Dermatitis In Pets: What You Need To Know

by Modi
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For pet owners, no one wants to think about their beloved four-legged friend suffering in silence. And just like us humans, there are several ailments that our pets can suffer from just as we do. Atopic dermatitis is one of those conditions. And worse, dermatitis can affect a pet at any age throughout their life cycle.

What is Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is defined as a condition in which the skin becomes inflamed. This can develop into a chronic condition which can be triggered by usually harmless substances, such as dust, environmental allergens, grass, and mold spores.

For us humans, our bodies respond to allergens by way of sneezing and/or hives. But for our pets, their bodies react through their skin or digestive system. 

The areas on the body most commonly affected by canine dermatitis include:

  • Ankles/Wrists
  • Muzzles
  • Underarm area
  • Groin
  • The area around the eyes
  • In between the toes

(Essentially, areas of your pet’s body that lock in moisture are most prone for the development of dermatitis, yeast, and bacteria growth.)

For a pet that is dealing with dermatitis, they are likely to become neurotic about the region of their body that’s ailing them, and one of the most common responses is excessive grooming. If not cared for, these areas can quickly develop into hot spots or ulcers on the body. If a pet’s ears become infected with dermatitis, it can produce a foul-smelling odor on top of the incredible discomfort caused by the irritating condition.

Symptoms of Dermatitis include:

  • Hair loss
  • Bumps on the skin that look similar to acne
  • Foul odor
  • Stained fur
  • Skin that is thick and darkened
  • Bumps and scaly areas of the skin
  • For those pets dealing with dermatitis on their ears, frequent head shaking

The Most Common Causes for Dermatitis

There a few common culprits for dermatitis in dogs, cats, and horses. The three most common causes for dermatitis include:

Flea-related Dermatitis

When the skin becomes itchy and inflamed due to flea bites, your pet is in serious discomfort. Fleas are year-round, so there is no particular time of year where symptoms will subside. For pets/animals who have developed flea-related dermatitis, the more bites they get, the quicker their condition will worsen.

Flea-allergy dermatitis, from the saliva from flea bites, is very common,” says Aimee Simpson, V.M.D., medical director of VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia. “It tends to be more of a seasonal issue that’s worse in the warmer months, but depending on which area of the country you’re living in, that might vary. It’s definitely more of a concern for outdoor cats and indoor/outdoor cats.

Parasites make a pet absolutely miserable, therefore it’s imperative to keep your pet on a proven parasite prevention treatment year-round. This is the most common cause of atopic dermatitis, but it’s also something that can be prevented by making a conscious effort to keep fleas at bay in or around your home. Although, dogs that go on frequent walks and to dog parks are more likely to come in contact with fleas.

Interesting flea fact: just a single flea bite can cause a reaction for five to seven days.

Food Allergy Dermatitis

Did you know that your dog can eat the same food for years, and then suddenly, as if out of nowhere, they can develop an allergy to their food? Food allergies in pets are way too common. And when your pet is dealing with a food allergy, their skin and coat will feel the brunt of the effects.

“If we’ve ruled out fleas and we’ve ruled out food allergies, and if we still are left with an itchy cat with skin lesions, then we default to environmental allergy. It’s harder to diagnose in cats than it is in dogs or in people because we don’t do a lot of allergy skin testing in cats. They’re very reactive to everything, so it’s hard to determine exactly what might be the problem.” — Aimee Simpson, V.M.D., medical director of VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia

In the case of canines, many dog owners believe that providing their dog with a high-quality kibble will prevent them from developing a food allergy, but that’s not always the case. If a dog is allergic to a specific ingredient in their food, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a premium brand or an inexpensive grocery store brand you’d find at the supermarket.

Interesting atopic dermatitis fact: there are a few breeds that are more susceptible to developing atopic dermatitis. They include Boxers, Retrievers, Bulldogs, Dalmations, Irish Setters, Beagles, and Shar-Peis. Additionally, dogs with white coats are most prone to developing food allergies.

Inhalant/Environmental Dermatitis

Imagine you’re in your dog’s shoes(or paws) for a moment. You’ve frolicked out in the grass and pounced around in piles of leaves. Now you come back inside to relax, maybe give yourself a little grooming session to unwind. If you’re your dog, then all of those potential allergens you’ve just rolled around in are going straight into your mouth. This alone is a recipe for disaster, but at the same time, it’s also not entirely unavoidable. Wiping your dog’s paws when they come inside can certainly help, but it’s inevitable that some potential environmental allergens will be inhaled or ingested by your dog.

Dogs are not like cats, obviously, so staying exclusively indoors is not a realistic possibility. Seasonal allergies can lead to severe discomfort, and the same can be said for your pet, too. For dogs who seem to develop seasonal allergies, there are a few precautionary measures you can implement to try and help:

  • Keep water and food bowls washed and dried on a daily basis
  • Wipe paws when re-entering the home
  • Try and limit outdoor exposure when pollen counts are high
  • Limit exposure to high-moisture areas of the home, e.i. basement and bathrooms

Ways to Help Your Pet Manage Dermatitis

If your pet is dealing with dermatitis, there are ways you can help them get the much-needed relief they crave. Obviously your vet can help you pinpoint the exact cause for your pet’s dermatitis, but there are also ways you can provide them with relief in the comfort of your own home.

Pet MD Antiseptic & Antifungal Shampoo contains two potent and highly-effective ingredients, Ketoconazole and Chlorhexidine Gluconate, which work harmoniously to alleviate symptoms associated with bacterial dermatitis, seborrhea, yeast and fungi. The added benefit of colloidal oatmeal works to soothe their itchy and irritated skin to provide them with immediate relief on contact.

By giving your pet a therapeutic bath with Pet MD Antiseptic & Antifungal Shampoo, it serves to promote a healthy skin and coat, while simultaneously moisturizing and washing away microorganisms that can lead to skin conditions. The veterinary strength ingredients, chlorhexidine and ketoconazole, offer maximum results for the treatment of fungal and bacterial conditions found on the skin, such as yeast, mange, acne, ringworm, and pyoderma. This soothing, at-home treatment for relieving your pet of symptoms related to dermatitis is safe for use on dogs, cats, and horses.

If you suspect that your pet is suffering from dermatitis, it is crucial that you consult with your veterinarian for professional advice concerning your pet’s health. Keep in mind that dermatitis and its symptoms are unique to each pet. It is also important to have your pet properly assessed for the possibility that their dermatitis-like symptoms are actually something more severe. You can never be overly cautious when it comes to the health and safety of your pet.

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