Skin Problems… Skin Problems…
An itchy dog is an unhappy dog. What should or can I do about it? Do I have to go to a vet for answers? Is there any way I can avoid costly consultations and medical fees to better help and understand my little furkid’s skin problems?
These are some of the numerous questions we get here daily at Kohepets, along with a plethora of follow-up questions on treatment options, nutrition-based solutions, ointments and creams etc., which leads to why we are here.
There is an increasing number of dogs in Singapore that suffer from skin problems, leaving many owners in the dark on what course of action to take. Let’s go through some basic steps on helping you understand what’s bothering your little furkid!
You may notice signs of skin problems in your dog when they often lick, scratch or chew on a certain part of their body. Some people might attribute this as ‘habitual behaviour’ and decide to pass this action off as harmless, remaining unaware that this might actually be an early sign of skin problems. By allowing your dog to continue aggravating the affected area, the condition will worsen and could lead to further bacterial or fungal infections.
Lets look at some ways we can help identify and bring some relief to our itchy dog!
What Should I Look Out For?
To understand this article better, you should be aware that your dog’s skin problems is caused by Dermatitis. Dermatitis is the condition where skin problems cause inflammation that leads to constant itching. The inflammation could be caused by an allergic reaction, whether appearing occasionally or persisting as a chronic condition.
Some signs that your dog is suffering from Atopic Dermatitis:
Itching is the most obvious and prominent sign of probable skin issues. You might see an itchy dog scratching vigorously either with their back legs or rubbing against household furniture, rugs and walls.
Chewing or Licking is also often a sign of skin problems in dogs; this behaviour is often overlooked as habitual and ignored by many owners until the skin becomes inflamed or worsens.
Hair Loss is a worrisome condition caused by allergic reactions, bacterial infections, fungal infection, or parasites. In this condition, the dog can have some areas of baldness.
Hot Spots (AKA Moist Dermatitis or Rashes) are the lesions caused by excessive dog licking and scratching, and it is more frequently seen in warm climates such as Singapore. The irritated area opens the door to bacterial and fungal infection.
What you should look out for are reddened areas on your dog’s skin, hairless patches or hardened skin (scabbing).
There are two common culprits that can cause your dog to have skin problems. The main culprit being an allergic reaction caused by allergens that come in contact with your dog’s skin, and the second most common culprit being diet-related.
Prevention – The Best Protection
Stopping short of sealing your beloved furkid in a plastic bubble or sterile room, there are many various ways of combating skin problems in dogs. In my attempt to not overwhelm our readers here at Kohepets blog, I will try to make this section as short and sweet as possible!
Of course we want the best for our little furkids, but that doesn’t mean that all of us can afford pricy medical test and constant medication! With the increasing cost of living in Singapore, we struggle to do the best we can with what we have.
With that said, the best option for having to avoid majority of your dog’s skin problems is to identify potential allergens or certain foods your dog might be allergic to.
One of the best methods is to go to one of Singapore’s many fine animal clinics and get your vet to do an allergy test. Now, some of you might be wondering “How is this cost-effective?” or even “Isn’t this going to cost me a lot?”.
Allow me to explain. Sure, an allergy test might be costly to some but think of it this way – I could do a one-time payment to get an allergy test done and know what foods and allergens I should avoid giving my dog. The main aim is to identify the allergen and prevent your dog’s exposure to it as much as humanly possible.
This would save you much more in the long run by avoiding repeated trips to the vet due to constant (and uncomfortable!) red welts, bald spots etc. Think of the savings you could have that would otherwise go into steroidal creams, ointments, repeated vet consultation fees and other medications. Also, this method may prove faster when compared to trying out the ‘Elimination Method’ to find an appropriate diet for their dogs.
Although an allergy test may not be 100% accurate, what this test does is give you a pretty decent idea on what general allergens your dog should avoid. A wonderful option for those who rather be safe than sorry later. Oh, and if you’re wondering if the procedure is going to hurt your little furkid, Kohepet’s #WestieTheIntern has undergone this procedure and has this to say:
“I was brought to the vet to find out more about my allergies, the nice doctor assured mummy and daddy that it wouldn’t hurt. They had to use a tiny needle to take a sample of Westie’s blood for testing, I was afraid but mummy was much more nervous… she hugged me tightly and one second later, the doctor lady said it was over! So fast!”
As you can tell, obtaining the blood sample from your dog is relatively quick and painless. Similar to taking your dog for his or her annual immunisation.
As mentioned earlier, food allergies are major culprits of skin problems in dogs. Most of our customers frequently approach us for advice when attempting to decide on an appropriate brand of dog food that would be ideal for their dogs.
So what options do you have when planning to rule out food allergens?
The first thing to note is that many of these customers are not aware of the “elimination diet method” for dogs. Most people enquiring with us about dog food usually want us to recommend a ‘one-size-fits-all’ miracle product that is allergy free for all dogs. As much as we would love to carry such a wondrous and much sought after item, we don’t have it in stock… along with the much sought after ‘all-cure’ medication for dogs.
What we do carry however, is a vast amount of allergy-friendly dog foods and treats that may assist you in your attempts at an ‘elimination diet’ trial.
To answer an important question “What is an elimination diet trial for dogs?”, let us first understand what ‘elimination dieting’ is. The elimination diet involves feeding your dog one selected formula of dog food (whether freeze-dried, kibble or canned) over a few months without any changes to their diet. Any additional food (like treats) should contain some of (if not all) the same ingredients as the selected formula.
Ideally use formulas where there are less ingredients; this is why single-protein and limited ingredient formulas are better. The less ingredients your dog’s diet contains, the less possible allergens to consider, allowing you to better narrow down the likely culprits.
Here are some good examples of dog food and treats that you can try using in your elimination diet:
Zignature is a popular choice for limited ingredient foods because their recipes are chicken, egg, grain and potato free.
Zeal dog treats are single-ingredient treats, which makes them very helpful for figuring out what your dog is allergic to.
Wysong canned food formulas are single-protein with few ingredients used, and are also useful in identifying what meats your dog is allergic to.
During these 3 months, look out for any changes in your dog’s skin condition and see if the symptoms improve or worsen. If the condition improves, continue to feed your furkid the same formula. You can choose to explore other protein options slowly, but do so one ingredient at a time. If your furkid’s skin condition worsens, switch to another formula.
Just the mere mention of those two words might spur our little furkids into starting an ongoing game of hide-and-seek or tag. But as every responsible dog owner knows, keeping your dogs clean is vitally important, not just to avoid the unpleasant smells that might follow but to avoid major health issues as well.
Many owners in Singapore who own dogs or adopt them are clueless on the reasons why dog’s require shampoos and conditioners specially designed for dogs. Here’s an example of such a conversation:
Pawrent : “I tried many things but my poor baby’s skin problem still there, she keep scratching non stop.”
Kohepets: “Hmmm… since you tried most of the allergy-friendly diets…. May I know which dog shampoo are you using?”
Pawrent: “ Oh, same as me, [common human shampoo brand]… It can’t be the problem because I use it and it’s great for my hair.”
You can imagine the surprise pawrents get when we inform that their shampoos might be causing skin problems for their dogs. Human shampoos might cause damage to a dog’s skin in both puppies and adult dogs due to the difference in pH levels. The acidity found in normal or baby shampoos for humans just isn’t ideal or even appropriate for your dog’s sensitive skin.
Using the right shampoo and conditioner could help prevent skin problems for your dog. But for those who already have existing skin problems, there are some several shampoos and lotions that could help repair or give relief to your dog’s irritated or damaged skin.
A good shampoo to get should have ingredients that moisturise and soothe the skin, such as coconut oil and oatmeal. Try to look out for dog shampoos that are soap-free, paraben-free, 100% natural or pH-balanced. They tend to be more gentle on the skin.
Do try to keep in mind that most dogs with skin issues should bathe every 1 to 2 weeks in Singapore using natural, hypoallergenic shampoos with anti-inching properties to help improve your dog skin issues. Trust me, your dog will greatly appreciate it.
Adding Dietary Supplements
Some furkids may need a little extra help ensuring they get the nutrients necessary for good skin health. Supplements that are rich in Omega fatty acids like emu and fish oil not only keep the skin moisturised, they also reduce inflammation and boost the immune system, reducing the chances of a skin infection.
Coconut oil’s high lauric acid content makes it another good skin supplement; it can be used both externally as a moisturiser and fed as a food supplement. Prebiotics and probiotics are also essential in aiding skin health; they help keep your furkid’s digestive tract in an optimal state, which helps them cope with food allergens that can cause inflammation during digestion.
Bring Your Pet To The Vet
However, if your dog’s skin condition continues to decline despite your efforts to remedy the situation, do not hesitate to contact a vet. If you are unsure on what to do or even if you should do something, follow these steps:
- Call a vet, based on your preferences of proximity or familiarity.
- Politely introduce yourself and let them know about your dog. (age, breed & sex)
- Describe the skin problems in detail.
- Ask for advice on whether your dog should be brought down for consultation.
- If consultation is needed, make an appointment. (Optional: Ask how much it might cost to treat the symptoms as well as consultation fees.)
- That’s about it!
Sometimes medical prescriptions and treatment are needed when your dog’s skin problems prove too severe or when home remedies fail to improve the condition.
Some of you might even consider immunotherapy, a specialised medical treatment where your dog is exposed to the allergen in several small doses, causing their immune system to develop a stronger resistance to it. This reduces the severity of the allergic reactions, and is a long-term treatment method.
A Final Word
Sometimes, our dog’s skin problems may be caused by unknown allergens like mites, dust etc. The condition may be temporary or lifelong. The important thing for us to note as responsible pawrents, is that we should never give up on trying to keep our little furkids as happy as possible. Allergies are unpleasant to both humans and dogs; even though finding the source and managing our dogs’ skin problems may be a long, arduous task, we keep trying because our little furkids are worth it.
Thank you for taking your time to learn more about Managing Your Dog’s Skin Problems in this article. We hope you and your dog benefited from this article. See you in the next article!