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Columns : The Pet Pages - Kim Aranha Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Skin diseases in small animals
By Dr. Valentino Grant
Dec 11, 2007 - 11:46:40 AM

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It is time to turn again to our contributing Vet. and my friend Dr. Valentino Grant of the Palmdale Veterinary Clinic for some more valuable medical information to help us care for our beloved furry friends. I asked Dr. Grant a series of questions and here below are his answers:

1. Which small animal gets the most skin problems?

I think that the Jury is still out as to whether it's dogs or cats (in the general context.)  At our hospital we see more skin cases involving dogs compared to cats.

2. What diseases do you see the most?

The most common skin diseases that we see are a) Demodectic mange

b.) Sarcoptic mange (commonly known as scabies )  c) Flea Allergy Dermatitis 

d) Fungal infections .....in particular Ringworm   e) Bacterial infections of the skin....Pyodermas. f.) Allergic conditions 

3. What causes these diseases and what are some of the symptoms?

The first 2 diseases mentioned above are 2 types of mange caused by mites. They are thought to be the most common skin diseases in dogs in the Bahamas .

These mites make the dogs very uncomfortable and cause intense itching especially in the case of Scabies!!  This results in hair loss (alopecia) and damage (denuding) of the skin as they scratch. The skin becomes inflamed and there are resultant secondary bacterial infections.

Most persons see these "mangy" stray dogs walking around their communities.  Some are totally devoid of hair!!  They are very unsightly and are suffering.  At this juncture I would like to implore those who utilize engine oil, transmission oil, kerosene or any other chemicals to”kill the mange" to stop doing so!

While your intentions may be good as you are trying to help these dogs.....these chemicals are even more detrimental to their skin as they are very caustic.

You should go to your neighborhood Vet or Humane Society and seek advice about the proper way to have them treated.  If you are in the family islands and don't have ready access to a Vet, you can contact the local nurse or doctor who in turn will contact the humane society or a Veterinary practitioner or animal care provider for advice on the proper way to treat these conditions and care for these animals.  

If you have the wherewithal, you should take your pet in for an examination  

There are many successful treatments these days and they include dips, ointments and the use of a drug called ivermectin which works wonders. It is very effective in killing the mites and the Vet. will set up a treatment protocol for your animal. Once diagnosed these diseases can be treated successfully and their resolvement will go a long way to improve the quality of life of your pet.    

In terms of Flea Allergy Dermatitis......as the name implies it's caused by fleas.

It's quite a vicious cycle as the fleas " bite"/suck the dogs blood.... ..The dog in turn scratches and rubs and in the process there is hairless and inflammation.    

Unlike mites which are microscopic (can only be seen with a microscope), one can see the fleas with the "naked eye"   They are small brown insects which you will see scurrying about the body of your dog and cat unlike ticks which are usually attached to the skin. 

I have learned never to take anything for granted (in private practice) in terms of information disseminated.  There are new persons to the Bahamas who are from Northern territories who have NEVER seen a flea.  Fleas don't survive in very cold climates and when dogs from these countries arrive here they not only get culture shock when they meet their new Potcake friends (smile) but they also get fleas!! Which live year round in the Bahamas .   

There are many products on the market for killing fleas. They range from shampoos, dips, flea collars and topical applications to the skin like Frontline etc.

Also a Veterinarian should see your pet if you notice any redness of the skin, moistness of the skin, any raised areas of the skin...." bumps” (papules) or hairless in general.   

There are quite a few fungal infections of the skin.  The most common fungal infection that we are presented with at Palmdale Veterinary Clinic is”Ringworm”   caused by the organisms: Microsporum or Trichophyton species.  They are microscopic. 

The lesions are usually circular, sometimes irregularly contoured. The skin is red (erythematous) and there are varying degrees of scales, crusts, papules and hairless.  Itching is usually mild but can sometimes be quite intense.   

Once diagnosed there are shampoos, topical ointments and systemic antifungal therapies that are used to combat the infections which can sometimes take months to cure.

In terms of Bacterial infections of the skin, they are also quite common and in many cases are secondary to other primary skin diseases like mange, allergies and fungal infections mentioned above. 

Sometimes the anatomy of the dog such as the presence of many skin folds predisposes it to bacterial infections and moist dermatites.

Then we come to Allergies which can also result in hairlessness:

4.) Are dogs and cats allergic to different things?

They sure are. They can become allergic to various foods they eat, have contact hypersensitivities to various materials and plants. Also they develop hypersensitivities to flea bites to other stinging insects like hornets and bees and they can also inhale some of these allergens.

We can now do allergy tests to determine what the cause of the allergy is and help to modify and minimize the detrimental responses like excessive scratching (prutitus), licking, rubbing and chewing various parts of the body.   

If you notice any of the above symptoms you should see your Veterinarian immediately.  

5.) Do other animals such as birds, fish, turtles etc have skin diseases?   

Yes, skin diseases occur in literally all animals.

6.) What can we do to avoid these skin diseases in our animals?   

The environment in which your pet is kept and/or exposed to is key here.

It should be kept clean and dry.  Also you should inspect your pet’s skin on a daily basis as you spend quality time with him/her.   

If you notice any fleas/ticks or the beginnings of any of the symptoms already mentioned you should not hesitate but take your pet to the Vet. For a thorough examination of the skin.   

Early diagnosis and treatment saves you a lot of expense and most importantly aids in minimizing the occurrences of these diseases in your precious pets.

About the author: Kim Aranha grew up in the Berry Islands with her first dog, a beloved potcake named “Friendly” (who was anything but!).  First educated at home, and then in boarding school in Switzerland, Kim moved to Rome, Italy in 1974 to pursue a career in the dramatic arts and ended up working as an interpreter.  She moved back to The Bahamas in 1980, and now lives in Nassau with her husband Paul, and their two teenaged sons.  Kim has 4 dogs, 5 fish (1 Beta, 4 Goldfish), 10 turtles (6 babies, 4 adolescents), 1 Asian box turtle and 4 Budgerigars. Her idea of relaxing is being home to take care of all her pets. Kim is a member of the board of the Bahamas Humane Society. Kim can be contacted at kimvba@coralwave.com

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