Recognizing Canine Skin Infections
Skin infections are one of the most common conditions treated by veterinarians. A number of skin conditions that affect dogs are contagious to humans so it is important that they be identified and treated quickly. Your dog's skin is vulnerable to many infections from bacteria, fungi, and various viruses. Although it does a good job protecting him and keeping his temperature constant, your dog is still constantly exposed to the elements.
Skin infections are usually easy to spot. The skin will appear red and may itch. You may see sore spots and even a loss of hair. Although it is easy to tell if your dog has a skin infection, it isn't always as easy to determine what kind of infection it is. This may take a trip to the vet.
Most skin infections are caused by a bacterium known as staphylococci. Staph living on the skin usually doesn't cause any problem at all. However, when the immune system becomes weaker than usual, staph can suddenly thrive, causing itching and sometimes sores. There are a lot of different bacterial infections but one of the easiest to treat is the skin-fold infection.
Bacteria will thrive when there is a lot of dirt or oil next to the skin or when friction allows it to colonize. This usually takes place in areas of loose skin.
Chinese shar-peis are bread to have large folds of loose, floppy skin. Pugs and bulldogs have deep folds in their faces. Although these dogs are cute to look at, this crinkly appearance attracts more than smiles. Bacteria thrive in the warm moist areas inside these folds making these cuties prone to skin infections.
Dry between the folds. Add some powder to absorb excess moisture and to minimize the friction and irritation. Some vets recommend cornstarch or medicated powder like Gold Bond or Desenex. Scented talc is not recommended because the chemicals may cause irritation.
The most common fungal infection in dogs is ringworm. Ringworm can be transmitted by cats, rodents, or even moist soil. Many skin irritations can resemble ringworm so if you suspect your dog has it you need to take a trip to the vet.
Trim the hair surrounding the patch. This makes it harder for the infection to spread because this fungus thrives on the hair itself. Your vet will probably treat the ringworm with an antifungal cream or ointment. For more serious cases your dog may need a dip or even an oral medication. Ringworm takes about 6 to 8 weeks to treat.
If your dog has ringworm, it is very important to do a thorough house cleaning. The fungus that caused ringworm is very hardy and can thrive for up to a year on carpet, furniture or under baseboards. Be sure to dispose of any hair you have trimmed from your dog. Vacuum at least twice a week while treating your dog. Wash your dog's bedding, rugs, and anything he comes into contact with in very hot water (140 degrees F to kill fungus), detergent, and a mild bleach solution once a week during treatment and for several weeks after your dog's treatment has ended.
Skin infections caused by parasites, such as fleas and skin mites, are very common. Most dogs, at some point in their lives, will get skin mites, which cause mange. There are three types of mange: Demodectic, scabies (can be passed to humans) and walking dandruff. All of these can make your dog pretty miserable.
Puppies usually contact this type of mange while nursing. It doesn't cause much disturbance until weather conditions become warm and moist. The mites then may multiply and cause inflamed skin. There may be some hair loss from the face and front legs. In puppies that are healthy, demodectic mange may go away by itself, but in ones with weaker immune systems, it may take long-term drug therapy.
Scabies appear on a dog's elbows and ears. This type of mange, sometimes called "mad itch", is very intense irritation and itching. Scabies is contagious to humans so it is very important that you wash your hands after any contact with your dog. Your vet will probably treat your dog with a dip and have you treat any other pets in your house also.
This kind of mite is mildly itchy and easily treated with a common flea medication. It is easy to detect. It can make skin flakes on your dog's skin appear to move because it multiplies so quickly and in such large numbers. You may not need to make a trip to the vet with this one. If you look at your dog's skin through a magnifying glass and it appears that the skin is moving, it's walking dandruff. Regular flea shampoo will not kill walking dandruff mites. Bathe your dog once a week for 3 to 6 weeks to make sure all the mites are gone.
It is possible that scabies or walking dandruff may go away on their own. If any symptoms persist, see your vet.
Coping With Discomfort
Soothe the itch by bathing your dog in cool water and an oatmeal shampoo which can be purchased at most stores that sell pet supplies. Excessive itching can cause other infections. If your dog has an intense itch, you may want to put a stretch baby suit on him to protect his skin from his scratching claws. A T-shirt is good for larger dogs. Regular house cleaning and vacuuming is necessary to remove any living mites.
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