Footpad Injuries in Dogs

Injuries to the Canine Footpad

The footpad is considered the toughest part of the animal’s skin. It is the thick, spongy structure located on each digit and under the metacarpal and metatarsal joints of dogs and cats. This specialized part of the body absorbs the shock and pressure from standing and running. All footpads are made of a thickened layer of skin and a rough surface. In dogs the outer layer is usually pigmented.

Due to the location and function of footpads, they are often injured. The pads contain many blood vessels and they can bleed a lot when injured. Generally, footpad injuries include lacerations, punctures, abrasions, burns, traumatic pad removal and tumors. Due to the constant pressure and use of the foot, some extensive pad injuries do not heal.

What to Watch For

Signs of injuries to the canine footpad may include:

Diagnosis of Footpad Injuries in Dogs

Most pad injuries are diagnosed based on physical examination findings. Although lacerations, punctures, and abrasions are evident on examination of the pad, your veterinarian may not be able to determine the cause of the trauma.

Diagnosing tumors of the footpad requires additional tests. Under local anesthetic or general anesthesia, your veterinarian will surgically remove a biopsy sample of the suspicious mass and submit it to a pathologist for examination. The pathologist will review it and determine whether the mass is infectious, inflammatory or cancerous.

Treatment of Footpad Injuries in Dogs

The majority of footpad injuries are related to lacerations, punctures, and abrasions. However, veterinary care will vary, depending on the severity of the injury.

If your pet has a mild trauma such as a small laceration, abrasion or puncture, your veterinarian will thoroughly clean the wound with povidone iodine or chlorhexidine and apply a light temporary bandage. Your pet might require an Elizabethan collar to prevent him from licking at the feet.

For any bandaged paw, frequent bandage changes are necessary regardless of the severity of the injury. Your pet sweats from his footpads so moisture develops in the bandage. This can slow healing and result in infections. You will need to change his bandage every 2-3 days.

More extensive lacerations require proper management in order to heal. If your pet has an extensive laceration, each time he steps down, the pad spreads and the edges of the laceration spread apart. This makes healing difficult. As with minor cuts, your veterinarian will thoroughly clean the wound with povidone iodine or chlorhexidine. Then your veterinarian will suture the wound in an attempt to keep the edges of the laceration together to promote healing. He or she will then place a thick non-adherent bandage or even a splint to help reduce the pressure applied to the pad.

Some injuries to the pad involve a layer of the pad being torn off. Suturing is not possible in these situations. Your veterinarian will thoroughly clean the pad and apply a non-adherent bandage or splint.

The splint is used to display the forces of walking to allow the wound to heal and to help prevent infection by keeping the wound clean and dry. Application of Aloe Vera gel early in the course of treatment has also been found to promote healing.

Occasionally, severe injury to the pads results in a complete loss of the pad, and treatment is determined by which pad is lost. Those pads associated with the middle toes are most important for weight bearing. For cats and small dogs walking on the foot with missing pads may not cause any problems. However, for larger dogs or pets that spend significant time outdoors, a footpad graft may be necessary.

In this procedure, a nearby pad is grafted onto the area that is missing the vital pad. The pad located just above the primary pads (at the level of the wrist or ankle) can also be transposed to the injured area.

In severe cases, a toe can be removed and the pad associated with that pad transposed to the weight bearing area of the foot. This is considered a salvage procedure, however, and is only done in extreme cases.

Home Care of Footpad Injuries in Dogs

For minor pad injuries, soaking and cleaning with povidone iodine or chlorhexidine should be sufficient. Do not allow your pet to lick at the wound as this could result in infection.

For more extensive wounds, you should call your veterinarian.

Preventative Care

Some pad injuries are true accidents and difficult to prevent. Nevertheless, you can keep your pet’s environment safe by keeping the area free of sharp objects. Also, make sure you do not allow your pet to walk in areas that are littered with trash.

Getting to the Outside of Your Itchy Dog’s Skin Condition

It’s like the classic laundry pre-treatment ad for ring around the collar: You’ve tried drugging it out, you’ve tried immune-boosting it out, but you’ve still got an insanely itchy dog. What are you doing wrong?

You may be tackling the problem from the inside, with anti-itch medications and antibiotics, instead of from the outside – which, for many dogs, is where the problem really lies.

Many dogs with itchy skin and recurrent bacterial infections have a weakness in their skin known as a "barrier defect."

In normal dogs, the skin's barrier keeps water inside the body and substances like bacteria, yeast and pollens out. In dogs with a barrier defect, those substances "leak" into the deeper layers of the skin. Because the body perceives them as invaders, the immune system revs itself up to destroy them, bringing local inflammation to the area as part of the immune response.

That inflammation causes the itching, redness, and irritation we know as an allergic reaction. Most dogs react to the discomfort by chewing and scratching their skin, which further damages the barrier, allowing more bacteria and yeast to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, triggering more irritation, itching, and inflammation.

It gets worse: Dogs can eventually become allergic to the bacteria and yeast themselves, triggering an escalating cycle of infection, itching, chewing and licking that leaves the dogs hairless and in pain, and the owners broke from constant, often fruitless, visits to the veterinarian.

In the past, those skin infections have mostly been treated with antibiotics and steroids, plus or minus anti-fungal medications. In many dogs, that approach helped break the cycle by relieving pain, irritation, and infection, and even reducing itching by eliminating bacteria that were causing an allergic reaction in the dog.
Today, however, growing numbers of canine skin infections are by drug-resistant strains of staph, against which the antibiotics that used to control them are powerless.

Speaking at the recent NAVC Conference in Orlando, Fla., board-certified veterinary dermatologist Dr. Douglas J. DeBoer of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine said, “Over the past 10 years, there has been a substantial increase in the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in canine staphylococcal infections…. Many resistant strains are multidrug resistant, showing resistance to multiple classes of antibiotics, leaving the practitioner with few good options for treatment.”

The good news is that there’s a solution to this problem. The even better news is that it’s not costly, and the side effects are few to none. What is this miracle therapy?

“The new finding here is the effectiveness of topical therapy,” said Dr. DeBoer. “Although we’re used to thinking of topical products as adjunct treatments (used in addition to antibiotics), that thinking has changed, and dermatologists are now advocating that topicals be used instead of antibiotics wherever possible.”


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Not only do topical products kill even highly drug-resistant bacteria, he said, but reducing antibiotic use can help reduce the development of even more resistant bacteria.

That’s great for the public health and for clearing up a dog’s skin infections, but what about the itchy skin condition known as canine atopic dermatitis (AD) that’s the real culprit here? Are topical treatments the right approach for a dog with AD?

“Historically, AD was viewed as a disease that began on the ‘inside’ of the individual—the immune system,” Dr. DeBoer said. “More recently, this ‘inside-outside’ view has come into some question, and a different view is evolving.”

Research into AD now suggests that the “leakiness” of the dog’s skin is the initial problem that ultimately leads to changes in immune response and high levels of inflammation.

While there hasn’t been a great deal of research confirming this in dogs specifically, Dr. DeBoer said, “There is no question that the epidermal barrier functions are abnormal in atopic people… In fact, the more the concept of ‘barrier function’ is examined, the more it becomes obvious that barrier function is abnormal in AD, and this is a critical part of the pathogenesis of the disease.”

The Skinny on Cat Skin Conditions

Beneath your cat’s beautiful fur coat is a layer of skin that’s both incredibly necessary and potentially problematic.

Skin serves a multitude of purposes for cats. The largest bodily organ, it covers your cat’s muscles, skeleton, and internal organs. Your cat’s skin completes functions ranging from protection to body-temperature regulation to serving as a barrier that prevents loss of moisture.

Despite its usefulness, though, your cat’s skin also serves as the source of various common diseases, some of which can affect your feline for the duration of his life. Everything from basic fungal conditions to cancer can have an adverse impact on your cat’s skin.

As an informed cat owner, you should be aware of the benefits a cat’s skin layer provides and, more important, familiarize yourself with those skin conditions and diseases that are most likely to afflict your cat. The following guide will help you accomplish these objectives.

General Structure of a Cat’s Skin

A cat’s skin consists of an outer layer called the epidermis and an inner layer called the dermis. Both layers serve functions crucial for your cat’s survival.

The epidermis is the body’s environmental shield. It’s comprised of a durable layer of cells that are continuously formed and shed from the surface.

Underneath the epidermis is the dermis, which rests on a supporting layer of fat and very thin muscle. The dermis is composed of a network of connective tissue that also contains nerves, blood vessels, hair follicles, and sweat and oil glands.

Function of a Cat’s Skin

As is the case with most skin-covered animals, this organ performs a number of vital roles for cats. “Skin-deep” may equate to shallowness, but your cat’s skin has tremendous depth when it comes to usefulness.

Serving as the first line of defense, your cat’s skin prevents trauma, protects against invasion of microorganisms and chemicals, and regulates temperature changes within the body. Skin also reduces the risk of dehydration, acting as a reservoir for fat, electrolytes, water, carbohydrates, and protein.

Skin may reflect the state of health of a cat, as well as indicate the presence of internal diseases.

Skin Discharge or Odor in Cats

Skin odor is a common manifestation of a skin infection. In cats, the most common skin infections are bacterial and yeast infections. Skin discharge and/or odor can indicate that your cat may be suffering from a skin infection.

History is very important for proper diagnosis of skin diseases. Your veterinarian will ask questions regarding the age of onset, progression of disease, and response to previous treatments. In some cases, a biopsy may be necessary to establish a final diagnosis.

Treatment for bacterial skin disorders is typically done using antibiotics. However, in the case of a localized bacterial infection, topical therapy with vet-prescribed shampoos and conditioners can also prove effective.

Skin Lesion or Sore in Cats

There are many different types of skin lesions that can occur in the skin of cats. Some lesions are a manifestation of a dermatological disease while others are a manifestation of an internal disease.

A thorough physical exam and various diagnostic tests can help determine the cause of skin lesions or sores and direct a course of treatment. The underlying cause will dictate the treatment, which can range from oral medications to minor surgery.

Cat Scratch Fever: Allergic & Parasitic Skin Diseases

If your cat spends a large portion of his time scratching, then it may be a sign that your feline is suffering from an allergic or parasitic skin condition.

Flea allergy is the most common allergic skin disease in the United States. Cats with flea allergies tend to scratch their back ends leading to lesions on the rump, hind legs, tail, and belly. Other allergic reactions in cats can result from food, insects, and airborne allergens.

Parasitic skin conditions can result from exposure to fleas, lice, and ear mites, among other sources. While many of these conditions can be relieved with proper medication, it’s possible for the itching to recur once the medication dosage is complete.

Winter Skincare for Cats

Winter weather can cause cats to have dry, flaking skin. To help your cat survive the dry, chilly weather with a healthy skin and coat, here are a few suggestions:

  • Avoid bathing your cat during cold weather, thus leaving more essential oils within the skin. If bathing is absolutely necessary, use a moisturizer.
  • Brush your cat often to remove dandruff and any shedded hair.
  • Feed your cat a high-quality diet containing nutrients that support good skin health.

Skin Cancer in Cats

Guide to Dealing with Your Dog’s Allergies

Overview of Dealing with Dog Allergies

One of the most difficult conditions that dog owners have to deal with, are allergies and the problems that they cause in their dogs. In the spring and early summer, the calls start rolling in: “Doc, help me with my dog’s skin allergies!”

Allergies are one of the MOST frustrating problems for both the owners and the veterinarian. Owners often need to pursue several treatments before finding an effective one and can feel as though nothing really works for their dog. The treatments’ effects are temporary, the symptoms come back, or the treatment that works has substantial side effects. On the veterinarian’s side, the treatment options for skin allergies are rarely if ever ideal, and no single product works consistently and permanently for all dogs and allergies.

What are Dog Allergies?

Dog allergies are common, and they can present a chronic lifelong condition that pets and owners struggle with throughout their lives. Allergies are also not confined to a single specific problem. “Allergies” are a very general term to describe a group of skin allergies that may be caused by a multitude of factors in dogs. The medical terms commonly used by veterinarians include allergic dermatitis and cause-related terms including flea bite allergy, food allergy, and atopy.

Allergies are immune reactions to a given substance (allergen) that the body recognizes as foreign. These reactions occur following an initial exposure to the allergen, often coupled with the subsequent development of a hypersensitivity that causes itching and inflammation upon future exposures.

What are Most Common Dog Allergies?

The most common classes of allergic dermatitis seen in dogs include flea bite allergies, food allergies, and atopy. This last class is an allergic condition caused by inhaled allergens or the absorption of allergens through the skin. It is common for some dogs to have multiple allergies; they can be allergic to chicken but also to grass pollens, molds, tree pollens, and fleas. Many dogs develop multiple allergies to many different things, which can further complicate the treatment process.

What are Signs of Allergies in Dogs?

The first symptoms that owners typically see in allergic dogs are most related to skin allergies. They include scratching, licking, and chewing or biting the skin, feet, and ears.

Other signs of signs of allergies in dogs include:

  • red, raised, scaly areas on the skin
  • chewing at the paws
  • scratching the muzzle and rubbing it on the ground or with the paws
  • shaking the head
  • bumps, crusts, or pus-filled vesicles on the skin
  • increased skin pigmentation
  • thickened skin
  • loss of hair
  • brownish stains around the home (caused by salivary staining)
  • scratching the ears
  • head shaking (suggesting an ear infection)

What are spring, summer, and fall allergies for dogs?

Some allergies in dogs can have seasonality; that is, they are more prevalent or severe during certain seasons. While symptoms differ between individuals, here are some general rules for the most common dog allergies:

  • Food allergies are not seasonal in most cases because the dog has been eating the ingredient all year.
  • Flea allergies can affect dogs in the spring, summer, and fall. Veterinarians sometimes see the worst flea allergies in the fall when the fleas have had all summer to multiply and the flea quantities are highest.
  • Tree and grass pollen allergies can be worst in the spring.
  • Mold-based allergies can be bad year-round but are worse for many dogs in the fall and winter. Some molds will develop on fallen leaves and in damp, moist basements.
  • Dust mite allergies can be bad year-round but some dog owners find them worst in the winter once the house is shut up and dogs have less exposure to the outdoors.

Many dogs will begin to develop allergies between the ages of one and two years and will become allergic to more things as they age. Some dogs will appear to have seasonal allergies early in life which will become more consistent as they develop more allergies to more things. Dogs with severe allergies will eventually be itchy year-round.

Seasonally-affected dogs may not need medications during certain parts of the year. Close observation and good records may help to identify seasonal dog allergies and keep them manageable.

What causes dog allergies?

Most scientists believe that dog allergies are an inherited disease. Once a dog is diagnosed, minimizing exposure to the offending problem is one option. Treatment to control the symptoms and the body’s response to the allergens is another.

Guide to Dealing with Your Dog’s Allergies

Overview of Dealing with Dog Allergies

One of the most difficult conditions that dog owners have to deal with, are allergies and the problems that they cause in their dogs. In the spring and early summer, the calls start rolling in: “Doc, help me with my dog’s skin allergies!”

Allergies are one of the MOST frustrating problems for both the owners and the veterinarian. Owners often need to pursue several treatments before finding an effective one and can feel as though nothing really works for their dog. The treatments’ effects are temporary, the symptoms come back, or the treatment that works has substantial side effects. On the veterinarian’s side, the treatment options for skin allergies are rarely if ever ideal, and no single product works consistently and permanently for all dogs and allergies.

What are Dog Allergies?

Dog allergies are common, and they can present a chronic lifelong condition that pets and owners struggle with throughout their lives. Allergies are also not confined to a single specific problem. “Allergies” are a very general term to describe a group of skin allergies that may be caused by a multitude of factors in dogs. The medical terms commonly used by veterinarians include allergic dermatitis and cause-related terms including flea bite allergy, food allergy, and atopy.

Allergies are immune reactions to a given substance (allergen) that the body recognizes as foreign. These reactions occur following an initial exposure to the allergen, often coupled with the subsequent development of a hypersensitivity that causes itching and inflammation upon future exposures.

What are Most Common Dog Allergies?

The most common classes of allergic dermatitis seen in dogs include flea bite allergies, food allergies, and atopy. This last class is an allergic condition caused by inhaled allergens or the absorption of allergens through the skin. It is common for some dogs to have multiple allergies; they can be allergic to chicken but also to grass pollens, molds, tree pollens, and fleas. Many dogs develop multiple allergies to many different things, which can further complicate the treatment process.

What are Signs of Allergies in Dogs?

The first symptoms that owners typically see in allergic dogs are most related to skin allergies. They include scratching, licking, and chewing or biting the skin, feet, and ears.

Other signs of signs of allergies in dogs include:

  • red, raised, scaly areas on the skin
  • chewing at the paws
  • scratching the muzzle and rubbing it on the ground or with the paws
  • shaking the head
  • bumps, crusts, or pus-filled vesicles on the skin
  • increased skin pigmentation
  • thickened skin
  • loss of hair
  • brownish stains around the home (caused by salivary staining)
  • scratching the ears
  • head shaking (suggesting an ear infection)

What are spring, summer, and fall allergies for dogs?

Some allergies in dogs can have seasonality; that is, they are more prevalent or severe during certain seasons. While symptoms differ between individuals, here are some general rules for the most common dog allergies:

  • Food allergies are not seasonal in most cases because the dog has been eating the ingredient all year.
  • Flea allergies can affect dogs in the spring, summer, and fall. Veterinarians sometimes see the worst flea allergies in the fall when the fleas have had all summer to multiply and the flea quantities are highest.
  • Tree and grass pollen allergies can be worst in the spring.
  • Mold-based allergies can be bad year-round but are worse for many dogs in the fall and winter. Some molds will develop on fallen leaves and in damp, moist basements.
  • Dust mite allergies can be bad year-round but some dog owners find them worst in the winter once the house is shut up and dogs have less exposure to the outdoors.

Many dogs will begin to develop allergies between the ages of one and two years and will become allergic to more things as they age. Some dogs will appear to have seasonal allergies early in life which will become more consistent as they develop more allergies to more things. Dogs with severe allergies will eventually be itchy year-round.

Seasonally-affected dogs may not need medications during certain parts of the year. Close observation and good records may help to identify seasonal dog allergies and keep them manageable.

What causes dog allergies?

Most scientists believe that dog allergies are an inherited disease. Once a dog is diagnosed, minimizing exposure to the offending problem is one option. Treatment to control the symptoms and the body’s response to the allergens is another.

Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE) in Dogs

Overview of Canine Systemic Lupus Erythematous

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease in dogs, which is one characterized by a specific antibody or cell-mediated immune response against the body’s own tissues. The reason why autoimmune diseases develop is unknown. Individual genetic make-up may play an important role in their development. Systemic Lupus Erythematous in dogs is commonly referred to by the shortened name of “lupus”. 

Systemic lupus affects many organs and is a life-threatening disease. Because antibodies are produced against a variety of organs, clinical signs vary depending on the organs that are affected. Often, severe damage in the kidneys and blood vessels occurs. In other cases, the red blood cells are attacked and destroyed by the immune system, which causes anemia.

Both people and dogs can develop systemic lupus erythematosus. Some breeds of dogs are at increased risk, such as collies, German shepherds and Shelties.

What to Watch For

Affected dogs with Systemic Lupus Erythematous may be presented with a variety of clinical signs. These may include:

  • Fever
  • Lameness
  • Easy bruising
  • Skin lesions, such as scabs, sores on the paws and inside the mouth, crusted feet, excessive dandruff and hair loss
  • Scabs on the tips of the ears and on the tip of tail
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and reluctance to walk due to joint pain
  • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
  • Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)

    Kidneys frequently are affected. The microscopic filters of the kidney (called glomeruli) are affected resulting in loss of large amounts of protein in the urine. Kidney failure also may contribute to the anemia observed in animals with systemic lupus erythematosus.

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    Diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE) in Dogs

    Because this disease can manifest itself in a variety of ways, the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus can be very difficult. Your veterinarian will probably recommend the following:

  • Blood tests to check for the presence of liver or kidney damage and to evaluate for anemia and low platelet count
  • Urinalysis to evaluate for kidney damage including excessive protein loss in the urine
  • Antinuclear (ANA) test. The ANA test identifies the presence of antibodies against self-components found in the nucleus of the cell. It is the best test currently available and is positive in 90 percent of dogs with systemic lupus erythematosus.
  • Specific tests like LE cell preparation and antinuclear antibody test. These tests are not 100 percent reliable and may be affected by drug treatment and concurrent illness. The LE cell preparation is positive in approximately half of dogs with systemic lupus and is not performed much any more.
  • Biopsy. If skin lesions are present, a small piece of skin is examined under the microscope to look for pathologic changes typical of this disease.
  • Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE) in Dogs

    Unfortunately, as many as 40 percent of dogs with systemic lupus erythematosus die within one year of diagnosis, due to either the disease itself or complications of therapy. However, your veterinarian may recommend the following treatment:

  • Immunosuppressive treatment is required. It includes a combination of high doses of glucocorticoids (prednisone) and other immunosuppressive drugs (cyclophosphamide, azathioprine, chlorambucil). Therapy is life-long.
  • Antibiotic treatment. Animals with systemic lupus erythematosus may develop bacterial infections that require antibiotic therapy.
  • Home Care and Prevention

    Dogs receiving glucocorticoids should be monitored carefully for adverse effects. These may include gastrointestinal ulceration resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, dark tarry stools, loss of appetite, increased water consumption, increased urinations and increased appetite.

    Your dog will need frequent evaluation of his blood to insure that cell counts do not decrease too much, because these drugs have the potential to cause bone marrow suppression. Your dog also may need antibiotics to combat secondary bacterial infections.

    Therapy is life-long and has the potential over an extended period of time to result in potentially life-threatening adverse effects.

    There is no prevention for systemic lupus erythematosus.

    In-depth Information on Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE) in Dogs

    Diagnosis In-depth

    A definitive diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus requires two major signs accompanied by a positive ANA test or one major and two minor signs accompanied by a positive ANA test. A probable diagnosis requires one major or two minor signs with a negative ANA test.

    Major Signs

  • Arthritis involving multiple joints that does not erode the cartilage
  • Muscle inflammation
  • Skin inflammation involving blisters
  • Increased protein levels in the urine
  • Other concurrent immune diseases such as immune mediated hemolytic anemia (low red blood cells), thrombocytopenia (low platelets) and leukopenia (low white blood cells)
  • Quick Reference Guide to Identifying & Combating Dog Allergies

    Reference Guide to Identifying & Combating Canine Allergies

    Dog allergies are one of the most frustrating conditions for dogs and their owners. There are a variety of treatment options because there is no one safe and effective treatment. Scratching is just one sign your dog might have an allergy.

    Allergies can affect different body parts in different ways. There are four main allergy categories: airborne, flea dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and food.

    Here in our house, we have dealt with all but the flea allergies (thanks to our regular prevention regimen). There’s a lot of good information out there, but when you’re going through it with your dog, it can be difficult to find resources that zero in on what you need in a manageable way.

    With that in mind, here’s a quick reference guide to dog allergies. Please consult your vet if your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms.

    Airborne Allergies

    These occur when your dog inhales particles that he’s allergic to.

    • Agents: pollen, dust mites, and mold
    • Symptoms: sneezing, pawing at or rubbing face on floor or furniture, chewing/biting/licking skin, recurring ear infections
    • Notes: Airborne allergies are mostly seasonal.

    Flea Dermatitis

    This occurs when your dog has a reaction to a flea bite. You can pretty easily prevent this by giving him regular flea prevention.

    • Agents: flea bites
    • Symptoms: Same as airborne, but can become more severe, resulting in hives and anaphylaxis.
    • Notes: More common in dogs that have outdoor access. If you give your dog a topical flea prevention treatment and you still have flea problems, ask your vet about prescribing an oral medication.

    Contact Dermatitis

    This occurs when your dog touches something that he’s allergic to.

    • Agents: household cleaners, detergents, grass, plastic
    • Symptoms: appearance of red bumps/irritation on points of contact (like paws, stomach, and tail), scratching/chewing/licking, hair loss, hot spots

    Food Allergies

    These kick in when your dog ingests something he’s allergic to.

    • Agents: Can be anything, but the most allergenic foods are protein sources like beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and eggs. Soy, corn, and wheat are also common food allergens.
    • Symptoms: GI upset indicated by audible stomach gurgles, vomiting, and diarrhea. May also cause respiratory issues.
    • Notes: Dogs aren’t born with food allergies; they get them after eating a certain food for a while. The most thorough way to diagnose a food allergy is to do a diet trial or put your dog onto hypoallergenic food so you can figure out what might be the culprit. Your vet can help you with this.

    Treatments Options for Allergies in Dogs

    There are many ways to tackle allergies. Depending on the type of allergy, the allergen, and the dog, you might have to try a few things (or a combination of things) to find the right treatment. Remember to enlist the guidance of your vet when commencing this battle. I’ll start with the easier strategies and work up to the more serious treatments.

    • Air filters: To help combat airborne allergens, use an air filter or two in the house. You might even see a difference in yourself!
    • Allergy shots: These are expensive and intense, but a lot of dogs benefit from them. They work a lot like human allergy shots. Ask your vet about them.
    • Antibiotics: These are typically prescribed if the allergy has given rise to a bacterial or yeast infection.
    • Antihistamines: Over the counter human meds (such as Benadryl or Zyrtec) are safe to give your dog to help curb itching, but you must work with your vet on dosage. Be aware that antihistamines don’t address the allergy itself; they just ease the symptom to prevent your dog from giving himself an infection from scratching or biting.
    • Apoquel: A new allergy medication on the market that has been shown to be very effective in dogs. 
    • Brushing: Brushing your dog regularly can help keep allergens from settling on his fur and skin.
    • Depomedrol: Is a type of steroid; see under steroid.
    • High quality food: Work with your vet, nutritionist, or local independent pet food provider to find a food that is high-quality and made with ingredients that don’t cause allergic reactions. A grain free food or limited ingredient foods are options your veterinarian may discuss.
    • Nutraceuticals/Supplements: Adding sources of Vitamin C, Omegas, Vitamin A, Selenium, Zinc, and other power-packed nutrients to your dog’s food (and sometimes water) can help address the root cause of all kinds of allergies.
    • Paw wiping: If your dog goes to town on his paws after being outside, simply wiping his paws off with a towel or prescription-medicated pads from your vet can do a lot to get rid of allergens. Do this every time he comes inside, and you might see a big difference.
    • Prednisone: Is a type of steroid; see under steroid.
    • Steroids: These are prescribed when the antihistamines don’t work. They are pretty powerful though, and can have some substantial side effects.
    • Switching food/water bowls: This is a strategy that is more commonly used with cats versus dogs. If you notice your dog getting acne or irritation around his mouth area, it could be the bowls you’re using. Try switching to glass or ceramic and see what happens.
    • Topical creams, ointments, and shampoos: These are prescribed to help heal visible hot spots, irritation, and infections that are a result of the allergy. There are different varieties that have different levels of medication.

    Acute Moist Dermatitis (Hot Spots) in Dogs

    Overview of Canine Hot Spots

    Acute moist dermatitis, also known commonly as “hot spots”, are localized, moist, reddened bacterial infections of the skin in dogs. A hot spot starts because something irritates the skin. The body’s response is either to itch or become inflamed. The itching then causes the dog to lick or chew the area, which further damages the skin, and creates a cycle of itching, scratching and chewing.

    Hot spots can be caused by anything that irritates the skin and initiates an itch-scratch cycle, but the most common irritants are fleas. Other causes are allergies (flea, inhalant, food), parasitic disease (sarcoptic and demodectic mange), anal gland disease, poor grooming, tick and mosquito bites, burrs, and summer heat. They are most common in long-haired and heavy-coated breeds, and are more prevalent during the summer months.

    Typical locations for “hot spots” are the side of the face and the flank areas. Golden retrievers, Saint Bernards and young dogs seem to be predisposed to acute moist dermatitis.

    What to Watch For

    Typically, your dog will exhibit the following:

  • Areas of hair loss with very red skin that is moist and oozing
  • In some cases, the skin becomes crusty or scabbed
  • Intense scratching. Hot spots are extremely itchy and your dog will scratch without letup
  • Diagnosis of Hot Spots in Dogs

    Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize acute moist dermatitis and exclude other diseases. However, your veterinarian can usually make a preliminary diagnosis based on a history of rapid onset and the clinical appearance of the lesions.

    Treatment of Hot Spots in Dogs

    Treatment for acute moist dermatitis in dogs may include one or more of the following:

  • Clipping and cleaning of the affected areas. Lesions often are more extensive than they initially appear. Clipping the hair in the area is important to allow proper cleaning of the affected skin. Antibacterial solutions (chlorhexidine) or drying solutions (Burrow’s solution) combat infection and decrease pruritus (itchiness).
  • Interruption of the pruritic cycle. This is crucial to successful treatment. Once the cycle has been triggered, it is important to stop it so as to prevent self-mutilation. Orally-administered cortisone-like drugs often are used for a short period of time to make the dog more comfortable. Your dog may be more hungry and thirsty while receiving corticosteroids – this is a common side effect of this medication. As a consequence, the dog may need to urinate more frequently than normal. Some dogs may also pant as a consequence of corticosteroid therapy.
  • Secondary bacterial infection must be treated when present. In some cases, damage is so extensive that bacteria proliferate, resulting in secondary infection. In such instances, an antibiotic may be prescribed for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Identification and treatment of the underlying cause is important to prevent recurrent episodes of acute moist dermatitis. Most cases are secondary to flea allergy and aggressive flea control usually is necessary.
  • Home Care and Prevention

    Clean the affected areas with antibacterial and astringent products daily until healing is complete. Make sure that your dog has sufficient water while receiving corticosteroids. House soiling incidents may occur during corticosteroid therapy if the dog is not allowed outdoors frequently enough.

    If your dog has flea allergy and is prone to develop hot spots, you should be aggressive with your flea control program. In addition to treating the environment, you also should apply an appropriate insecticide or repellent to your dog to prevent flea bites.        

    In-depth Information on Canine Acute Moist Dermatitis (Hot Spots)

    Hot spots (also called acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis) are localized, moist, reddened areas on the skin caused by self-mutilation. Acute moist dermatitis is a very common skin disease of dogs. hot spots are frequently seen in long-haired and heavy-coated breeds, and are more prevalent during the summer months.

    The precise sequence of events leading to acute moist dermatitis is not known but anything that can initiate an itch-scratch cycle can lead to acute moist dermatitis. Common underlying causes of hot spots include allergies (flea allergy, atopy, food allergy), parasitic diseases (sarcoptic and demodectic mange), anal gland disease, clipping and grooming. Less common causes of hot spots include ringworm (dermatophytosis), drug reactions, autoimmune disease in which the body fails to identify self-components and reacts against normal tissues, and vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels).

    Clinically, the lesions of acute moist dermatitis are secondary to self-inflicted trauma. Strangely, even severe self-trauma in some dogs will not create a hot spot while in others minimal self trauma may do so.

    The role of bacteria in the development of hot spots also is not clear. Some cases of acute moist dermatitis seem to be initiated by folliculitis (i.e. inflammation and infection of hair follicles), and this seems to be common in Saint Bernards and Golden retrievers. Other affected dogs do not seem to have an important bacterial component and respond to clipping of the hair, cleansing of the skin and corticosteroid therapy.

    Acne in Dogs

    Overview of Canine Acne

    Canine acne is a benign self-limiting disease of the chin and lips of young dogs. Short-coated dogs, such as boxers, bulldogs and rottweilers, are at increased risk for acne. The condition starts at puberty around 5 to 8 months of age. Most dogs improve with age and the condition typically resolves after one year of age.

    The exact pathogenesis has not been established. Genetics, hormones and trauma have been hypothesized to play a role.

    What to Watch For

    Signs of Acne in Dogs may include: 

  • Red bumps (papules) and blackheads (comedones) are usually noted on the chin and lips of young dogs. They may become infected and pus can be expressed from these lesions.
  • When infection is present itching may develop and the dog may start rubbing his face against carpet and furniture.
  • Diagnosis of Acne in Dogs

    A clinical diagnosis of acne is usually made considering the breed, the age of onset and appearance of the lesions. However, there are other diseases that may look similar to acne that need to be ruled out.

  • Demodicosis. This is a non-contagious type of mange, and it is important to do skin scrapings to rule out the possibility of demodicosis. Your veterinarian will scrape an area on the chin until there is some capillary bleeding and then examine the material under a light microscope.
  • Ringworm (dermatophytosis). This disease may also start with lesions resembling acne, so a fungal culture may be necessary. Hairs are plucked and submitted for culture, and results are available in 10 to 14 days.
  • Puppy strangles. This is another disease that could start with lesions similar to the those seen with acne. The main difference is that, animals with puppy strangles are depressed and anorexic (poor appetite), while dogs with acne are otherwise healthy.
  • Treatment of Acne in Dogs

    The treatment for acne is typically topical treatment. Some gels are similar to those people use for acne, like benzoyl peroxide. It is important that you use only the products recommended by your veterinarian, as your dog’s skin is thinner and more sensitive than yours. The average product containing benzoyl peroxide for human acne contains 10 percent benzoyl peroxide while the maximum concentration that could be used on a dog is 5 percent.

    Some treatments may include:

  • Washes containing benzoyl peroxide twice weekly. Only veterinary products should be used. Most shampoos contain 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, such as Oxydex® shampoo.
  • Some dogs may benefit from topical antibiotics like mupirocin to limit the secondary infection. These products should be used twice daily and gently massaged on the area until completely absorbed.
  • Topical steroids may be used to decrease the swelling and the inflammation on the area. Gloves should be used when applying these products.
  • In severe cases systemic therapy may be necessary and you will need to administer pills once or twice daily for a prolonged period of time.
  • Antibiotic therapy like cephalexin may be necessary for 6 to 8 weeks in chronic cases.
  • Retinoids are not usually used in dogs with acne, as the formation and development of canine acne appears to be different from people’s acne.
  • Home Care

    Trauma should be avoided to limit scar formation. You may be required to apply antibacterial lotions or ointments.

    In-Depth Information on Canine Acne

    Acne is a disease of young dogs of short-coated breeds. Dobermans, bulldogs, Great Danes, boxers, German shorthaired pointers and rottweilers appear to be over-represented.

    This disease is a localized folliculitis, which is an inflammation of the hair follicle, and furunculosis or rupture of the hair follicle restricted to the chin and lips. Comedones are the first lesions noted on the chin. They result from follicular dilation and plugging with excessive keratin formation. Erythema and alopecia may be present in more advanced cases.

    Papules, pustules, firm nodules and fistulous tracts may develop as a consequence of a bacterial infection such as folliculitis and furunculosis. Lesions ulcerate and discharge a purulent exudate. Swelling of the chin is variable but it could be severe in some animals.

    Regional lymphadenopathy may be prominent and pain and itchiness may be intense in animals with a secondary skin infection. Cysts may develop in chronic cases.

    Clinical Presentation of Dogs with Acne 

  • Onset of the disease occurs between 5 and 12 months of age. Acne in dogs tends to improve with age. Occasionally, it may persist in adulthood.
  • Erythema (redness), crusted papules and furuncles develop on the chin and lips. Hair follicles appear to be plugged (comedones or black head) with keratin.
  • With secondary infection, draining tracts may develop and exudate may be present.
  • In chronic cases secondary depigmentation may develop.
  • Differential diagnoses for this presentation include juvenile onset demodicosis with a secondary bacterial infection, dermatophytosis, contact dermatitis, and early stages of mild juvenile sterile granulomatous dermatitis and lymphadenitis (puppy strangles).
  • In contrast with juvenile cellulitis, dogs with acne do not have lymphadenopathy, and lesions are not present on the pinnae. In addition, dogs with acne are not systemically ill.
  • Ear Dermatitis (Inflammation of the Skin on Ears) in Dogs

    Overview of Canine Ear Dermatitis

    Dermatitis involving the ear is an inflammation of the pinna (external part of the ear lying outside of the head). There are a variety of causes of ear dermatitis, ranging from infections to parasites to trauma causes problems in dogs. 

    Causes of Canine Ear Dermatitis

    Causes of Canine ear dermatitis may include: 

    Infectious Causes

  • Bacterial
  • Parasitic – Mange (demodectic, otodectic, sarcoptic and notoedric) and ringworm
  • Immune Causes

  • Allergy (food, contact)
  • Drug reaction
  • Cold Agglutinin Disease
  • Pemphigus
  • Trauma

  • Lacerations, burns, chemical injury
  • Secondary to disorders within the ear (foreign body, tumor, etc…)
  • Systemic Causes

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease)
  • Cancer
  • Miscellaneous Causes

  • Solar (sun-related) dermatitis
  • Frostbite
  • Fly strike
  • Seborrhea (dry, scaly skin)

    Since there are so many different causes of ear dermatitis, diagnosis, treatment and affect on the animal will vary.

    What to Watch For

    Signs of dermatitis of the ears in dogs may include: 

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching and rubbing of ears
  • Pain around the ears
  • Hair loss on the pinna
  • Malodorous ears
  • Bleeding
  • Diagnosis of Ear Dermatitis in Dogs

    Baseline tests, including a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile and urinalysis, are usually within normal limits. Additional tests may be necessary to determine the underlying cause of the ear dermatitis in dogs. Commonly recommended tests may include: 

  • Skin scrapings
  • Allergy testing
  • Fungal culture
  • Bacterial culture
  • Endocrine testing
  • Cytology
  • Biopsy
  • Treatment of Ear Dermatitis in Dogs

    The treatment in dogs depends on the underlying disorder.

  • Antibiotics/antifungal medicine to treat infectious causes
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Antihistamines for dogs with allergies
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Anti parasitic drugs for dogs with parasitic infections
  • Food trials for dogs with allergies
  • Home Care and Prevention

    Follow all instructions given to you by your veterinarian. If your dog has a recurrence of signs, contact your veterinarian at once. The best way to prevent ear dermatitis is to remove any offending substances from the environment. Limit sun exposure and feed hypoallergenic diets when appropriate.