Although the thought of endless summer is enticing to people, some dogs are not quite as thrilled at the prospect. Warmer weather brings a bounty of allergens, parasites, and infectious agents that can make your dog miserable with incessant itching and painful skin lesions.
While some grooming and scratching is natural (we do it, too), excessive scratching, licking, or biting are indicators of serious problems that should be corrected at home if possible, and at a veterinary hospital if home treatment fails.
Possible causes of skin disorders
While the various causes of skin disorders may be categorized as either allergies, parasite infestations, or bacterial and fungal infections, your dog may suffer from various disorders that may be either occurring simultaneously but unrelated to each other, or from one skin problem resulting from an existing issue (such as an allergic reaction to an existing parasite infestation).
Just as humans suffer from seasonal allergies, so do their dogs. However, allergies in dogs usually manifest themselves in different ways, such as severe itching in the paws and ears. However, they may suffer from the same respiratory issues as their owners.
You can give the dog a bath to wash away allergens at the first signs of allergic reactions, and clean their paws whenever they enter the house to keep them from bringing in allergens on their feet. Keeping the home as free as possible of allergens will also help, with thorough vacuuming and the use of air purifiers.
This may also happen if your dog's food is changed to a lower quality type with an excess of carbohydrates, either while you are on vacation with the dog or if the dog is boarded. Switching back to its regular food will usually solve this issue over time.
Mange mites can produce a skin condition called Sarcopic Mange, which results in excessive itching, crusty skin, and hair loss. This disorder is highly contagious, and the mites spread quickly to other animals and humans. However, humans are not suitable hosts, and so cannot get mange, but itching and a rash may occur until the mites are eradicated from your pet.
This will take multiple treatments from a veterinarian to kill the mites and their larvae, and the dog should be quarantined because of the rapid infestation of other animals once they are exposed to the mites.
Flea infestations alone can cause problems with itching, blood loss, and anemia, but fleas do the most damage when a dog has an allergic reaction to flea bites. The resulting disorder, Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), is the most common skin disorder for dogs in the United States. Even one or two fleas can cause an allergic reaction with intense itching, hair loss, and skin lesions.
While retail flea-control products may remove fleas and their eggs, they must be used on a regular, scheduled basis to be effective, and not discontinued when the presence of fleas and symptoms are not readily apparent.
Veterinary care may be needed for severe allergic reactions or infestations that are difficult to eradicate.
Bacterial and fungal infections are often parasitic in themselves, and take advantage of issues such as open wounds from FAD and other disorders. They may also occur alone in areas of the body that may tend to remain moist in the summer heat, such as under drooping ears and tails.
They must be treated with antibiotics or anti-fungal medications after a diagnosis at a veterinary hospital determines the exact bacteria or fungus that is causing the problem.
Don't let summer be a bummer for your dog (and you). Get your dog treated at the first sign of skin problems.