Itchiness, dryness, and rashes are things that most pets will have at some time had to deal with. But in some cases, these problems can become a recurrent annoyance and result in a large amount of worry and discomfort for the dog in question. The skin is the barrier between the dog and the outside world, keeping them safe from foreign objects and microbes, so a significant degradation of the skin can result in serious consequences if left unattended. To ensure that your dog’s skin is kept in good condition and that they do not develop the problems that commonly affect badly-groomed animals, you will need to institute some kind of skin care regimen. But what kinds of things need to be used in order to keep the dog in good shape and how should they be used? In this article, we will address these questions, as well as identifying the potential hazards that can be posed by an improperly designed skin care program.
The most frequently observed skin problem that dogs tend to suffer from is dry skin. This usually becomes visible when flakes of dead skin start to appear in the dog’s fur (commonly referred to as dandruff) and the animal starts to scratch itself with more regularity than usual. Although not regarded as immediately dangerous to the dog’s health, dry skin can become a problem if it is allowed to persist, as the dog will inevitably start to damage the skin with scratching, opening the way for infections to set in. Also, the constant discomfort that the dandruff can cause may result in the dog’s mood gradually deteriorating, with them becoming more glum as time goes on.
There are a variety of reasons that dry skin can occur, but the most common ones are fungal infections and a bad diet. However, there are some pre-emptive actions that dog owners can take to prevent these issues from occurring in the first place. The first is to correct the dog’s diet. This is quite easy to do, as there are plenty of resources available that detail a huge variety of different foods that your dog will be happy to eat. The most important thing, though, is to get them to eat a good amount of fatty acids such as omega-3, which can be found in abundance in foods such as fish. If, however, your dog has an aversion to fish, you can simply buy an omega-3 supplement which can be mixed into their normal food. Fatty acids play an essential role in maintaining the dog’s skin and coat, and allow for the production of the oils that prevent the skin and hair from getting dried out and damaged. Fungal infections meanwhile, can be prevented with a regular bathing routine, which will keep the dog’s skin free of potential contaminants and will massively improve the animal’s hygiene in general. Note that specially formulated shampoos will be needed in order to clean the dog, as products meant for use on humans will often contain chemicals that are poisonous to dogs. You should also try to not bathe the dog too regularly as this can dry out the skin – one bath each month should be sufficient to keep the dog clean.
Another common skincare issue is the presence of parasites on the dog. These will cause direct damage to the animal’s hide and will provoke significant scratching and general discomfort. The most widespread parasites are fleas and mites, as they can easily jump from dog to dog and become endemic in certain regions. To stop your dog from contracting these parasites, you can simply keep your pet away from animals that may look particularly unkempt or which have mange (a visible buildup of dead skin in their fur) and thereby stop the parasites from being transmitted. However, for greater peace of mind, a flea collar can be attached to the dog. This device will emit a scent that fleas find particularly unpleasant, keeping them away from the animal.
Lastly, there are allergies. This condition is caused by the dog’s immune system triggering a response to a benign environmental stimulus (be it a certain ingredient in some food or a mote of pollen), as it sees it as a potential threat. This will then cause problems such as hives, itching, sneezing and even breathing difficulties. An allergy can range in severity from mild to life-threatening, but the methods of treatment are much the same across the board. Most vets will simply advise you to try and avoid exposing your dog to the allergen, but if this is not possible then they may recommend the use of antihistamines or exposure therapy. Antihistamines are drugs that suppress the immune system’s response to allergens, lessening or even eliminating the symptoms felt by the dog. These drugs will need to be taken regularly and often come in the form of a pill, which some owners may find difficult to convince their dogs to eat. Exposure therapy, on the other hand, will gradually expose the dog to steadily increasing amounts of the allergen, until their immune system learns that it is not a threat. However, this can be time-consuming, making antihistamines the most common measure taken to fight allergies.
If kept in good health, dogs can be loving and loyal companions who are always enjoying life. However, if their health fails then they can suffer some very unpleasant symptoms. By making sure that something as preventable as a skin problem is dealt with before it can become an issue, you can be assured that your dog will thank you for it. Also, the other benefits associated with a good diet and standard of hygiene will help your dog live a longer and fuller life in general.