Skin issues in Veterinary Medicine are most common in dogs and account for a large portion of the appointments that are seen daily. These pets present for a number of reasons such as itchy skin, dull hair coat, hair loss, sores and hot spots. Depending on the underlying cause, skin issues can be difficult and frustrating to treat.

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What are the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of bacterial skin infections?

Pyoderma, commonly known as a bacterial infection, is caused when the skin barrier is disrupted. It can be the result of a small wound, bite, allergies or anything else that causes a lesion on the skin. Because this area has now become irritated, your dog will begin licking and scratching at it allowing an overgrowth of yeast and bacteria. It causes the area to be itchy, and the process continues. Symptoms include itchiness, reddened skin, pustules, crusted skin, raised lesions, hair loss and a dried discharge in the affected area. The area is usually treated by clipping and then cleaning with antibacterial soap. The patient will often go home with both oral and topical antibiotics. It is essential to diagnose the underlying cause to prevent future skin problems.

What are the causes, symptoms, and treatment for ringworms?

Ringworm is caused by a fungus which most commonly presents as a hairless, round, raised red ring on the body. It can also present as dry, brittle hair or claws and scabby inflamed skin. The fungus grows in the outer layer of the animals’ skin, and hair follicles and less common cases can also be found in nail beds. The fungus is spread by direct contact on infected animals, bedding, combs etc. The fungal spores can remain viable for up to 18 months on objects that they have come in to contact with. Ringworm is highly contagious and can be transmitted to humans especially children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Ringworm is diagnosed by a physical exam, a fungal culture and using a Wood’s Lamp (ultraviolet light) to look at hair follicles and skin cells. The fungal spores usually glow brightly under ultraviolet light. Treatment involves both an oral medication as well as topical and environmental decontamination.

What are the causes and treatment of allergic skin diseases?

Allergic skin disease, or Atopy, is caused when the immune system makes antibodies to common substances instead of just substances that are foreign. These antibodies cause a release of histamine which then causes inflammation and irritation on the skin surface. The irritated skin occurs most commonly on the feet, ears and tummy. These areas are usually red, itchy and it is common for the dog to lick and chew at these areas. Over time the hair and skin in these areas will become a reddish brown due to staining from saliva and eventually more pigmented causing them to look black. Once the initial infection is treated, we can start looking for a specific diagnosis. It is common for the Veterinarian to perform a blood test which will rule out other disease processes and treat for parasites to rule out a parasitic infection. Then, they will work to find the specific allergen that is causing grief to your pet. Allergies are most common in dogs 1-3 years of age. Treatment is usually long term such as a change in diet and occasionally long-term medication to prevent itchy skin. Allergic dogs can be very frustrating to their owner as it can take some time to find a treatment plan that works.

What are the causes and treatment for hormonal skin diseases?

An imbalance or hormones cause hormonal skin conditions in dogs. There can be a number of causes for the imbalance such as Hypothyroidism. Due to this, the treatment depends on the cause.

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