The phrase “having thick skin” to describe someone who can take a lot of abuse and still be forgiving or even somewhat happy must not have been coined by a person who knows anything about dogs. A dog’s skin only contains one layer compared to a human’s skin that has three different layers. Yet, with only that one layer, most dogs can keep a positive attitude as they withstand quite a bit of abuse, neglect, mistreatment and more. The fact that a dog will generally accept an apology from his or her owner no matter who the owner is or what they have done certainly makes me want to re-evaluate that saying.
Because dog skin is a single layer, it is extremely sensitive to a variety of conditions. Some of these can be treated and the condition relieved or cured, while other conditions are caused by something that cannot be cured but only managed. In those cases, managing the condition day-by-day or week-by-week does sometimes allow the dog to be as symptom-free and as comfortable as possible.
This week we’ll start with the basic case of itchy skin that is often caused by the skin becoming and remaining too dry. This is most common in environments that cause the skin to remain dry due to weather conditions. This “dry skin” can usually prevented by using a mild shampoo that contains ingredients intended to hydrate the skin. Pet shampoos that contain aloe vera such as our Oatmeal & Aloe Vera Shampoo have been used successfully in moisturizing the skin and preventing it from getting itchy. Feeding your dog a pet food with good nutrients as well as supplementation with Norwegian fish oil are also ways to keep the skin supple and moist. Grooming the dog helps prevent the hair from clumping together, which could potentially create an environment where bacteria can flourish and spread. Another advantage to grooming is it allows you to keep on top of any developing skin problems before they get bigger and more difficult to manage.
Another potential cause of dry skin and itchy skin in dogs is parasite infestation. Keeping our pets treated with flea and tick prevention will help keep these little unwelcome parasite visitors at bay. Flea and tick prevention such as Frontline Plus does not require a prescription since it does not contain an additional heartworm preventative. Products such as Revolution, however, do contain a heartworm preventative and therefore requires a prescription from your veterinarian. These parasite preventatives may be required year-round depending on the region you live in as well as the recommendation of your veterinarian, who knows the situation in your geographical region and the requirements of your particular pet.
Allergies may also produce itchy, dry skin in our dogs. Very often, allergies cause the dog to keep licking the skin or scratching at the itchy area resulting in dermatitis. Very intense itching may also be caused by scabies, which is a treatable condition. There are a variety of antihistamines which are over-the-counter that help minimize allergy symptoms and your veterinarian may wish to prescribe steroids for a short duration if the condition becomes unbearable.
One of the products that has been extremely helpful in keeping the skin healthy and prevent it from becoming too dry is Super Pure Omega 3. The Norwegian fish oil and d-alpha tocopherols in the product have been shown to maintain both skin and joint health in cats and dogs.
Next week I will try to go over and discuss some of the more difficult to treat skin conditions that affect our dogs and cats and what others have done to help their pets. Until then, if you notice something out of the ordinary call your veterinarian and as always, your 1800Petmeds pharmacist is also available to answer any of your medication related questions.