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    Common Skin Problems in Dogs

    When Is It Time to See the Vet?

    There are many causes of skin abnormalities in dogs, and identifying the underlying cause is not always simple. Therefore, you should visit your vet for an exam as soon as you notice any abnormality in your pet’s skin or hair, or if your pet begins to excessively scratch, lick, or bite areas on his fur.

    How Are Skin Problems Diagnosed?

    After obtaining a history and performing a thorough physical exam, your vet may perform diagnostic tests in order to find the cause of your dog’s symptoms. These include:

    • Skin biopsy
    • Testing for ringworm
    • Microscopic examination of the hair and skin for presence of parasites or infection
    • Allergy testing, which may include a diet change
    • Blood tests to assess your dog’s overall health

    Which Dogs Are Prone to Skin Problems?

    Because of the wide range of causes, dogs of all ages and breeds are susceptible to issues involving skin. Dogs that are young, elderly, immunocompromised, or living in crowded, stressful environments may be more susceptible to skin problems.

    How Can Skin Problems Be Prevented?

    • Use natural, hypoallergenic soaps and shampoos recommended for use in dogs.
    • Brush your dog regularly to prevent matting of hair.
    • Feed your dog a healthy, balanced diet without fillers or artificial ingredients.
    • Implement a parasite-prevention or flea-treatment program as recommended by your veterinarian.
    • Regularly clean and vacuum your home (and remember to always throw away the bag).
    • Provide calm living conditions for your dog.
    • Your vet may prescribe certain shampoos or oral supplements to prevent skin problems.

    How Can Skin Problems Be Treated?

    Ask your vet about the following treatments:

    • Topical products including shampoos, dips, or spot-on products to prevent and treat parasites
    • A balanced diet to help maintain healthy skin and coat
    • A dietary supplement containing essential fatty acids
    • Antibiotic, antifungal, or anti-itching medications
    • Corticosteroids and antihistamines, prescribed to control itching
    • Hypoallergenic diet for food allergies
    • Injections to decrease dog’s reaction to allergens

    WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA

    Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on March 26, 2012
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