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Dermatitis and Dermatologic Problems in Dogs

By Karen A. Moriello, DVM, DACVD, Professor of Dermatology, Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison ; Michael W. Dryden, DVM, PhD, DACVM, University Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Parasitology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University ; Carol S. Foil, DVM, MS, DACVD, Professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine ; William W. Hawkins, BS, DVM ; Thomas R. Klei, PhD, Boyd Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Advanced Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine and Louisiana Agriculture Experiment Station, Louisiana State University ; John E. Lloyd, BS, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Entomology, University of Wyoming ; Bernard Mignon, DVM, PhD, DEVPC, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Parasitology and Parasitic Diseases, University of Liège ; Wayne Rosenkrantz, DVM, DACVD ; David Stiller, MS, PhD, Research Entomologist, Animal Disease Research Unit, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, University of Idaho ; Patricia A. Talcott, MS, DVM, PhD, DABVT, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Toxicology, Holm Research Center, University of Idaho ; Alice E. Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP, Director;Director, Animal Oncology Consultation Service;Pawspice ; Stephen D. White, DVM, DACVD, Professor and Chief of Service, Dermatology, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital; Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis ; Patricia D. White, DVM, MS, DACVD

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Dermatitis is a general word for any type of inflammation of the skin. It is the word usually used to describe a skin condition until a specific diagnosis is reached. There are many causes of skin inflammation, including external irritants, burns, allergens, trauma, and infection (bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal).

The skin’s response to insult is generically called dermatitis and manifests as any combination of itching, scaling, abnormal redness, thickening of the skin, and hair loss. The usual progression of a skin disease involves an underlying trigger that causes boils, scabs, scales, or blisters.

Abnormal itching, called pruritus, occurs in many skin diseases and is often present because of secondary infections. As the inflammation progresses, crusting and scaling develop. If the problem reaches from the upper layer of skin (the epidermis) to the deeper layer (the dermis), fluid discharge, pain, and sloughing or shedding of the skin may occur. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections commonly develop as a result of skin inflammation. As dermatitis persists, short-term signs of inflammation (such as redness) become obscured by signs of longterm inflammation (thickening of the skin, color changes, scaling, fluid discharge). Often the skin becomes drier and, if itching is not already a sign, it frequently develops at this stage.

Resolving dermatitis requires that your veterinarian identify the underlying cause and treat secondary infections or other complications. A review of your pet’s history and a physical examination can more precisely define the problem.

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