Dog groomers and owners need to recognise when something is wrong with the dog's skin and coat, and to understand what action to take.
Coat problems and skin disorders come in many different forms, and are caused by a combination of factors, such as incorrect immune function, unsuitable diets, and parasites.
Regular grooming, brushing and combing will help you to spot any skin disorders early on, so they can be dealt with promptly. You many need to seek veterinary attention at the first sign of an issue.
Many dogs suffer from food intolerance's without you knowing. Digestive upsets are often symptomatic of a food allergy, though they can also be caused by a number of other conditions. Your vet should be the first port of call.
All breeds can suffer a low tolerance to gluten, found in most dog biscuits and complete, dry foods. A rice-based diet is often recommended for dogs with gluten intolerance, as rice is a grass, not a cereal.
Some dogs develop skin problems after being vaccinated. Initially, the cause may not be obvious, but on enquiry one often discovers a booster shot or even a puppy first jab will have been administered within three months of the dog developing skin problems.
Eczema This can often be attributed to poor feeding, and an allergic reaction to parasite invasion, such as mites, lice and fleas. In general terms, parasites, which live on the skin, are the major cause of skin disease in dogs. The signs are red sore patches, sore spots or tiny blemishes that cause irritation, scratching and which sometimes weep. The skin will very often feel hot to touch.
Dogs, like humans, have individual smells, and certain breeds have their own distinctive odours. Some oily-coated breeds, such as the Italian Spinone, exude quite a strong odour, that people either love or hate, and some spaniel breeds can smell very "doggie" when wet.
If you are concerned about doggie smells, why not sniff the parents of the pup you intend to buy before taking the plunge, to make sure you are compatible?
Fleas, lice and mites are parasites that live on the dog, feeding from his blood. They can all cause the dog to become incredibly itchy, sometimes causing the dog to scratch so intensely that coat and hair loss leave the dog looking bald, with the skin looking red, raw and bleeding. Prevention and early treatment is the answer, and using the correct preparation is essential.
Fleas cause a huge number of skin allergies. The most common pest that invades the dog has a life that is completed on the dog. Eggs are laid in the dog's bed, and around the house (see here for the fly cycle)
The secret is to analyse the problem as soon as the dog starts to itch. Fleas can be seen crawling across the skin when the hair is parted, though sometimes they have already hopped off the dog or cat to breed in the carpet.
A good way to determine if fleas are present is to comb along the skin with a very fine-toothed comb, lay the comb or its contents on a clean sheet of tissue and wet it. If fleas are present, invariably the tissue will show red spots, and this will show you the blood sucked from the skin by the parasite.
Anyone who has seen ticks on dogs will shiver at the thought of these blood-sucking horrors. Dogs have died from disease carrying ticks, though some countries suffer from these parasites far worse than others. Dogs frequently pick up ticks from walking in woods and fields. Ticks look like a wart to begin and get bigger as their sacs fill with blood sucked from their host. Surgical spirit and alcohol kills ticks and make them easy to remove.