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Causes Of Dog Skin Itching

Fleas | Ticks | Lice | Ringworm | Mange | Eczema | The Anal Glands


When a dog itches, the best way to get rid of the itching is to remove the cause. Sometimes the cause of the dog skin itching is very obvious and in such cases the elimination of the condition will be a very easy problem. Plain ordinary filth is probably the commonest cause. If the animal is laden with fleas, ticks, or lice, it is very likely that when the parasites are destroyed the itching will disappear. Of course the situation is not al­ways so simple. If the itching is caused by mange mites or ringworm, the problem becomes more difficult because these parasites cannot be seen with the naked eye and have to be identified microscopically. Once the parasite is positively identified, the special medication which can destroy the para­site can be applied. Then treatment becomes a matter of routine and the only demand made upon the owner is just a little patience. But the cause of the itching can be much more obscure. It may be due to certain allergies, to infection, or to certain chemical irritants and the like. In such instances the veterinarian will have a more difficult problem on his hands. In any case, the dog owner should understand that, as in human medicine skin diseases can be so complex that they often demand painstaking treatment by highly competent specialists, so skin diseases can be complex in our canine patients. The following discussion will consider some of the commonest types and causes of skin irritation and what to do about them.

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Flea  Louse 

Sarcoptic Mange Mite

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Demodectic Mange Mite Ear Mange Mite

Female Tick

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  Male Tick  
Common External Parasites of the Dog
Fleas

Anyone who has the least acquaintance with household pets knows that fleas are extremely common in the dog. Their significance is usually underestimated. They are a source of considerable annoyance to the animal and are not averse to biting humans, though their affiliation with man is only tem­porary. Ordinary infestations are readily controlled by simple hygienic measures, such as bathing with flea soaps or dows­ing with flea powder. But in heavy infestations the animal should be placed under professional care in order to avoid more serious conditions that may result from further neglect.

Fleas may be responsible for transmitting certain tape­worms not only from dog to dog but also from dog to man. This is probably the main reason why the kissing of dogs is emphatically ill advised. These parasites may cause variable degrees of skin irritation; they may complicate other skin conditions; and they have been mentioned as a possible source of various allergic manifestations. Fleas may work great havoc when they are present in enormous quantities. One occasionally hears of a dog that has died as a consequence of the depletion and exhaustion caused by these tireless workers of discomfort.

Fleas are rather small and darkish, about ten times the size of the head of a pin. They can be seen quite readily by pushing the hair to one side and noting them running for cover. They are seen much more readily on the underside of the body, especially in the area of the abdomen and the inner surface of the hind legs, where the hair is much more sparse than in other parts of the body.

A thorough bath will eliminate large numbers of these pests. If oil of tar is incorporated into the shampoo in a con­centration of about one tablespoonful per quart, it not only will assist in the eradication but will also tend to operate as a mild flea repellent, besides giving the dog a pleasant antiseptic odor. Denis flea powder is the commonest household remedy and is very effective if conscientiously applied. Five-per-cent D.D.T. powder will do the job with satisfying com­pleteness. Oil emulsions of D.D.T. should not be used because they are often toxic to the animal. In recent years a new chem­ical has been discovered which is completely sensational. The name of the chemical is malathion, and it is readily available in many commercial preparations. Since these preparations vary in potency, there are slight variations in their use. The dog owner should find out all the essential details about malathion from his veterinarian.
It is almost needless to mention that in addition to ridding the dog of fleas, simple hygienic measures should be used to rid the pet's bedding and the rest of the household of fleas in order to avoid any reinfestation.

It is hardly possible to keep the dog completely free of fleas under ordinary circumstances. Sooner or later a dog will pick them up either from another dog or by nosing around in an area that a flea-infested dog has previously oc­cupied. But if the above-mentioned treatments are followed at the first sign of any infestation, it is very unlikely that fleas will ever pose a significant problem.

Ticks

There are eight species of ticks that affect dogs. These may cause considerable annoyance to the animal and some of them act as vectors in the transmission of human disease. Some of the species may also invade the household and this is naturally a source of considerable distress to the owner. They may hide in the folds of curtains, in baseboards, and in other woodwork, and present an annoying sanitary problem. Where there are marked seasonal variations in climate, ticks cause their greatest havoc in the spring and summer. In warmer climates they thrive abundantly throughout the year.

Ticks are very easy to identify. The adult females have a tan to gray greenish cast, eight legs, and may be as large as house flies. The males also have eight legs, are dark-brown to black in color, and are about one fifth to one tenth the size of the females and sometimes even smaller. They appear most commonly on the head, neck, ears, armpits, and be­tween the toes, though they may be found on any part of the body. They may cause varying degrees of skin irritation, though often the itchiness caused by ticks is very slight or negligible. Ticks do not run over the body like fleas. They usually adhere directly to the skin, feel like small bumps on it, and sometimes even present the illusion of being small growths. They adhere so tightly to the skin that when they are pulled off with a tweezer, they will almost invariably pull a small piece of skin with them, with the result that a small blood spot will show up at the point where they are re­moved.

Dog ticks are extremely hearty parasites and are very re­sistant to ordinary parasitic medications. They depend on dog's blood for survival and the blood sucked from a single bite is often sufficient to keep them alive for from eight months to two years. Until recently the routine medications have been only moderately effective against ticks. But with the advent of malathion the problem is now quite simple to handle. Your veterinarian will advise you in the use of this wonderful chemical. It is often suggested that dogs with ticks should be clipped. This assists the treatment by permitting better penetration of the medication. Further, if new infesta­tions occur they can be seen more readily on a clipped animal.

Ticks live mostly in grassy and wooded areas. It is there­fore advisable, when exercising the dog, to avoid such areas wherever possible. This is, of course, more practicable in cities than in country places. In any case, if the animal does happen to pick up an infestation it should be attended to at the earliest possible moment. Malathion may also be used to eliminate these pests from the household. Details on its house­hold use should be requested from an exterminator.

Lice

Two varieties of lice are very common in the dog. One lives by sucking the dog's blood, and the other gets its nour­ishment by feeding on the scales on the superficial layers of the skin as well as on hair. The blood-sucking variety is more troublesome, but for the most part all louse infestations are highly amenable to treatment and are responsible for serious complications only in cases of very extreme neglect.

Lice appear as dull, whitish, flake-like accumulations ex­cept when they are engorged with blood. Then they have a dark, dirty-grayish appearance. They are about the size of large flakes of dandruff. On close observation they may be noted to move and are thus readily identifiable with the naked eye. However, it is advisable to make a positive diagnosis by microscopic examination in order to determine the specific species and also to get an impressive idea of what the para­site looks like. The eggs, or nits, adhere firmly to the hair, and are seen as white specks about the size of the head of a pin. Lice seem to have a special preference for the head, neck, and ears, though they may be found on any part of the body. The blood-sucking variety is much more dangerous than the other because if it is present in sufficient numbers it can cause depletion and exhaustion of the animal much more readily. In rare cases even death may ensue as a result. However, the resistance of the animal is so great that this practically never occurs.

Lice give rise to symptoms of scratching wherever the parasites occur. Since they appear so often on the ears, shak­ing of the head and digging at the ears are fairly constant symptoms. Animals seem to tolerate lice better than many other parasites and there is often less scratching than with flea or mange infestations. Since scratching of the skin may give rise to a dermatitis which may obscure complicating invasions of other parasites, the animal with lice should also be checked for other parasitic infestations.

Lice are very responsive to treatment. Creolin, derris pow­der, D.D.T. powder, household vinegar, and best of all malathion are effective against lice. It is best that treatment be administered under professional supervision in order to avoid possible toxic reactions with these medications. Clip­ping the hair will assist the treatment. Many nits and lice will thus be removed with the hair, and the medication applied will have a better chance to make contact with and destroy the remaining parasites. Proper combing and grooming at all times is always advisable because cleanliness discourages lice. Where lice infestations have occurred, proper measures should be taken to restore household cleanliness so that rein-festation may be prevented.

Ringworm

Ringworm in dogs is a fairly common parasitic disease caused by various fungi. It may be spread from animal to animal by direct contact or by exposure to contaminated quarters. It is also mildly transmissible to man. If it is given prompt attention the disease is readily amenable to treat­ment, but cautious measures must be taken because of its contagious nature.

In its most typical form, ringworm is characterized by small, denuded, raised, circular areas, varying in size from about a dime to a nickel. The areas may be pinkish to dirty-gray in color, or covered with brownish-yellow crusts or scabs. The condition most commonly starts on the head, neck, or limbs, but may appear on any part of the body. As the disease progresses, the small lesions increase in size and small patches may fuse to form larger ones. Scratching or rubbing may cause the lesions to have an irritated or bloody appearance. In many cases, however, there is little or no scratching. In certain cases, the patches of affected skin may not have the typical circular shape, being of variable size and of every conceivable shape.

Neglect of the condition may result in its spread over the entire body of the animal. The ensuing discomfort may lead to lack of appetite, gradual emaciation, exhaustion, and death. However, since the ordinary case is treated within a reasonable time, such drastic end results are exceedingly rare.

Though ringworm is so characteristic that the veterinarian usually makes his diagnosis directly from the symptoms, positive diagnosis can be established only by microscopic identification. Ringworm is treated by the application of various fungicides prescribed by the veterinarian. Though the treatment itself is relatively simple, it may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to destroy all the parasites. This depends on the severity of the infestation and the amount of resistance of the particular organism to treatment. New drugs are constantly making their appearance and the pros­pects of quick recoveries are rapidly improving. One of these is an oral medication called griseofulvin. Preliminary research has yielded sensational results. Because of the contagious and transmissible nature of the disease, animals, with severe cases of ringworm are occasionally put to sleep.

Mange

Mange of dogs is a parasitic skin disease caused by certain mange mites. There are three species of mites that commonly affect dogs, and these give rise to the sarcoptic, demodectic, and otodectic (ear) varieties of the disease. Ear mange is the most amenable to treatment because the mites do not bur­row beneath the skin as in the other forms, and remains local­ized in the ear. Sarcoptic and demodectic mange usually demand a long course of treatments, and if the matter is not given prompt attention a valuable animal may be rendered worthless. All these varieties of mange are contagious to other dogs and the sarcoptic form is transmissible to man. The disease affects dogs of all ages, though the demodectic form seems to occur more commonly in the young of short-haired breeds. Diagnosis is established by microscopic indentifica-tion of the parasite.

Ear mange gives rise to an inflammation of the lining membrane of the ear, with its accompanying symptoms of shaking of the head and scratching of the ears, and the accumulation of ear wax and other exudations incident to the inflammation. The condition is treated with appropriate insecticides that destroy the mites, and antiseptics that soothe and heal the irritated membranes. The disease process is readily eliminated.

Sarcoptic mange usually starts around the eyes, bridge of the nose, and base of the ears, but sometimes it is first noted on the abdomen, chest, under the front legs, or on the inner surface of the thighs. Red points develop into small blisters that rupture and eliminate a discharge that forms scabs. The animal emits a mousy odor. The itching is very intense, the irritation soon becomes generalized, and the distinguishing characteristics of the disease become obscured. In treating sarcoptic mange, it is advisable first to clip long-haired ani­mals and to remove the scabby accumulations. Sulphur prepa­rations are most often recommended, though sensationally effective results have been reported with benzyl benzoate. The latter preparation must be used with caution because it may give rise to toxic reactions. Chlordane and malathion are very useful in the treatment of sarcoptic mange.

Demodectic mange usually starts around the eyes, elbows, hocks, and toes, though it may appear anywhere on the body. It is characterized by patches of denuded hair which gradually become reddened and copper-colored. There is very little itching at this stage, but soon the irritation becomes com­plicated by invading germs, and the resultant irritation be­comes intensely itchy, though rarely as severe as the sar­coptic form. Treatment of demodectic mange is often very discouraging because of the care, time, and expense involved. The most effective remedies are usually built on a rotenone basis. Chlordane is also very helpful.

Eczema

Eczema is a common disease of causing dog skin itching and is characterized by a variable degree of redness or an accumulation of watery or pus-like discharges with subsequent formation of crusts and scabs. There is intense itching, frequent loss of hair, and the accumulation of a considerable amount of scurf. If the skin has a weeping appearance as a result of the inflamma­tion, it is referred to as moist eczema. If it is dry and scaly, it is called dry eczema. Eczema exhibits a marked tendency to become chronic.

The disease is most common during the warmer seasons of the year, and for this reason the popular term of summer eczema has been applied to it. This is a misnomer. Eczema is more prevalent in the summer time because the predis­posing and causative factors of the disease are more plenti­ful then than during the other seasons. Eczema may be caused by an allergic reaction to foods of high protein con­tent, or it may be due to a hypersensitivity to certain chemicals or drugs. Such external parasites as fleas, ticks, lice, fungi, and chiggers, as well as internal parasites, may be direct or predisposing causative agents. Dietary imbalance or im­proper hygiene may also be responsible for it. Anal-gland infections, discussed below, will often start eczematous mani­festations.

Eczema usually starts at the base of the tail or in the hip region, and then spreads over the rest of the body. Clinically, this would appear to be due, most often, to the discomfort caused by anal gland involvements. Recent reports indicate that it might also be due to derangements of sweat glands at the base of the tail. In any case, eczema may start on any part of the body. The animal scratches intensely, and the severity of the condition depends upon the amount of dam­age that the animal does to itself. In long-standing cases, or chronic eczema as it is properly called, the buy accutane skin care becomes thickened, the irritation less intense, and the condition more resistant to treatment.

Occasionally there are spontaneous recoveries from eczema. But the average case is treated by eliminating the cause and applying soothing and healing lotions or ointments (usually made with a sulphur base) to the irritated parts. It is always advisable to evacuate the contents of the anal glands, and to administer supportive treatment in the form of blood, digestive, or general body tonics. These may be given by in­jection or orally in tablet or liquid forms. Often the injection of various protein substances, as an auxiliary measure, exer­cises salutary effects in alleviating severe eczemas. Cortisone preparations have also been very effective in treating eczemas.

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The Anal Glands

Derangements of the anal glands in dogs are among the commonest causes of numerous other involvements, and their importance in the maintenance of pet health is too often overlooked. These structures are small outpouchings near the end of the rectum and are analogous to the scent glands of lower animals which in dogs, in the course of their evolu­tion to higher forms, have become modified and have lost their function.

These glands occasionally become filled with secretions and excretions of the gland membranes. The filling of these glands makes the rectal 

passage narrower, and when the animal is ready to move its bowels the pressure of the stool against these full pouches causes considerable pain and annoyance. As a consequence, the animal will rub on its bottom, bite at its back end or at its hip region, and sometimes will even bite its feet, apparently as a compensatory reaction. This combina­tion of symptoms makes the average owner think of worms, and he is often quite startled when the actual condition

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When the animal finds that passage of its stool is painful it will withhold it as long as possible. The liquid portion of the stool will gradually be absorbed and the stool itself will get hard and dry, thus making passage still more difficult and painful. This may lead to constipation. Constipation may lead to vomiting, because it is logical that if the back end of an animal's digestive tube is plugged up, what is taken in at the front end cannot readily be retained. A severe gastroen­teritis, characterized by vomiting and diarrhea, may ensue. Another condition that may result from occluded anal glands is a severe irritation of the skin. The difficulty starts with the biting at the back end, which sets up a local skin irritation. In time the animal feels itchy all over, scratches over its whole body, and the irritation becomes generalized.

In cases of prolonged neglect the anal glands may abscess and break through the skin on either side of the anal opening, thus forming a pathway of pus (fistula) between the glands and the outside.

Occluded anal glands are quickly relieved by applying pressure on these pouches by placing the thumb on one side of the anal opening and the forefinger on the other, and then squeezing out the contents. To soothe the inflamed glands and to prevent a recurrence of the condition of dog skin itching, a rectal oint­ment of the type used for human hemorrhoids should be ap­plied. These preparations should be applied before the dog goes to bed because, if it is done during the day, the ointment will pass out with the animal's stool and will not be able to exercise its beneficial effects. If the glands prove to be exces­sively troublesome, they may be removed surgically.

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How to Clean Out the Anal Glands

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