During the summer months there are many conditions that may affect your pet’s skin that can be itchy and painful. It is important that any problems with your pet’s skin are detected promptly and treated appropriately, to prevent these conditions from progressing and your pet’s skin getting worse.
The Importance of Healthy Skin
The skin is the body’s first line of defence that it uses to protect us from the outside world. Even though the skin of our pets may be hidden by fur, its role is just as important. We often underestimate the importance of keeping the skin healthy, with the presence of any problems preventing it from fulfilling this role. Some skin conditions can also indicate that there are other, more serious, underlying problems, which can be investigated with a prompt veterinary visit.
There are many things that we can do to make sure that we keep our pet’s skin healthy and to ensure that we detect any problems early, including;
- Check the skin daily for any wounds, lumps or rashes, including your pet’s ears, legs and feet
- Observe your pet daily for any signs of persistent scratching or licking that could indicate itchy or sore skin
- Check for any areas of hair loss
- Make sure your pet’s parasite treatments are up to date
Bring your pet in to see one of our vets as soon as possible if they start showing any signs of skin problems.
Summer Skin Problems
Often the first sign of a skin problem that you see can be a change in your pet’s behaviour. This may be them scratching regularly, even to the extent of causing trauma to the underlying skin. They may also start licking a certain area of skin, or even between their toes, which can make the skin red and sore. Sometimes this behaviour is subtle and owners can be surprised by the severity of the skin damage when they look closely.
Skin issues can either be itchy or non-itchy, depending on the cause. Many of the skin problems that are seen in summer are often very itchy and, if left untreated, will quickly cause the dog discomfort and distress. If you notice a change to your pet’s skin then contact us for further information.
Pets can have allergies to many different environmental factors and also to certain food items, with dogs and cats being most commonly affected. Some allergies will affect your pet all year round, while others will be seasonal and often worse during the summer months.
Any animal suffering from allergies will be intensely itchy and, when suffering from a flare-up, will show scratching and licking behaviour. You should bring your pet in to see one of our vets as soon as this is noticed, so treatment can be given to make your pet more comfortable. Damaged skin is also vulnerable to secondary infection and your pet may require a long duration of treatment if this occurs.
Allergies are lifelong conditions and may require preventative treatments during certain months, or even all year round, to keep your pet comfortable. Your pet will also benefit from regular routine parasite treatments to prevent any secondary “itching factors” from causing skin problems. If your pet does suffer from allergies, we will work with you to find a treatment plan that will keep them comfortable and keep their skin healthy all year round.
For people, sunburn is a condition that we are all aware of and we all know how to prevent and manage. However, because our pets are covered in fur and the skin is mainly hidden, we may not instantly think about the possibility of animals suffering from sunburn. There are some common areas where sunburn often occurs, such as areas with less hair coverage including the nose and ears, or any hairless parts of the body. Cats with white ears can be prone to sunburn on their ear tips, which can go on to develop into skin cancer, so it is particularly important that they are protected from the sun and their skin is regularly checked for any changes. If you think your pet has been sunburnt, or your cat has any sore or scabbed areas over their ears, then they should be checked by one of our vets.
To prevent sunburn, a pet friendly sun cream should be applied to any vulnerable areas that have thin hair or no fur. You should restrict your pet’s access to the sun during the hottest parts of the day, thus limiting your pet’s exposure (which may mean that you need to restrict your cat from sunbathing!).
There are a number of parasites that affect the skin and, while they may be found all year round, there will be an increase in their numbers over the summer months.
Fleas are a year round problem as they can survive in our houses during winter, but in the summer months temperatures can allow them to survive outside. The cat flea is the most common flea found and it will infect many animals, not just cats, so will spread between all of your pets. Because fleas only jump onto your pet to feed, you will often not see the actual fleas on your pet. However, you may find flea faeces in the fur and we can show you how to use this to check for the presence of fleas. You may see that your pet is extremely itchy and see them scratching, particularly along their back.
When you look at the skin you may see reddened patches of skin with small raised scabs, which should be checked by one of our vets, so appropriate treatment can be given. It is important that every pet in the household is treated with a suitable flea treatment and that an environmental spray is used in the house to remove all of the flea life stages. We can give you further advice on treating fleas.
Ticks are also more active over summer. They are most commonly found on dogs but can be seen on other pets. Ticks can carry a number of serious diseases which may also cause illness in people, so they need to be safely removed as soon as possible. Pets do not usually show signs of having a tick, so you will need to check your pet for any ticks once a day. If you discover a tick then it should be removed with a tick remover and if you are unsure of how to safely remove it, one of our team would be happy to show you. There are preventative tick treatments that can easily be
incorporated with your current parasite treatments, so you can make sure that your pet is protected against ticks.
Bees and wasps are most active over summer and some pets, particularly dogs, can enjoy trying to catch them. This can result in your pet getting stung. Most stings will not cause any serious problems but, while not causing a wider skin issue, they may cause swelling in the area of the sting. If the swelling is around the face or throat then further treatment may be required. Contact us for further information if you suspect your pet has been stung.
Grass seeds cause a problem mainly in dogs as they pick them up during walks over the summer months. You may frequently see grass seeds in the fur of your pet but if they enter the ear or get stuck in a paw, then they can cause a problem. Grass seeds are very painful and animals will be sore in that area.
Signs of a grass seed in the ear include;
- Shaking of the head
- Scratching of the ear
- Reddening of the skin around the ear
Signs of a grass seed in a paw include;
- Licking at foot
- Swelling and reddening over the affected area
If you suspect your pet has a grass seed then you should bring them in as soon as you can for one of our vets to check.
Keeping Your Pet’s Skin Healthy
Your pet’s skin is important, with healthy skin being the sign of a healthy pet. You can help protect your pet’s skin by treating them with appropriate parasite treatments regularly. If you check your pet’s skin daily you can pick up any problems early and ensure that treatment is given promptly. If you have any concerns about your pet’s skin then contact one of our team for further advice and we will be happy to answer any of your questions.