Dogs and cats suffer from many problems that affect their skin and causes skin diseases. It is important to understand that the skin is an organ, just as the liver and kidneys are organs. The skin functions as a barrier to protect the body from infection, caustic substances, ultra violet light and dehydration. Good health and proper function of the skin is dependent on the health and function of the other organs that make up our pets’ bodies.
Diseases that affect the skin can be placed into one of two categories, primary and secondary skin disease. Primary skin diseases are those that affect the skin directly, such as mange or flea and tick hypersensitivities. Secondary diseases are those that initially involve other organs, and thereby affect the skin, such as hypothyroidism.
The diagnosis and treatment of skin diseases can be difficult and time consuming. The following are some of the common diseases and conditions affecting the skin. A brief description of their diagnosis and treatments is provided.
Allergies: Humans with allergies usually react by sneezing, but your pet reacts by scratching. Both you and your pet are reacting to an allergen, which is a substance that causes sensitivity. Most allergens are inhaled, but a few are the contact type, such as an allergy to wool. Some allergens are found in food, most commonly corn, wheat, soy, beef and dairy products. The first signs of allergic reactions are scratching, licking, biting or rubbing the skin. This can lead to infection characterized by red bumps and pimples. Because of the discomfort, it is important to get professional help as soon as possible.
Bacterial Infection: A bacterial infection is common, but is usually secondary to another underlying disease such as an allergy. Treatment for bacterial infections may include antibiotics— either given orally or topically. It is important to seek professional veterinary care to treat the bacterial infection while searching for the underlying disease.
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