Sometimes, diagnosis through effective treatment is also used, as it is not always possible to identify the immediate causes of the disease.
Many dermatological diseases are idiopathic, so we do not know what they are caused by.
The above-mentioned studies have been described briefly, as their detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this article and would be too extensive.
Of course, in each case, it is the doctor who decides what examination is necessary in a given situation, assessing the existing symptoms.
So we do not always have to perform all possible and available tests because many diseases can be diagnosed using the simplest tests possible to be carried out in every office and not requiring special equipment.
So let's use them whenever the doctor deems it appropriate.
How to treat a dog's skin disease?Treatment of dog skin diseases
Treating skin diseases may seem like a simple procedure only on the surface, but in fact, it is certainly not one of them.
It is based primarily on a prior accurate diagnosis, without which we cannot speak of an effective therapy.
Of course, you can use symptomatic medications, which, even to some extent, may minimize clinical symptoms, but will not bring about lasting improvement and cure.
We should also remember the fact that we are not able to cure many skin diseases permanently and what we can offer the patient is a relatively asymptomatic illness.
This is the case with atopy, for example, when we strive to minimize periods of symptom intensity.
Hence, it is extremely important to spend time talking with the animal's guardian, explaining in detail the principles of treatment and the very essence of the disease, including its often recurrent, chronic nature.
This allows you to react faster to the first symptoms of the disease, which, through the immediate implementation of therapy, can often significantly shorten its duration.
The basis is always an accurate, reliable diagnosis, on the basis of which we can implement the appropriate therapy.
The enormity of skin diseases requires an individual approach and modification of treatment in each case, so here I will only discuss very general rules of procedure.
In the case of a specific problem, specific treatment activities dedicated to this specific case should always be applied, hence the lack of homogeneous and the same treatment algorithms for all skin diseases.
The skin is an organ visible to the naked eye, hence many drugs can be applied directly to it, then observing the effects of such treatment.
Shampoo therapyShampoo therapy
In the case of dermatology, the use of shampoo therapy and any preparations applied to the skin in the form of sprays can be very helpful.
We have a huge amount of shampoos for dogs and cats on the market with the following effects:
They contain substances with documented medical effect and are certainly a good method of treatment.
At the same time, they are safe, do not have many side effects, and their ease of use means that they are very often chosen by animal keepers.
Treatments with their use are carried out at home, in a safe and familiar environment for a dog or cat, which additionally minimizes stress.
They are also a great support for the systemic administration of drugs and put less strain on the entire body.
Sometimes, in the case of local lesions, they may be the only treatment option.
It is important that they have contact for a dozen (15-30 minutes) minutes with the sick skin because rinsing them too quickly does not allow the active substance contained in them to work.
We perform shampoo therapy treatments depending on the disease usually 1-2 times a week.
In dermatology, we use many topical medications, which has great advantages.
In this way, we can:
- disinfect the skin,
- wash off various types of it:
- antifungal drugs,
- antipruritic steroids,
- apply parasiticidal preparations.
We give them directly to the diseased areas, which determines their immediate action and the absence of many symptoms, side effects that occur with systemic use.
Such administration of xenobiotics is simply associated with a much lower toxicity.
All treatments can be performed at home in an extremely simple and quick way.
Which reduces the stress caused by visits to the clinic.
Remember, however, that the animal does not lick the drug applied to the skin, which may result in the lack of the expected effect.
Examples of active substances applied in this way are:
- selamectin and many others.
Finally, a large group of drugs are those administered systemically.
In many cases, skin diseases heal for a long time and require even several months of therapy.This is the case, for example, in the case of bacterial skin diseases or atopic disease, when the administration of drugs is often lifelong.
Of course, such long-lasting therapies are burdened with a greater risk of side effects and constitute a greater burden on the body, hence they should be reserved for more severe diseases.
Also, giving a dog or cat a tablet is not always easy in the technical sense.
We use antibiotics for a long time (e.g. cephalexin if amoxicillin) or antipruritics from these group antihistamines if steroid.
Some diseases, e.g. we treat atopy, hypothyroidism or autoimmune diseases for life, hence the enormous nuisance for pet keepers and the required discipline in administering drugs and significant costs.
Many skin diseases require a treatment lasting several weeks or even months, so we always have to choose drugs that are well tolerated by the body during such a period of time.
Remember about the side effects of some therapies and minimize them as much as possible by using the lowest but effective doses of drugs.
Dietary supplementsDietary supplements
Finally, we have a whole range of preparations supporting the functioning of the skin in the form of various dietary supplements.
Their administration makes sense, but the effects should not be expected immediately, but only after a few weeks.
As an example, let us take those containing:
- unsaturated fatty acids from the omega 3 and 6 family.
The use of supplements is a treatment that in many cases supports the main therapy.
Each of the diseases of the integumentary system, i.e. the skin, requires an individual therapeutic approach, therefore it is impossible to discuss their precise treatment in the general study.
As a rule, we always use several different but synergistic active substances and combine different therapeutic methods.
It is important that such joint administration of drugs does not cause increased toxicity and does not damage other organs, e.g. liver, where transformation of many drugs takes place.Also, we should never treat animals using human dermatological drugs without consulting.
Such action often turns out to be ineffective and, in addition, may develop drug resistance among pathogens present on the skin.
Veterinary dermatology is a vast field of science that focuses on a wide variety of skin diseases.
Each of them requires an individual therapeutic approach, modified depending on the emerging clinical symptoms and the treatment process itself.
And although for obvious reasons it is impossible to tell about everything here, I would like to remind you that, although the diagnostic process itself is often difficult, in the case of an accurate diagnosis, we can implement an effective therapy.
Not all skin diseases can be cured completely, it is true, but even in the case of incurable, chronic diseases, you can significantly alleviate a sick animal.
Skin diseases are not only the bad appearance of the outer coat, but are often followed by other systemic symptoms that worsen the well-being of the pet.
We cannot underestimate them because this, among other things, shows our conscious and responsible care for the charges and our humanitarianism.
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