One of the more concerning and most visually distinctive symptoms of a developing illness is a rash. This can be a simple patch of redness on the skin or it can take the form of a multitude of raised bumps, hives or blisters that may be painful or itchy. While a simple rash may seem relatively inconsequential and most will clear up without needing any real treatment, it can be the first sign of a health condition that may require veterinary attention. Oftentimes, the appearance of a patch of irritating skin can be a sign of poisoning or infection, which can prove extremely dangerous if the animal is left unattended. Furthermore, a dog that has developed a rash will usually start to scratch itself profusely in order to soothe any itching, possibly damaging the skin in the process. Because of this, it is wise to seek a second opinion from a vet unless the origin of the rash is already confirmed as being minor.
Causes And Prevention Of Rashes
Irritants – One of the typically less serious potential causes of a rash is the dog coming into contact with some kind of skin irritant. The vast majority of these are natural and can be found in plants such as stinging nettles or ragweed. Once the dog touches the plant, they will develop a localized rash around the point of contact, which may blister and feel itchy for a few hours before clearing up after a day or so. More dangerous however, are irritants found in plants such as hogweed and poison ivy, which can be incredibly painful and even impact upon the dog’s behavior, making them lethargic or even aggressive if somebody tries to touch them. Worse still are chemical irritants which can be found in many household cleaning products and may be left within easy reach of the dog.
To prevent the dog from being harmed by these substances, there are several things that owners can do. The first is to remove any poisonous plants from their property, which will stop the dog from getting stung during the course of their normal day. The second is to avoid letting the dog off their leash in areas with high concentrations of potentially dangerous plants (especially around the edges of parks, where plants such as poison ivy love to grow in dark, seldom-pruned corners). Lastly and most importantly, it is crucial to store dangerous chemicals securely, as any energetic or bored dog could get into a ground-level cupboard and knock over a bottle of detergent or cleaning fluid.
Parasites – Various parasitic organisms that live both inside the dog and on the outside of its skin can result in the appearance of a rash. The most obvious form of this phenomenon is ‘mange’, which is a clump of dead skin, dried blood and oils that becomes stuck in the dog’s fur. This usually happens as a result of the activity of fleas or mites, who cause extensive damage to the skin and massively accelerate its shedding process as they feed upon the dog. A rash can also appear as a result of worms, with roundworm being the most common as it grows just beneath the skin and will often cause irritation.
To combat parasites, owners will typically be able to find vaccines and preventative medication that can be used to kill the most prolific species in their area. That said, these will usually prove ineffective against other forms of parasites, making their usefulness somewhat limited. It is more effective to train the dog to avoid the most common transmission vectors, namely unfamiliar dogs and random feces that could contain eggs. This training will usually produce long-lasting results, especially if it is periodically reinforced.
Allergies – Just as many humans can suffer from things such as coughing and sneezing during springtime and may break out in hives or swell up when exposed to certain foods, dogs can also be sensitive to some substances. While this will usually only result in mild discomfort for the animal, some allergies can be extremely dangerous, causing breathing difficulties and even problems with the heart. To prevent allergies from developing, there are several things that can be done. The first is to attempt to remove the allergen from the dog’s life. While this is almost impossible with common plant allergies, it is effective when the allergen is found in the dog’s food, as their diet is entirely controlled by humans. Another tactic that can be employed is to provide the dog with antihistamines, which will lessen the effect of the immune system’s response to the allergen (i.e. preventing inflammation and things like coughing and sneezing). However, some owners may be reticent to try this as it can compromise the immune system’s ability to deal with other problems. The most effective way to deal with allergies in the long run is to get the dog accustomed to the substance that is causing the problem so that it no longer has an effect on the animal. This is known as ‘exposure therapy’ and requires ever-increasing doses of the allergen to be administered to the dog over a long period. While time consuming, it does mean that the animal will eventually no longer suffer from skin irritation due to that particular allergen again.
Infections – Skin inflammation is also a frequent symptom of a localized infection of the area. This will often be bacterial or fungal in nature and can be easy for a dog to pick up from the ground or objects that it may encounter around the house. Bites from other animals can also become infected fairly quickly, especially if they are not noticed by the owner due to their small size or because they are obscured by the dog’s hair. Fungal infections are typically the result of poor hygiene, making them the easiest to defend against, as simply washing the dog regularly and making sure that dirt is unable to accumulate in skin folds and in clumps of hair will prevent most spores from taking root. Bacteria, however, are somewhat harder to deal with. Regularly checking the dog for small wounds and making sure to properly disinfect any that are found is essential for preventing dogs from becoming infected by these microbes. Additionally, preventing moisture from building up under the dog’s coat (especially in long-haired breeds) on a regular basis can prevent fungi and bacteria from taking root and multiplying, as such an environment is a perfect breeding ground for them.
Effects Of Prevention
Most of the causes of skin problems in dogs are closely linked to poor hygiene and general bad health. As a result, taking active measures to prevent the occurrence of rashes in dogs can have positive consequences for their owners as well. Owners who take the extra time to bathe their dog slightly more frequently will have a cleaner house by virtue of the animal not inadvertently spreading dirt around. Fleas, for instance can cause just as much bother and irritation to humans as they do dogs and can sometimes necessitate the fumigation of an entire house. Stopping them from becoming an issue before they start to spread can save an incredibly large amount of money. Additionally, by making the effort to familiarize themselves with the local flora and fauna, pet owners can identify and avoid potentially hazardous plants and insects that could potentially hurt them just as much as the dog.
Although it is common to think of serious skin problems as being something that only happens to dogs who are left to fend for themselves or otherwise mistreated, animals from perfectly caring homes can also develop rashes from time to time. By understanding the causes of such skin problems and how to prevent it, owners can prevent a lot of unnecessary discomfort, stress and veterinary bills. Additionally, taking an active interest in the well being of a pet can improve the lives of the whole household and can enable them to live a happier and fuller life in general.