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An animal’s skin is a complex and versatile organ – but it can suffer from a range of conditions that can affect your pet’s general health.

Your pet’s skin protects it against the environment, regulates its body temperature, and enables it to have a sense of touch. Certain skin conditions can not only become severely debilitating for your pet, they may also cause very unpleasant symptoms in humans. In recent years, significant progress has been made allowing your vet to help most pets with skin conditions quickly and effectively.

The most common skin conditions in pets are atopic dermatitis, flea allergic dermatitis, and ear disease; over 70% of cases of ear disease are also secondary to atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is an inherited disease, characterised by itchiness and a reddening of the skin. The most commonly affected parts of the body include the paws, the underside of the belly, and the ears. The condition was generally treated with steroids, but a new medication is available which is just as effective as steroids, but does not cause any side effects.

Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in cats, causing itchiness as well as hair loss and scabs. This condition can be controlled with effective ectoparasite treatments, provided reinfestation can be prevented – this may require the treatment of other pets and a thorough cleaning of the home.

Ear disease is more often seen in dogs than cats and results in persistent headshaking, reddening of the skin of the outer ear, an acidic odour, and often severe pain. Primary factors causing ear disease are bacteria, yeasts, ectoparasites, foreign bodies and trauma. If treatment is started early, most cases of ear disease can be cured with ear drops, but management of an underlying atopic dermatitis and regular ear cleaning may also be required. Severe, chronic cases of ear disease can be cured by means of surgery.

If you suspect your pet might be suffering from a skin condition, contact your vet as soon as possible.

– Frithjof Praetsch BSc MRCVS
Severn Edge Vets

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