You will know when something is amiss with your furry friend when he starts to scratch for no apparent reason. He’s had his bath and is not sick, but those beautiful brown eyes are miserable. Soon after, unsightly eczema will raise its ugly head in the form of red, inflamed skin and even oozing sores.

Eczema in Dog

In more than 60% of dog patients present with recurrent skin disorders. These are family pets in major distress due to this severe condition. Signs are initially seasonal but deteriorate and occur year round. The tragedy is that those dogs affected by chronic irreversible dermatitis will pay the ultimate price by being euthanized — therefore we need to take action as soon as possible to avoid painful goodbyes. This involves a knowledge of the causes of canine eczema and how to both prevent and treat it.

CAUSES

The environment

According to a study1 performed by the International Committee on Allergic Diseases of Animals (ICADA) in 2010, initiating factors for AD include increased exposure to environmental allergens (especially house dust mites and pollens), the ingestion of food ingredients, and flea or other insect bites. Flare-ups normally occur only if the dog is
hypersensitive to these different allergens, and if the allergen load is sufficiently high. Inflammation and scratching exacerbate the condition.

Many skin diseases are significantly affected, for better or worse, by a change in the animal’s environment. Please do not, however, dig up your lawn until absolutely convinced that the grass is indeed the culprit!

The role of nutrition

Nutrition is extremely important and has to be acceptable to the owner and dog in terms of availability, economics, good presentation, low odor and handling ability. With a new puppy, however, the caring owner must be aware of the little one’s potential susceptibility to lurking colorants, preservatives and sugars for palatability — all of which are far removed from the raw meat and partially digested vegetable matter that small, new body is designed to handle.

If we do have to feed packaged feeds, the more expensive brands are less likely to be associated with problems. In dogs, as in humans, food allergies can manifest with clinical signs of AD, hives and other
syndromes.

The current gold standard for the diagnosis of food allergy involves the exclusion of certain food products for at least eight weeks until scratching has ceased. If required, the original food may be reintroduced whereupon any tendency to scratching indicates where the problem lies.

Parasites and the immune system

All dogs carry mange mites and pregnant bitches pass these on to the fetus. Whether or not the pups will develop a reaction depends on the strength of their immune system at birth and how they will adapt to life in general. In perfect health a balance exists between dis-ease and health. The puppy period of 8 to 16 weeks, pimples, hair loss and scratching are often of signifi cance. In the majority of cases any reaction or manifestation as dis-ease is transient, requiring no treatment, just patience.

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