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Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic Blog

Ask An Expert: Skin Infections in Pets…

ASAC_iStock_000016361353_LargeSkin infections are a common ailment amongst pets, but can be a little tricky to properly diagnose and treat. If you believe your pet has a skin infection, it is important to have it identified and treated appropriately. Skin infections can cause inflammation, itching, and overall discomfort. No one wants to see their pet be miserable over something very treatable.

Identifying Pet Skin Infections

Often skin infections will look like hives, so it is important that the diagnosis is not made just by how it looks, but is confirmed with diagnostic tests. When you bring your pet in for us to see, we will work to determine if there is an infection present by taking various samples from the skin and ears and doing such tests as skin scrapings and slide touch preps. If one does exist, these same tests can help us to determine the type of infection present. In general a pet skin infection will be due to:

  •         Bacteria
  •         Fungus (yeast or ringworm)
  •         Parasites
  •         A combination of the above

Pet skin infections are caused by disease causing organisms (pathogens) that do not normally live on the skin’s surface because the skin is usually able to eliminate them. In general, pets who have a skin infection have a defect within their skin’s normal immune defenses.

Alterations in the skin’s defenses may be due to allergies, a defect in the skin’s normal barriers (atopy), or even a systemic immune problem. Whenever possible, it is important to treat the underlying cause (not just the symptoms) to help prevent recurrence.

Treating Skin Infections in Pets

Once we have diagnosed a pet with a skin infection, it is important to thoroughly treat the problem. If we do not clear the infection, most pets will continue to experience discomfort and itching despite our best efforts.

If a skin infection is bacterial or fungal, topical therapies such as prescription shampoos and sprays are very important. Systemic antibiotics may also be used, particularly if the infection is widespread or deep. It is vital for pet owners to administer all treatments as prescribed and to completion to ensure the resolution of the problem. Stopping too soon may increase the likelihood of a recurrence of the infection. It is also important that steroids (such as prednisone, temaril-p, or triamcinolone) are not given while the infection is being treated since these drugs further suppress the skin immune function.

Parasitic infections, such as mange, may be treated with topical dips, spot-on products, or systemic medications as well. Likewise, it is important to complete all treatments as instructed.  If you are having trouble treating your pet as instructed, never hesitate to let us know. We may be able to help you troubleshoot or suggest an alternative treatment.

Another important aspect of treating pet skin infections is to be sure to keep requested recheck appointments in a timely manner. These appointments are essential so that we can track your pet’s progress and decide whether we need to continue or change a prescribed treatment.

Most pets will experience some type of skin infection during the course of his or her life. A skin infection may result in redness, itching, scaling, or even hair loss. Regardless of how it looks, though, Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic is here to help.