5 tell-tale signs your pet is suffering from a dermatologic issue

Aug 31 2021, 8:09 am

As pet parents, the last thing we want is for our furry friends to be uncomfortable or unhappy.

Things would be so much easier if — Dr. Dolittle-style — we could simply ask our pets how they’re feeling and get a response back. But, alas, this isn’t a Disney movie, and since speaking to them directly isn’t an option, we’re stuck having to read between the lines of their everyday habits for clues as to how they might be doing.

The goods news is, once you know what signs to look out for, getting a sense of whether your pet is suffering from any ailments can be easier.

Skin health is one of the most commonly overlooked conditions when it comes to our pets — and the path to relief is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

As part of the Empathy for Itch campaign, the Canadian Academy of Veterinary Dermatology (CAVD) and pet food company Royal Canin have joined forces to help pet owners navigate the complexities of dermatological conditions.

We recently connected with Jennie Tait, AHT, RVT, charter member VTS (Dermatology) and executive committee member of CAVD to find out which skin-related health signs to watch out for. When it comes to finding the right solution Tait tells us, “The key to managing your pet’s dermatological conditions or skin-related ailments is to work closely with your pet’s veterinary team.”

“Once the condition is identified, most issues can be managed through a combination of the right diet, medication, and topical treatments.”

Excessive scratching or licking

“I can’t say it any easier than, ‘Itchy pet? See your vet,’” says Tait. While some itching is normal in pets, if your pet is scratching or licking excessively, it’s a likely sign that something is amiss — and one that’s often overlooked and mistaken for grooming.

According to Tait, “Excessive scratching or licking, hair loss, and red skin are often signs that your pet has a skin issue – chances are if you notice them scratching and licking, it means they are doing it a lot and it is time to see the vet.”

Sadly, it’s not uncommon for pets to have suffered for years before a vet check-up reveals there are dermatological issues at play. “The sooner they are seen, the sooner their quality of life can be improved,” she says.

Hair loss

Have you noticed that your pet’s once luscious coat is looking a little sparse lately? Or perhaps you’ve noticed a little more fur on your furniture and clothing than usual? If your pet is constantly itching, this can also lead to increased shedding and hair loss.

“The vast majority of our derm patients require lifelong management, rather than a one and done,” says Tait. “Occasional flare-ups will happen, but keeping close tabs on things should help minimize secondary infections, and the amounts of medication required to manage them.”

Red skin

Taking a closer look at your pet’s skin can also reveal a lot about their overall health. It’s normal for many animals to have patches of different coloured skin or freckles, but according to Tait, it should mostly be a light pink or white colour. Similarly, eyes should be clear and not bloodshot and there shouldn’t be any redness around your pet’s eyelids.

“Be sure to look at the skin between toes — and especially between paw pads,” she cautions, “It should not be pink.” This also applies to elbows, wrists, and hocks where other signs of inflammation and allergy may be most visible.

Rust-coloured staining on your pet’s paws or between their toes can also be a tell-tale sign of excessive licking.


Can skin problems affect a pet’s quality of life, we ask Tait?  “Yes, absolutely! Many pet owners don’t realize that one in five Canadian pets suffer from an allergic disease that requires a treatment plan from a veterinarian,” she says, citing a little-known statistic based on data collected by the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) in 2018.

For many, dandruff can be a less obvious indicator that your pet is suffering from skin issues. If you notice flecks of dry skin on your pet’s coat, it could be due to an underlying issue. The best option is to head to the vet, otherwise, signs like this one can just continue to worsen.

Greasy skin or coat

You should take pride in your pet’s healthy coat. “The coat should be full and shiny, and not leave a residue on your hands after touching your fur baby,” advises Tait.

Ultimately “we are all in this together as part of your pet’s health care team and all want the same thing — a good quality of life that your loved one was meant to enjoy,” she says.

“Helping our patients live the lives they were meant to – it’s what we do and why we do it.”

To learn more about pet dermatology and how to improve your pet’s skin health, visit royalcanin.com.

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