Overview of Pet Skin Issues

A large portion of the questions I receive from people looking for pet advice are about skin issues. Hair loss, itching, scaly skin, redness… the list goes on! The truth is skin issues can cause frustration in pet parents because they can be difficult to resolve. This is because each pet is different and there is a vast array of underlying issues that could be playing a role. I’ll just touch on a few here.

When thinking about skin issues, it is important to look at the full picture. Have there been any recent changes in your pet’s environment? Is your pet current on flea and tick prevention? Has your pet been experiencing increased thirst, changes in weight, more frequent urination, or lethargy? What kind of diet is your pet being fed? These are just a few of the questions that are important during a patient’s exam to narrow down the cause.

Many endocrine diseases can actually outwardly manifest as alopecia (hair loss) or abnormal coat. Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s Disease are a couple examples we commonly see in dogs that can be associated with changes in skin or coat. Most of the time these endocrine diseases are diagnosed based on the distribution of skin abnormalities, by understanding patient history and other clinical signs, and through diagnostic testing.

When a pet is experiencing scratching and itchy skin, allergies are at the top of the list. Allergies are usually caused from fleas, the environment, or diet. These can be a little more tricky to diagnose! Other parasites, such as mites, can also result in intense itching and can be easily ruled in or out by looking at a skin scrape under the microscope.

Of course, skin issues can be a result of an infection, such as bacteria or yeast overgrowth as well. These most commonly cause dermatitis secondary to an underlying issue that allows the bacteria or yeast to proliferate.

With a good patient history, physical exam, and diagnostic testing, your veterinarian can work with you to determine the underlying cause and best course of treatment to make your pet happy and healthy again!

If you’d like to learn more about allergic skin disease, please check here!