Allergic skin conditions
Allergies are common in dogs and cats. The flea and other insects are the most common allergens, but allergies to environmental materials including pollens, dust mites and mold spores, or foods are also common. The ease and success of treatment depends on the inciting cause. Flea or food allergy is relatively easy to deal with while “pollen” allergies are more problematic and often require allergy testing.
Staphylococcus bacteria is the most common cause of skin infection that we see. The bacteria can be transmitted easily from animal to animal and rarely from animal to human, and is found on all breeds of animals.
The most typical symptoms are a tender or itchy rash with numerous pustules.. The infection is diagnosed using skin tests and microbiology and treated with topical and/or oral antibiotics. Some strains are antibiotic resistant and require stronger medicines for treatment. Prognosis is good.
Ear infections with bacteria or yeast are common in dogs, but also occur in cats. The infections are caused by a trigger - for example excessive moisture due to swimming, ear mites or allergies - that needs to be resolved along with the infection. Some organisms like Pseudomonas or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus are particularly difficult to deal with and can take months of continual treatment.
Fungal infections from external sources are not as common in central New York as they are in other parts of the United States. The most common fungal disease seen by the dermatology group is an overgrowth of Malassezia yeast, which are part of the normal flora of an animal’s skin. In these cases, the yeast have to be treated aggressively but the underlying trigger event - for example, allergies, greasy skin disorders or excessive swimming - also needs to be resolved. The most common external source of fungal disease is ringworm, but we occasionally see animals with more severe internal fungal disease that have spread to the skin.
Immune-mediated disorders are fairly common in companion animals. In some diseases, the animal’s immune system is fighting off a foreign substance, such as a fungal organism, and the skin gets attacked accidentally. Drugs are the most common triggers for this type of reaction. In other cases, the animal’s skin isn’t recognized as belonging to the animal and the immune system tries to reject the skin. These are the autoimmune diseases and require lifelong treatment.