DOES MY ANIMAL NEED DERMATOLOGY TREATMENT?
To a dermatologist, this cartoon is very funny and brilliantly sums up why animals do need vets (and even more to the point, dermatologists): when they itch, for whatever reason, they lick, scratch and chew, and the worse it gets, the more they lick, scratch and chew, in the vicious cycle of the itchy animal. This itch scratch cycle often impacts very severely on the animal’s quality of life, and because of their close contact with their owners, can make their owners’ lives miserable as well.
Very few animals are obsessive cleaners or lickers out of habit; there is nearly always an underlying irritation that causes either pain or itching or both. These seemingly obsessive behaviours are the animal’s attempt to deal with those underlying sensations. For many years, corticosteroids were used to treat the symptom of itching, and can be very effective. However, they are associated with potentially severe side effects when used long term, especially if they are used on a daily basis. Fortunately we now have treatments to manage itching that have fewer side effects. However a down side of both corticosteroids and the newer treatmens is that they target only the symptom, itching, and sometimes distract attention from an easily treatable or even curable condition like ectoparasites.
If your animal exhibits these on-going self-mutilating behaviours, or has frequent relapses, secondary to ear or skin irritation, if there is no firm diagnosis, it is sensible to see if anything else can be done. Even if the diagnosis is allergy, with further testing, the offending antigen can be identified and potentially avoided, removed or tolerated with the use of allergen specific immunotherapy: either “allergy shots” or “allergy drops”
At the Animal Dermatology NZ consultations, we deal with a wide range of companion animal problems, including:
- Hypersensitivities or allergies of all types, including contact allergy to Tradescantia fluminensis (Wandering Willy or Wandering Jew), food, or environmental allergies
- Ear infections, new or recurrent (chronic)
- Paw infections and nail disease
- Chronic itching, scratching or chewing, especially of the paws or anal area.
- Hair loss with or without inflammation or itching
- Odour or "smelly dog". Smelly cats are very uncommon.
- Ectoparasites: fleas are still common. Scabies, Walking dandruff, and Demodex are also common
- Fungal infections, including resistant “ring worm” and very commonly, yeast infections (Malassezia) of the ears, feet, or body
- Immune mediated diseases, especially of the nose and nails
- Hormonal or endocrine problems: hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease).
Some of these conditions can be life long, but nearly all can be managed so that your pet has good quality of life. New treatments are constantly being developed. For instance, barrier function repair is very important in human atopic disease, and is becoming increasingly important in companion animal dermatology. In general practice, it is difficult enough to stay abreast of all the developments in things that you see every day, let alone the more esoteric diseases. For this reason, it can be useful to take advantage of the expertise of someone who deals only in one particular area of health and disease. At Animal Dermatology NZ we are committed to the diagnosis and treatment of companion animal skin disease. With knowledge, comes power; the power to manage conditions that are life long. Only by making a diagnosis can we really manage on-going skin and ear disease.