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What are Skin Reaction Due to Parasites?

Parasites can take up residency in or on your canine family member through a variety of ways.  Fleas, mites, ticks (just to name a few) can be found externally virtually everywhere on any dog exposed to the outside world or any part of it carried in on your shoes.  Other parasites can inhabit the intestinal system of your pet through various methods of contact with fecal materials or areas contaminated with it.  And, there are skin reactions and disease which accompany these many different types of parasites.

Skin reactions due to parasites in dogs can be defined as a skin condition such as hives, oozing lesions or hair loss caused by a parasitic infestation.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, a parasite lives on or in a host organism and gets its food at the expense of, or from the host.

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Symptoms of Skin Reaction Due to Parasites in Dogs

The symptoms of skin reaction due to parasites in dogs are quite similar to allergic skin reactions and, for the average pet parent, distinguishing between these two types of skin reactions can be challenging.  Your veterinary professional will likely need to assist you in this determination.  Here are some of the symptoms commonly found with skin reactions of either type:

  • Severe itching
  • Skin redness
  • Pimples or bumps
  • Hives
  • Crusting, bleeding or oozing lesions
  • Hair loss
  • Excessive licking or scratching by your pet

Types  

There are two basic types of skin reactions from which your canine family member can suffer:  

  • Allergic dermatitis - Caused by the canine’s allergy or sensitivity to certain environmental elements and conditions or sensitivity or allergy to certain foods or  ingredients
  • Parasitic dermatitis - Result from the bite, infestation or saliva of an external parasite like fleas, ticks, various types of mites and lice (not the human type)

Causes of Skin Reaction Due to Parasites in Dogs

The causes of skin reaction due to parasites in dogs lie in connection with the individual habits and behaviors of each type of parasite:

Fleas

These external parasites can be found virtually anywhere where other dogs and cats go, either seasonally or year-round since they thrive in warm and humid conditions. Adult females can produce up to 50 eggs per day and they can begin doing so within 24 hours of inhabiting your doggy family member.  These eggs can fall off your pet in his normal living routine to contaminate his bedding, the sofa, your bed (if he joins you there) and anywhere else he goes, whether inside or outside of the house (yes, in your car, too).  They can then hatch into tiny larvae and burrow into surrounding elements, spin their cocoon and live for weeks without a warm blooded host. The life cycle of a flea can range from 12 days to 6 months and, when they emerge from their cocoon as adults, the cycle begins all over again. The resulting health issues with your pet are the skin irritations, skin infections, anemia (since they feed on the blood of the host) and intestinal tapeworms of various types.

Mites

There are various species of mites, for example ear mites, sarcoptic mange mites, and demodectic mange mites and they all love dogs. Some are more contagious than others and some can only be passed from mother to offspring but they all cause severe skin reactions which are very unsightly, uncomfortable for your pet, and potentially dangerous to the health of the host as the constant irritation and scratching has the potential to create opportunity for skin infections, some of which can be very serious and difficult to treat successfully

Ticks

This is another parasite which gets on the host and buries its head into the skin of the host to feed on its blood. They’re found anywhere in wooded areas and underbrush as a general rule and aren’t really very picky about from whose blood they get their nourishment. They have the ability to spread serious infectious diseases like Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to their hosts.

Diagnosis of Skin Reaction Due to Parasites in Dogs

Diagnosing the skin reaction noted on your canine family member, as noted above, can be challenging for the average pet parent.  Your veterinary professional will need to get involved to find the source of the skin reaction.  He will need a complete history from you which includes dietary regimens, recent travel locations and conditions, frequency of bathing and grooming as well as the products used, whether your pet has been or is normally in the presence of other dogs or cats or other animal species, health history and vaccinations if this information is not immediately available to the treating vet, as well as the present symptoms noted, their severity and duration.  

Your veterinary professional will do a physical examination and will likely order blood testing for lab evaluation as well as skin scraping samples for microscopic review.  There may be other tissue or fluid samples he may require based upon his physical examination of your pet.  Urine and fecal samples will be tested since many of the external parasites can cause intestinal worms and other infestations which would require treatment.  Once the vet has accumulated all of this information, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed and initiated.

Treatment of Skin Reaction Due to Parasites in Dogs

Treatment of the skin reaction will depend, of course, on the cause of the skin condition.  If the condition is a result of an allergy or sensitivity, the treatment would ultimately include some restrictions or changes of dietary regimen, bathing and other grooming practices and products along with medications to treat the skin reaction.  

If the skin reaction is determined to be a result of a parasitic infestation, appropriate treatment will be initiated to reduce or eliminate the parasites.  This could come in the form of oral medications given to kill internal infestations of the parasitic intestinal worms or external topical solutions designed to deter the parasites from inhabitation on the skin or body of the host.  

The skin reactions themselves will need to be treated as well and this could be done with administration of steroidal medications to help relieve the itching and irritation, antibiotic medications given orally or intravenously for any bacterial infections which may be found to be present and topical solutions recommended to reduce the discomfort being experienced by your pet.  Some of these treatments may be continued or repeated over several weeks or months to coincide with the life cycle of the parasite determined to be at fault.  There could be changes required at home which may become permanent to prevent re-infestation or infection in future of this canine family member and prevention of infection of other dogs and cats with whom your pet associates.

Recovery of Skin Reaction Due to Parasites in Dogs

Recovery of your beloved canine family member will be dependent upon the parasite which has been determined to be at fault as well as the severity of the condition of the host when diagnosed.  For most average parasitic skin reactions and infestations, successful treatments provide good prognosis when they are applied appropriately and in a timely manner.  The success of the treatment and the reduction of future such episodes will likely require some changes in your pet’s environment, living conditions, dietary regimen and general lifestyle as recommended by your veterinary professional and these recommended changes may be for the lifetime of your pet.  Closely monitored follow up care and regular checkups may also be required to maintain the health of your beloved family member.  And, of course, copious amounts of the three A’s (affirmation, affection and attention) will also be much appreciated by your pet.