As spring is in full season and summer is coming, your pet/horse may start to exhibit changes in their skin and hair condition, which can include some ear issues as well. Believe it or not, skin issues are the number one symptom of allergies in animals, unlike upper respiratory problems seen in people. Fewer cases of allergies may result in respiratory or even digestive issues, but skin concerns are most prevalent. Sometimes allergies can be mild enough to present as basic recurrent ear infections in small animals.
Dermatologic signs of allergies in pets/horses can range from excessive feet licking (dogs), scratching, hair loss, skin infections, ear infections (dogs/cats), skin odor, and redness of skin. If your pet/horse experiences any of these signs and symptoms, your veterinarian may be able to diagnose allergies with a minimum of a thorough history and examination. Sometimes allergy testing needs to be performed to confirm allergies and what the pet/horse might be allergic to. This can be done either in clinic with a blood test or referral to a dermatologist for more sensitive skin testing.
Treatment options include immunotherapy to specifically target the individual pet’s/horse’s allergies, the gold standard method, or just managing symptoms with medications (such as Cytopoint [dogs] or Apoquel [dogs/cats] and lastly steroids), from your local veterinarian. Your vet can also give suggestions to help manage allergies as well with food changes, bathing, controlling secondary infections, and other ways to minimize exposure to allergens.
Fleas and sometimes ticks are another very common reason for causing pets to start having skin issues. Oddly enough, pets can have fleas and not really have issues with excessive scratching, causing owners to not be aware that their pet even has fleas. Fleas can cause pets to scratch, lick, and chew. Some pets even start to lose hair and get sores on their backs close to the tail, especially in dogs. Cats on the other hand can start having sores and problems around their neck and face areas. There are many products on the market for treating and controlling fleas; check with your veterinarian for advice on which products have a history of working the most effectively. Some of our favorites include: Seresto collars, if wanting something over the counter to manage fleas and ticks; and Nexgard and Bravecto, which are two great flea and tick oral prescription preventions through your veterinarian. Frontline works well for horses. It really depends on the severity of issues your pet is dealing with.
Just like people, pets/horses can also suffer from sunburns. As the sun becomes stronger and more prevalent, make sure your pets are protected by having plenty of shade for them to take cover under during the peak of the day. Applying sunscreen for those that are especially more sensitive to sunburns, those with areas of hair loss or light-colored hair and skin, can also be beneficial. There are several pet-specific products on the market; however, if you use human products, look for one intended for children and especially without zinc oxide, as this can be toxic to your pet. Use SPF 30 to 50 and apply per the label instructions. Apply to your dog’s most sensitive skin: nose, earflaps, belly, and any shaved or bare patches. Reapply if your dog goes swimming or rubs itself in the grass or sand, especially if the sunscreen is not waterproof.
Remember your veterinarian or vet team can be a great source of information, advice, and suggestions if you are having any questions or concerns about your favorite furry family member’s hair coat and skin.