The month of June is now upon us and officially marks the beginning of summer. Along with the much warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, summer traditionally means enjoying more time with our pets outdoors as well as more water related activities including swimming, boating, and walks by the lake or on the beach. Unfortunately for our pets, the change of seasons may also bring with it more skin and ear problems associated with the hotter and more humid conditions. Certain factors besides these conditions may also play a role in the development of ear and skin issues in pets including: breed tendencies or hereditary histories of allergies; anatomic features that contribute to increased moisture retention such as long , floppy ears, excessive skin folds, and dense or overgrown coats; other environmental factors including excessive swimming, over bathing, and excessive sun exposure; as well as external parasite and pests such as fleas, ticks, biting and stinging insects, and mange mites.
Pruritus is a medical term used to describe itchiness and is an extremely common concern for which pet owners seek veterinary care at this time of year. In pets however, pruritus may be mistakenly overlooked because it does not just cause excessive scratching, but also paw licking, head shaking, rubbing of the face, biting at the legs, and rolling around on the back. Excessive continuation of these behaviors can lead to irritation and damage of the skin and ears leading to infections and other dermatologic conditions.
Common signs of skin and ear problems include red and/or moist skin surfaces, an unpleasant odor, excessive ear wax, thickening and darkening of the skin, excessive shedding or patchy areas of hair loss, scabs, rashes, staining of the fur, hives, or limping from soreness between the toes. If these conditions are not observed and treated in a timely manner, the pet will inevitably worsen and require more extensive and lengthy treatments to resolve the condition.
Proper treatment requires a proper diagnosis. Our veterinarians will need to perform certain tests to help reach that diagnosis, including: ear swabs, skin cytology, skin scrapings, cultures with sensitivities, and most important, a thorough physical exam in conjunction with a good history of the problem. With the results obtained from these tests and examination, our veterinarians can then make the best decisions for your pet’s treatment plan and prescribe the appropriate medications or possibly recommend more specific testing to identify a different, underlying problem.
Typical therapies for skin and ear conditions can include oral antibiotics and antifungal medications which often need to be used for at least a month, or longer; topical ear cleaners and medications; and a variety of shampoos and conditioners. Different medications aimed more directly at the “itch” may include antihistamines or corticosteroids. Although many skin and ear conditions can be resolved, others are associated with underlying allergies and may require long term, chronic therapies to keep the condition controlled. Monthly flea and tick preventives are certainly indicated at this time of year to help prevent the skin issues associated with the reactions of your pet to these pests. Other more specific therapies may be indicated such as special hypoallergenic diets, deep ear cleaning under sedation, and in some instances wound care. Occasionally, as with our own medical care, it will be necessary to refer you to a Veterinary Dermatology Specialist.
Our veterinarians and staff wish you an enjoyable summer season and are available seven days a week if your pet develops any skin or ear issues.