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Dog Skin Disease

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Dog Skin Disease (Canine Skin Diseases)

Signs and Symptoms

Dog skin diseases are incredibly prevalent, affecting many canines. There are various forms of dog skin disease and numerous different causes of these conditions. Most skin diseases will cause at least some degree of irritation and discomfort for a dog, and many will cause extreme discomfort. Moreover, skin diseases can lead to or even be a sign of infection. Therefore, it's important to treat canine skin disease as soon as possible in order to protect and restore your dog's health as well as its comfort and peace of mind.

The symptoms that a dog will display when suffering from skin disease will depend upon the specific type of skin disease that is affecting the animal. For example, infectious skin disease caused by bacteria is commonly characterized by itchiness and red skin. In the early stages of this type of disease, yellow pustules may be present. As the disease progresses, the skin will become dry and crusted while hair loss may occur and an odor may be present. These symptoms and warning signs can occur on any part of the dog's body, but mostly tend to appear on the dog's trunk and chin. On the other hand, ringworm -- a type of fungal skin disease -- most commonly appears on a dog's head and legs and is characterized by circular patches of hair loss. Sometimes these patches will become infected, taking on a dry and crusted appearance. The affected dog may also scratch at these areas.

Severe Skin Disease

One of the most common forms of canine skin disease is caused by fleas and is referred to as flea allergy dermatitis. This type of skin disease is characterized by intense itching and irritation. Red, inflamed skin and hot spots are also symptomatic of flea allergy dermatitis. Behaviors to watch out for include compulsive biting, scratching, and licking, especially around the head and neck as well as near the tail. Sometimes this will lead to hair loss and bald spots. In some cases of flea allergy dermatitis, black specs of flea dirt or even the fleas themselves may be visible on the dog's skin. However, this will not always be true because very few fleas are required to trigger flea allergy dermatitis in a dog that is particularly sensitive to these external parasites.

Since canine skin diseases can cause a number of irritating and troubling symptoms, it's important to have your dog's skin disorder diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Moreover, skin disease can sometimes be a sign of an infection or internal medical condition, either of which can put your pet's health in jeopardy. So if your dog is exhibiting signs and symptoms typical of canine skin disease, contact your veterinarian. Even if it turns out that the problem is not particularly serious, your dog will be grateful for the relief that treatment provides.

Diagnosis

Skin Disease Test

When a dog is suffering from skin disease, there are a number of steps that a veterinarian can take to arrive at a specific diagnosis. To begin with, the practitioner will go over the canine patient's medical history and conduct a physical examination. At this point, the veterinary doctor will look for clinical signs that will help to pinpoint the type of skin disorder that is affecting the dog. For example, physical characteristics of the skin and the location of the irritated skin on the dog's body can help to narrow down the types of skin disease potentially causing the animal's problems. Sometimes, a physical examination and case history will be sufficient for a veterinarian to make a diagnosis. However, in some circumstances further diagnostic tests may be necessary.

Additional tests that can be helpful with respect to making a specific diagnosis of a skin disorder include skin cultures, fungal cultures, and skin scrapings. Skin and fungal cultures can provide confirmation of the presence of bacterial and fungal infections on the dog's skin while skin scrapings are often used where external parasites are suspected. In addition, allergy tests, blood tests, and skin biopsies may be necessary in some cases. These additional tests can also help to identify or rule out underlying medical conditions that could be causing the dog's skin disease.

Pathophysiology

A dog's skin is an incredibly vital organ with a surface area larger than that of any other organ in a canine's body. Skin is part of the integumentary system, or the external covering of the body. As such, a dog's skin provides a barrier between the internal and external environments and plays an incredibly important role in the protection against pathogens and other harmful agents. The skin also has a number of other responsibilities including providing insulation, temperature regulation, and vitamin D synthesis. As a result of its external location, skin is particularly vulnerable to injury and disease. At the same time, this location means that skin diseases and injuries tend to be more readily apparent than internal disorders.

Skin is made up of two basic layers known as the epidermis and dermis, which are supported by an underlying layer of fat known as the basement membrane. The epidermis is the outermost layer and provides the protective, waterproof wrap that covers the body. This layer consists of stratified epithelium (tissue cells) and lies over the dermis. The dermis is made up of connective tissue and provides a cushion for the body against various forms of stress and strain. Furthermore, this layer consists of touch and pain receptors, hair follicles, sebaceous (oil-producing) glands, and sweat glands. In addition, blood vessels are located in the dermis, which provide nutrition for the skin.

Healthy canine skin is un-inflamed, clean, and odorless. When skin disease occurs, irritation typically results either from some form of an allergic reaction or an infection. When an allergic reaction occurs, the dog's body releases histamine to the affected area. This causes local capillaries to dilate which, in turn, increases blood flow and causes an increase in temperature, inflammation, and itchiness. Whether mild or severe, dog skin diseases usually cause at least some degree of irritation and discomfort, thereby detracting from your pet's happiness and quality of life.

Causes

Dog skin disease can be caused by a number of different factors and conditions. One type of canine skin disorder is infectious skin disease, which can be caused by bacteria, fungi, or parasites. Staphylococci are the most common type of bacteria to cause skin problems in dogs, while fungal skin infections usually result from two specific species of fungi -- Microsporum and Trichophyton. Both of these species cause a skin disorder commonly known as ringworm. Infectious skin disease triggered by the presence of external parasites can be caused by a number of different pesky critters, including lice, ticks, and mites. However, the type of parasite that most frequently causes skin problems for dogs is the flea.

In other cases, canine skin diseases are caused by a variety of different allergies. Hypersensitivity reactions manifested through skin problems can occur in reaction to numerous different antigens, including environmental and inhalant antigens. Yet, just as fleas are the most common parasite to trouble dogs, hypersensitivity to flea saliva is the most common allergy to trigger canine skin disease. In addition, food allergies can sometimes cause skin problems as well. Finally, dog skin diseases can also arise as a cutaneous manifestation of an underlying medical condition. In other words, certain medical conditions such as hormonal disorders can cause skin problems. In such cases it's important to have the underlying illness identified so that it can be properly treated, as simply treating the irritated skin will not be enough to restore your dog's health under such circumstances.

Treatment

When developing a treatment plan for a dog with skin disease, the specific type of skin disorder present and its cause will need to be taken into consideration. If an underlying illness is responsible for the dog's skin disease, that condition will need to be specifically and appropriately treated in order to improve the dog's skin as well as its overall health and well-being. In the case of skin problems caused by fleas or other external parasites, the insects will need to be eliminated in order to prevent continued or recurring irritation. Furthermore, where skin disease is caused by a bacterial infection or gives rise to such an infection, antibiotics may be necessary.

For many forms of canine skin disease, natural remedies can provide very effective treatment of symptoms, offering much relief for suffering dogs. The natural substances used to make such remedies have a number of beneficial properties that can greatly help your canine companion recover from a skin disorder. For example, coneflower and marigold reduce inflammation while helping the body fight against infections and promoting the healing process. Similarly, goldenseal also acts as an anti-inflammatory and disinfectant while soothing irritated skin. Other substances, such as lemongrass oil and aloe, have very effective anti-fungal properties. When made from a variety of such ingredients, natural remedies can provide an array of beneficial and soothing effects that will help to promote your dog's healing and comfort.


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