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A Brief Look at Pet Skin Problems

The skin is an interesting organ of the body. While there is no doubtthat it is a complex physical and physiological structure, we need toremember a few basic factors when dealing with skin problems in pets.

1) The skin can only respond in a limited number of ways to a vast array of challenges. Thus few clinical signs concerningskin can be attributed to a single cause.

2) Many skin problems are multi-factorial. So again, the clinical pictureyou and the vet see can rarely be ascribed to a single cause.

3) The above two points mean that it is often very difficult to make aquick, definitive diagnosis in skin cases.

4) The longer a skin condition exists before it is investigated,

the less likely it is to be satisfactorily resolved.This is becauseover time, other factors are likely to come into play and complicate the picture and the diagnostic process.

5) Skin takes a long-ish time to repair and heal. Thus the efficacy ofany treatment can normally only be judged over a period of weeks or even months.

6) Skin problems that start off occurring seasonally (typically summer)

are usually linked to an allergy. However, not all allergies need start offwith a seasonal pattern of occurrence.

7) In cats and dogs, the skin is typically the "target" organ for allergies. Thusalmost all types of allergies can manifest clinically as an itchy skin.

8) Often one has to settle for managing a skin problem rather than curing it. Thisis particularly true of allergies where one cannot identify the offending allergen(s).

The cause of most skin problems will fit into one or more of the following broad categories:

1) Congenital (i.e. born with the problem)/ Hereditary

2) Allergies

3) External Parasites

4) Hormonal Imbalance/Diet imbalance

5) Infectious organism(s)

6) Growths

7) Immune Mediated

The biggest mistake any pet owner can make is to make assumptions about the cause of a skin problem. Treat each case as unique and you will avoid many of the pitfalls that lead pet owners on long, often expensive, and frequently fruitless journeys to nowhere.

Keith Perrett is a qualified Veterinarian