The skin is actually the largest organ of the entire body - whether you are human or a pet. Its purpose is to shield and protect the more sensitive, inner tissues and deeper layers of your pet's body, guarding it against damaging sunlight, extreme temperatures, water, harmful chemicals, and bacteria. It is also packed with nerves that enable us to feel the things that we come into contact with.
Just like any other part of our body, our skin can be affected by a multitude of different things, many of which cause unpleasant and even debilitating symptoms. Unfortunately, skin problems aren't limited to humans and your pet is just as likely to experience issues with theirs. Many skin problems in pets are temporary and resolve themselves fairly quickly and easily. However, others are more serious and require professional intervention. Here's what you need to know about determining when your pet's skin issues are serious.
What Causes Skin Issues in Pets?
Our animals are not all too different from us, and many of the factors that cause skin problems in humans are also triggers for pets.
By far the most common reason for skin issues in pets is an underlying allergy. There are many things that your pet could potentially be allergic to, including grass and tree pollen, smoke, dust, the dander of other animals, washing powder and food. Allergies can manifest with a variety of symptoms, but the skin is one of the most commonly affected areas. Skin-based symptoms of allergies that you might notice on your pet include:
- Hair loss/bald spots
- Lumps or bumps
- Persistent itching that is more significant than normal
- Your pet constantly licking, chewing and biting themselves
- A rash on their skin, which could be red, raised or swollen
If your pet has any of these symptoms, it is important to keep an eye on them to see if they resolve themselves.
Serious Skin Issues in Pets
The following represent some of the more serious skin issues that pets can experience and whereby you should obtain prompt advice from your vet.
Yeast infections can develop in any warm areas on your pet's body, and these are often hard to reach, such as the groin, perineum and between their toes. When a yeast infection occurs, the skin thickens and becomes discolored, and the area begins to smell unpleasant.
Lupus is an auto-immune disease which means that the body's immune system attacks its own cells. Unfortunately, this causes open, crusty sores which take a very long time to heal and can potentially become infected. If left untreated, lupus can be very serious so it should be detected and dealt with as soon as possible.
Despite its name, this condition isn't a worm at all. Instead, it is a fungus that is super-contagious and can be transmitted to other animals and humans living in your home. The rash looks like circular, crusted bald patches and these may be inflamed if your pet has been scratching them. Fast treatment is essential to stop ringworm from spreading.
Fleas are the most common external parasite to affect pets. They are microscopic creatures that feed on the blood of your furbaby and will happily live on and reproduce on your pet for as long as they have a food source. Flea saliva is highly irritating, with some animals being so adversely reacted that they are diagnosed with flea allergy dermatitis - a skin condition caused by a reaction to flea saliva. Since fleas are unpleasant for your pet and will also bite any humans that they come into contact with, prompt treatment followed up with the appropriate preventative is essential.
Any skin problem that results in an open wound has the potential to become infected. Signs of a skin infection typically include redness, inflammation, a foul smell, obvious pus or skin that feels hot to the touch. Your pet might also have a fever, be averse to you going near the infected area and be off of their food. All infections should be treated quickly to prevent them from spreading and becoming more serious.
For more advice on how to determine if your pet's skin issues are serious, please don't hesitate to speak to our very knowledgeable veterinary team at Conneaut Creek Veterinary Clinic.