Mountain Animal Hospital


Skin Disease

Skin disease is very common in cats and dogs!  There are many possible reasons why your pet may develop skin disease but here are a few common causes:

–          Fleas

–          Skin mites (for example Scabies and Demodex)

–          Bacterial or yeast overgrowth (*usually secondary to another problem – like allergies*)

–          Allergies (for example to fleas, food or environmental pollens, molds and weeds)

–          Fungal infections (ringworm)

–          Hormonal imbalances (for example thyroid disease and Cushing’s disease)

On your pet’s first visit to the clinic for skin disease, it may not be necessary to test for every possible cause, but for pets who return to the clinic often for skin problems it is very important to determine why the disease it occurring.  If we know what is triggering a flare up, it allows us to suggest an effective treatment or management plan.

*It is important to remember that some of the common skin disease (like allergies) are never actually cured, but managed in the long term.*

Here are some tests we might do for ongoing or recurring skin disease

–          Flea comb – this simple test checks to see if there is evidence of fleas or flea dirt on your pet’s skin.  Cats and dogs can actually develop an allergy to the flea saliva making them very sensitive to even a very small number of fleas on their skin! *Even a negative flea comb does NOT rule out fleas as a potential problem!  Fleas move quickly and can be difficult to find!  We may recommend a trial treatment for fleas if your pet is very itchy*

–          Skin scrapings – this test can be done in the clinic and checks for skin mites.   Demodex mites are relatively easy to find, but Scabies (or sarcoptic mange) mites can be very difficult.   If your pet is very itchy and we are suspicious of mites, we may recommend a treatment trial for Sarcoptic mange.  This involves three or four topical treatments of Revolution, 2 weeks apart.

–          Skin cytology – this involves using clear tape on your pet’s skin to remove any surface bacteria or yeast.  It is then stained and examined under the microscope.  If bacteria or yeast are found, we may recommend a special shampoo or oral antibiotics or medication for yeast.

–          Fungal culture – this involves removing a few hairs or rubbing a sterile toothbrush over your pet’s coat and sending it to the lab to see if they can grow dermatophytes (the cause of ringworm).

–          Bloodwork – this can be used to screen your pet for thyroid disease or Cushing’s.  It is also used to assess overall body function which is important if we will be prescribing any medication like prednisone for itch or itraconazole for yeast overgrowth.

–          Food trial – If we are suspicious of a food allergy, we may prescribe a special “hypoallergenic” diet for your pet.  These diets must be fed for 8-12 weeks.  During this period, it is important that your pet receives no other foods (including treats, table scraps, rawhides, flavoured medication, ect).