The post was written in cooperation with a veterinarian (Kertu Kivirand).
Skin problems can develop in dogs for many different reasons, but they often look similar. Therefore, diagnosing and treating skin diseases is usually a time-consuming and often frustrating process. Secondary infections are often added to the primary cause, making it more difficult to find the correct diagnosis and causing additional damage and itching. Pets express itching in several ways:
- scratching with paw
- chewing, nibbling
- shaking of the head (itching ears in case of ear infections)
- rubbing against carpet, furniture, etc.
- restlessness, there may be twitching of the skin muscles, and when scratching or petting, the animal also starts scratching itself with its paws.
Consequences of itching:
- redness of the skin, darkening (hyperpigmentation) or loss of pigment in the area of chronic inflammation, thickening of the skin
- hairless or areas with sparser/shorter hair
- abrasions, ulcers
- bumps, bruises
The causes of itching are external parasites, skin infections, allergies or, more rarely, a behavioral or psychological problem.
Determining the cause of itching begins with taking a medical history, during which the doctor may ask a number of questions that may seem strange at first. When examining the animal, different skin samples are taken if necessary. Taking samples may not be enough to rule out external parasites (not all parasites are easily found in the samples), and the doctor may prescribe regular external parasite control. It is not dangerous for the dog, but it can give good results. Even if the diagnosis of pruritus is still ongoing and there is no final diagnosis yet, it is necessary to deal with secondary infections and pruritus. This may require the use of antibiotics, antifungal drugs, anti-itching drugs, etc. If external parasites have been ruled out and secondary infections treated, but itching persists, the next step is allergy diagnosis.