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You are your pet’s best advocate, and your pet depends on you to keep them healthy and strong. You might be asking “Should I take my dog to a dermatologist? Well, that depends.
If your pooch is sick, that can be more evident to you than if they are suffering from a problem with their skin and need to see a dog dermatologist.
Those issues can be trickier to spot. That is where you must become a pet detective and look for clues to tell you how your pet is feeling.
There are sure signs that your pet might be experiencing skin issues.
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Several signs that your dog might be miserable and needs some specialized help from a dog dermatologist include:
- Excessive scratching
- Excessive licking on paws, legs, or body
- Biting or chewing on skin
- Flaky, dry skin
- Hair loss
One of the first signs that your pooch might need a dog dermatologist is excessive scratching.
When scratching becomes more than the occasional itch, it could be a sign of allergies. Those allergies could be environmental, such as mold or pollen.
Your pet may also develop an irritation on their skin when exposed to pesticides or certain soaps. This is called contact dermatitis.
Another culprit that can trigger your dog’s scratching is flea saliva. A single bite from just one flea can cause flea allergy dermatitis.
In the same way that fleas do, ticks seek out blood to survive. When a tick bites your dog, the point of entry creates inflammation.
The longer a tick stays attached to your dog, the longer the tick’s saliva is released into the skin, and the more it itches.
Bacterial infection can also occur at the tick bite site and result in even more irritation and itching.
Your poor pooch! As if fleas and ticks were not enough, a microscopic insect can burrow into the layers of a dog’s skin to feed and live.
Mites like mange chew their way through a dog’s skin and create inflammation. This can also lead to secondary infections, just like with ticks.
Skin-lesions from mange can be anywhere on the dog’s body but are most often found in the armpits, groin, ears, and other areas on your pet that have less hair.
Just as with humans, dogs can suffer, too, from seasonal allergies that can cause itchy skin.
Blooming flowers, grasses, weeds, and trees can contribute to these allergies.
While most allergies that affect a dog are environmental, your pooch could also have allergic reactions to food.
There are those dogs that are allergic to various proteins like beef, dairy, or chicken.
Wheat, corn, or rice can also cause skin inflammation and itching if the dog is allergic to these grains.
When your pup is licking on their paws, it can sometimes just be normal behavior. Dogs will often lick their paws if the paws are dirty.
They may also lick their paws and clean their head and face, much like a cat. If, however, the licking is excessive, it is wise to see if there is a problem.
Try and ascertain how long this behavior has been going on.
If you can remember this is a relatively new habit, then look at your dog’s paws to see if there is any other evidence of an issue.
There might be a burr, splinter or stone stuck between their pads. When checking your dog’s paw, look for redness, odor, swelling, or bleeding.
If your dog is also limping and you can’t see the problem, it is time to head to the vet.
Excessive licking can cause your dog’s skin to become irritated when there are no underlying problems.
The licking can cause wounds to develop, and this needs to be avoided.
If there is a wound, your vet will probably take skin scrapings for a culture to see if your pooch has an infection.
Biting or chewing on skin
Many of the reasons a dog is showing excessive licking are the same reasons for biting or chewing on their skin.
Biting their skin is a common reaction to irritation. As with licking, biting is one response your dog might have to flea bites.
The flea bite will look like a small, raised red bump on your dog’s skin. If scratched or bitten at, the bump can become inflamed.
Always treat flea infestations. If left untreated, an infestation can lead to tapeworms in your dog if they ingest flea larvae while biting their skin.
Allergens in the environment can also be a cause of dermatitis and itchy, flaking skin on your dog.
There are breeds of dogs that are more sensitive to allergens. Those breeds include terriers, setters, beagles, and retrievers.
When your dog continues to bite themselves, it is important to get them checked out before additional problems surface.
Excessive biting can result in bacterial infections and open wounds. Be sure to have your pet looked at before it gets to this point.
Your dog may also be biting at their skin if they have something lodged in their fur, like a burr, stick, or pickers.
Check their fur for any foreign objects that might be causing discomfort.
As a dog gets older, or have had a previous injury, they can develop arthritis. This pain in their joints can also cause them to bite at themselves.
If you are unable to determine a cause and a remedy, make an appointment with a dog dermatologist to get advice on a course of action.
Dry Flaky Skin
If you notice that your dog has dry, flaky skin, it could be as simple as the shampoo you are using.
It could be drying out your pet’s skin, causing it to be dry and flaky.
If you have tried the most apparent remedy of switching to a moisturizing shampoo and see no results, then the dry skin might have other underlying causes.
Dry skin may seem like just a normal condition, like in us humans, but in dogs, this condition should not be ignored.
There are a variety of conditions associated with dry skin, so if your pet is one of those who have this condition, it is worth finding out and getting a remedy.
As mentioned, it could be an easy fix, like switching shampoos. It could be an allergy to either things in the environment like dust, grass, or pollen.
Food allergies to grain or certain proteins might also be the culprit.
As yucky as it sounds, parasites can be a cause of dry skin on dogs.
Demodex mites, canine scabies, and cheyletiellosis (walking dandruff) are indications that your poor pooch has lice.
Whatever the cause, it is vital to find out the source. If left untreated, your pooch could develop a skin condition called atopic dermatitis.
This condition can lead to secondary skin infections, so it is best to address it as soon as possible.
There are times when dry skin is the sign of a more significant issue. Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism carry the symptoms of dry skin.
It is better to have your pet checked out by a vet dermatologist if you notice dry skin, rather than waiting to see if it will clear up.
Your pet will get relief, and you will have peace of mind.
As with other skin conditions, there are some similar reasons why your pooch might experience hair loss.
This hair loss (called alopecia) can be caused by infection, allergies, or irritation caused by parasites.
And this is not the normal shedding that all dogs do on a regular basis.
If you start to see noticeable bald spots on your dog, you know it is time to see a vet dermatologist.
There are some breeds of dogs that tend to baldness more than others.
Greyhounds, whippets, Chihuahuas, dachshunds, and Italian greyhounds are prone to bald spots on the outer ears, chest, belly, and thighs.
They are genetically disposed to these spots of hair loss. It is essential to know the cause of hair loss, as there are other reasons for this other than genetics.
Ringworm fungus, mites, and bacteria can lead to infections that can cause bald spots. Oily skin and thickened skin can also indicate mites.
If ringworm is the culprit, you may see circular or irregular hair loss along with infected crusts.
This is especially important to diagnose and treat, as ringworm is contagious.
Older dogs can be prone to pressure sores where their elbows or other bony parts are in contact with hard surfaces.
The constant pressure tends to thicken the skin, making the hair fall out, and calluses are formed in that area.
Insect bites and bee stings can cause an allergic rash or hives, resulting in bald spots.
There is an old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This has never been more true than in the case of your beloved pet.
You are the one they rely on to watch out for them and to render aid whenever needed. That aid might be in the form of a vet or a dog dermatologist.
If during your Sherlock Holmes type of detection, you see a condition that is out of the ordinary and persists for a few days, it is best to get it checked.
Early intervention can prevent issues from becoming more involved and distressing for you and your pet.
Ian is an avid outdoorsman and dog lover. He lives in Central Florida with his wife Heather, and their 2 dogs – Panda (Purebread Rough Collie X English Golden Retriever) & Kuma (Blue Merl Purebread Rough Collie)