In general, dermatology refers to a myriad of diseases of the skin, nails/claws, and/or ears. If left untreated, dermatologic conditions can fester and become serious health concerns for your pet. Skin and ear problems are incredibly common to see in dogs and cats, and they are some of the most frequent health concerns that we treat at hour hospitals. Some causes of these diseases include various types of skin infections (pyoderma) or ear infections (otitis), allergies (either to fleas, environmental antigens or dietary ingredients — or multiples of these!), microscopic mites that live in the skin, ringworm, endocrine disease, and diseases of the immune system. It is also common to see patients with more than one cause behind their skin and/or ear condition. Several of our veterinarians have special interests in addressing and managing dermatology cases, and we strive to stay at the “top of our game” when it comes to diagnosing and managing ear and skin disease.
Therefore, it is important to be able to identify and characterize the initial signs and symptoms of dermatological conditions. These include:
- Inflamed ears
- Hotspots, especially those that recur
- Rubbing the eyes or mouth area
- Lesions on the skin
- Hair loss
- Red itchy bumps on the skin
- Asthma-like wheezing or respiratory issues
If you notice any of these symptoms, we encourage you to bring your pet in to Chimacum Valley Veterinary Hospital for an evaluation. If left untreated, these problems can become severe medical concerns.
It is always our goal to make your pet feel more comfortable, and — whenever possible — to treat the underlying cause of his or her problem. We take the time to discuss our diagnostic plan, including any recommended testing, and explain your pet’s condition, the proper method of treatment, and how to decrease the chances of future occurrences or flare-ups.
Skin and Ear Health Recommendations
- Practice diligent flea control on all pets in the household. Not all flea products are created equal. Some products are much safer for certain patients than others, and some are simply more effective. In order to make the best possible choice, your pet’s age, lifestyle, environment, breed, historical conditions and medical history should all be considered in the decision of which flea preventative/treatment to use. Please consult one of our veterinarians about which product is best for your particular pet and for instructions on safe and effective use.
- Many pets with skin problems benefit from regular bathing. Always use a shampoo formulated for pets that has been approved by your veterinarian. Keep in mind that bathing will generally remove most topical flea control products, so a non-washable (prescription) flea preventative should be used whenever there is frequent bathing occurring.
- In general, it is best to feed a high-quality diet that is intended for pets only. If you are interested in home-preparing meals for your pet, we strongly encourage you to consult with a veterinary nutritionist first — to be sure you are offering meals containing the right balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals, and vitamins. We would be happy to approach and discuss the big topic of nutrition during an exam with one of our veterinarians. Please note that sometimes we will need to schedule an additional follow-up visit or a separate nutrition consultation, in order to allow enough time for us to appropriately address this important topic with the goal of co-creating a workable plan.
- If you are concerned that your pet may have a food allergy, do not frequently change his or her food because it makes our job of finding a true food allergy much more difficult (and more costly, in terms of time and money). Food allergies can be quite complicated, and although we see plenty of food allergic pets, skin problems caused by food are not as common as most people are led to believe. If you believe your pet’s skin or ear issue could be a food allergy, please consult with our veterinarians on how to best approach the diagnosis of food allergy. A poorly-performed food trial can make things more confusing than helpful, and unfortunately we commonly see many well-intended but misguided situations
- Administer topical products and oral medications to your pet only under the guidance of your veterinarian, as directed, and for the duration listed. (Unless there’s an issue with the medications or your pet doesn’t seem to be getting better — in which case please call our office.)
- Keep your recheck appointment(s)! Recheck visits are critical when treating ear and/or skin disease. If all goes well, things will indeed be looking “better” prior to the recheck time, and understandably there may be a desire for our clients to skip the recheck exam, in the hopes of saving some money. This strategy, however, can backfire. Skin and ear problems have a knack for looking relatively resolved to our clients, but sometimes that’s not always the case from a veterinarian’s viewpoint. It’s always frustrating for everyone when our patients develop resistant infections or superbugs from those almost-better-but-not-quite situations, so please do keep your pet’s recheck appointment, even if things are looking much better. We would be happy to discuss more about this rationale during your exam or recheck visit — please just ask your veterinarian, if you have any concerns.
- Changes such as red, itchy, smelly, or “difficult to keep clean” ears and red, flaky, or itchy skin are often signs that a problem is developing and require a visit to our office. It is always better to intervene at an early stage, before it becomes more serious.
- Never stick a cotton-tipped swab down your pet’s ear canal, and do not wash your pet’s ears with any solution that has not been approved by your veterinarian. Some home remedies are not safe for the pet’s ear — especially if the ear drum has been damaged (as can happen with ear infections). Other products may be relatively safe, but could cause pain, discomfort or panic if used in the presence of inflamed ear canal.
- Bring your pet to Chimacum Valley Veterinary Hospital yearly for a complete physical examination, as many problems can be recognized and remedied before they start affecting the overall quality of life.