Skin Problems

Skin and other common problems in pets

  1. Atopic Dermatitis
  2. Adverse Food Reaction (Food Allergy)
  3. Ear Problems
  4. Flea Allergy Dermatitis
  5. Mange

1. Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is caused by an allergy to primarily pollens, dust mites and house hold spores. This tends to make your dog itchy which causes scratching and licking and secondary dermatitis.

Your dog may have constant ear infections, itchy feet (particularly the front feet) and red itchy arm pits (axilla) and groin. The gold standard in diagnosis is by intradermal testing.

Treatment is currently with immunotherapy to desensitise your pet to the allergens. This is successful in 70% of cases if treatment commences at a young age. Even in animals without a complete cure, there is usually significant improvement.

Unfortunately this has to be performed by a Murdoch University dermatologist. We can arrange a referral for you. It is possible to do the new HESKA blood test at Australind veterinary clinic to confirm whether your pet has atopic dermatitis.

What can be done if you do not wish to see a dermatologist? Unfortunately, the problem will be permanent. Sometimes it is seasonal. The problem will never go away but it can be managed medically.

Combinations of prednisolone, antihistamines, shampoos and antibiotics and ear drops are usually required. Some oils are extremely helpful in maintaining a healthy skin. Fish oil is the best one and flax oil can also be helpful however most vegetable oils are now considered not therapeutic according to dermatologist Mandy Burrows at Murdoch University.

Prednisolone is very inexpensive and works extremely well. Unfortunately we cannot give it to your pet all the time as side effects to its long term use will develop. You do not have to worry about using prednisolone for a short period of time.

Your vet will probably start your pet on a high dose and slowly reduce the dose and frequency.

Cyclosporin (Atopica) is available. It works extremely well and has minimal side effects in dogs. (It can cause problems in people). It can be used long term however it is extremely expensive. If your dog is insured, this does not have to be a problem. Ask about Atopica if cost is no barrier or your pet is insured.

2. Adverse Food Reaction (Food Allergy)

It is almost impossible to differentiate between atopy and a food allergy. Animals with food allergies commonly have chronic ear problems and itchy bottoms. There will often be gastrointestinal symptoms as well.

The animal may have intermittent vomiting and/or diarrhoea but the symptoms may indeed be very subtle. It is common for these animals to have mucous in the stool and it may be as subtle as a thin “skin” of mucous on the faeces.

It is necessary to do a food trial to rule out a food allergy. Hills ZD ultra is available or you can prepare your own meals. Contact our experienced staff who will organise a consultation with one of our well informed veterinarians.

3. Ear Problems

Chronic ear problems are often due to allergies in dogs There are many causes of ear infections. If your pet frequently has ear infections, it is very probable that there is an allergy causing the problem. Food allergies and atopic dermatitis are extremely common, particularly in dogs.

Ear infections in dogs are extremely common. We have been using antibiotics for decades now but very few new antibiotics have been discovered. Resistant bacteria have unfortunately become extremely common and particularly in ear infections. This makes treatment extremely difficult.

If we have resistant bacteria in your pets ears and an underlying allergy, treatment of your pets problem will be difficult and frustrating.We must address any underlying allergy. Discuss this with your vet.

We strongly recommend a swab for bacterial culture and antibiotic sensitivity testing.
This will allow us to find out which bacteria are present in your pets ears and what antibiotic we can use to treat the problem. The swab has to be done Before we start antibiotic ear drops as antibiotics will prevent anything from growing in culture.

After initiating treatment with antibiotic ear drops, we will need to see your pet once a week. We have to do a smear and look at it under the microscope to determine whether the bacteria are gone. Antibiotic treatment must continue twice daily until the infection is cured.

Many people use the drops prescribed for a few days then stop and restart again in a few weeks when it has flared up. This Is The Worst Possible Thing You Can Do.

This will only enhance bacterial resistance to the antibiotic and must be avoided!

4. Flea Allergy Dermatitis

An allergic reaction means that the dog’s immune system over-reacts to the flea saliva, resulting in a severe inflammatory response and intense itchiness. The dog will scratch and bite excessively, and this self-trauma can lead to hair loss, open sores or scabs, redness of the skin, and a scaly haircoat. A secondary bacterial infection can occur, which worsens the condition. Most dogs are affected along the back near the tail base but also the ventral abdomen is common.

If your dog is licking its feet, has red itchy feet or has ear problems then other allergies may also be involved.
Flea allergies are the most common cause of itchy dogs.
There is an old saying that goes “a dog without fleas is a dog without a heartbeat”.

Fleas are not a result of your own hygiene standards which are probably very good. Your dog can pick them up on a walk or out in the yard where other animals may come into your yard. Ask us about flea control at the clinic.

The nurses at Australind Vet Clinic are very knowledgeable about flea control. We recommend REVOLUTION because it is easy to apply, safe for your pet and your family but very deadly to fleas.

Supermarket flea control products are Poisonous.
Every year we treat animals that have been poisoned with supermarket flea control products.

5. Mange

What is mange? Mange is a mite that causes skin problems in dogs. There are two kinds of mange. Demodex and Sarcoptes (scabies}. Scabies is contagious to people, Demodex is not. Demodex can be difficult to control.


Demodex mange mite

Demodex mange mite

Demodectic mange is not a disease of poorly kept or dirty kennels. It is generally a disease of young dogs that have inadequate or poorly developed immune systems or older dogs that are suffering from a suppressed immune system.


Sarcoptic mange

Sarcoptic mange

The intense itching caused by the sarcoptic mite is actually thought to be caused from a severe allergic reaction to the mite.

When dogs are initially infected with Sarcoptes they do not develop itching for several weeks. If the animals are treated and then reinfected at a later time, severe itching starts almost immediately, which indicates the itching may be due to an allergic reaction.

However, the standard treatments for allergies generally will not decrease the symptoms of scabies, and will do nothing to cure the disease.Trying to get a diagnosis for scabies can be very frustrating. The standard method is to perform a skin scraping and then identify the mite under the microscope.

Unfortunately, on average, only twenty percent of the infected dogs will show Sarcoptes mites on any given scraping. Therefore, if a dog has a positive skin scraping, the diagnosis is confirmed but a negative scraping does not rule out sarcoptic mange.

Therefore, most diagnoses are made based on history and response to treatment for scabies.

Skin problems in pets can be caused by many things, having your pet checked is the best way to find the cause and the correct treatment for your pets problem.