Dr KG Umesh: Many disease conditions of the skin cause itching in pets, and often allergies are a common cause of itching—pets can be allergic to substances in the environment, such as inhaled pollen and dust (called atopy), to food, or to parasites. Bites of parasites such as fleas, mites, lice, ticks, and flies can be responsible for itching. Skin infections due to bacteria, ringworm fungus, or yeast commonly cause itching, and secondary infections are a common additional cause for greater itching in pets with allergies, fleas, and other primary skin disorders. Less commonly, certain immune-mediated diseases, boredom and anxiety and some skin tumours may stimulate itching. Because so many different skin problems can cause itching, diagnostic tests from simple skin scrapings to biopsy are used for determining the cause of itching. Treatment is extremely variable, since itching is the only symptom of the problem. Therefore, the medications and other treatment strategies chosen depend entirely upon the underlying cause of the itching and should be discussed with your veterinarian. Balanced and complete nutrition is most important for healthy skin and hair coat.
Q: My eight-year-old Dalmatian seems to be losing balance and seems wobbly. Do advice.
– Ajeet Banerjee, Kolkata
Dr KG Umesh: Weakness or wobbly gait in pets may be caused by problems in musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiovascular and endocrine systems. While problems in any of these systems can produce gait abnormalities, neurological or orthopaedic pathologies are the main causes of lameness and abnormal movement in dogs. Your vet may localise the problem based on physical examination finding and he may suggest lab work, radiograph, etc to find the underlying cause.
Q: My dog is limping and his paw pads seem swollen. Please advice.
– Brijesh, Thane
Dr KG Umesh: Pododermatitis refers to skin disease involving the feet (paws). Bacterial infections are frequently involved, although a variety of conditions may be underlying causes. For example, allergies can predispose pets to a variety of skin diseases, including Pododermatitis. Embedded hairs or other foreign bodies (plant awns, splinters, thorns, etc.) can cause Pododermatitis with nodules or draining tracts in the feet. Several parasites, most notably Demodex mange mites and hookworm larvae, can cause skin irritation and secondary bacterial infection of the feet. Contact with irritants such as chemicals or trauma can also be a triggering factor. Treatment is aimed at correcting or avoiding any underlying conditions and at treating any infection present. Moisturising and disinfecting the feet can help healing, and soaking the feet daily in a dilute, purpose-made antiseptic solution is also recommended. Please get him examined by your vet ASAP.
Q: Rover, my GSD, is having hair loss and is excessively chewing his paws. His genital area also seems red and itchy. Our vet is saying it is a skin infection. Do help.
– R Chawla, Ahmedabad
Dr KG Umesh: Dogs shed hair due to their unique hair growth cycle and seasonal hair shedding. For example, Photoperiod (light intensity) is main factor besides nutrition, genetics, health that can cause dog to shed hair excessively during some seasons and is physiological/normal. Dogs also may shed excessive hair because of stress, harsh climate and general illness. If the degree of shedding appears abnormal, or if he has signs of serious skin problems or fleas, consult your veterinarian.
Medical conditions such as thyroid disease or skin allergies can also cause excessive shedding. Itching of paws and genital area are common signs of allergic diseases. Some tips to prevent or reduce hair shedding include keeping skin and hair coat healthy by regular brushing, bath and feeding balanced food which is rich in nutrients like zinc, fatty acids and high quality proteins.
Q: I have a five-year-old Labrador, who is on dog food. She has never been fussy about food but lately is eating very less. In fact she is not having her dog food and we have to feed her chapatis like a little child and boiled boneless chicken/liver. She has lost weight and is not so active and bright. Please help.
– Payal, Chittoor
Dr KG Umesh: There are number of reasons for your pet to behave like this. For example, she may have fear for new food, previous bad experience with the food, poor palatability or simply, she may be a fussy eater. Some dogs may refuse food/skip meals, when they have consumed more energy than they would require (which is common in our experience). Please make sure that you are not overfeeding her and monitor her body weight at least every two weeks.
If she continues to refuse food, contact your vet and discuss whether there may be medical cause(s) for this and in some instances, blood work may be required to find the underlying cause.