Your pet’s skin is more than just a coat of fur. It is a live organ that serves as a barrier to protect them from bacteria, parasites and environmental toxins; maintains body temperature, preventing dehydration; and supports the pet’s immune system. Skincare neglect can result in a variety of problems, from minor irritations to serious infections.
Skin diseases, also known as dermatopathies, account for 60-75% of all cases encountered in the typical small animal general practice, according to Mumbai-based Dr Divyashree Somani, a veterinary dermatologist and founder of The SkinVet, a veterinary dermatology speciality service. A multimodal strategy is frequently necessary for treating skin diseases, which can range from infections to immune-mediated issues, allergies, and illnesses.
Some dog breeds, including beagles, boxers, pugs, and French bulldogs, may have a genetic predisposition to skin issues. One of the first indications of poor skin health is a dull, dry coat. A lot of distress might be caused by the itching, redness, crusting, and scaling that frequently follow. Dr Somani states that the best course of action is to take a proactive rather than a reactive approach. Rather than waiting for skin flare-ups to occur, keep tabs on your pet’s health, consult with your veterinarian promptly, and always have a reliable treatment plan in place. Only acting when your pet exhibits symptoms of dermatitis or a flare-up makes the process much more difficult for the veterinarian and the owner and obviously causes the pet unnecessary discomfort.
What does a proactive approach entail? According to Dr Somani, dogs and cats do not need skincare routines per se, but there are a few things that are sure to help keep their skin healthy, such as an omega supplement with omega 3, 6, and 9 in the right proportion. If there is no active dermatitis or inflammation present, a moisturising shampoo is also advised to support the maintenance of a robust skin barrier.
Good nutrition and practices are equally important. Ensuring that your pet is getting the right amounts of nutrients is the first step to a good coat. In addition, it is advised to bathe them once a fortnight and not too frequently. The use of good-quality shampoos and diluting shampoos before direct contact with the skin prevents the skin from getting dry. Regular grooming and brushing of the coat also keep the skin healthy by stimulating blood circulation.
Parasite control is also an important aspect of skincare.One of the most common mistakes I see pet parents make is not being regular with flea treatment, whether it’s a good old spot-on or a tick and flea preventative tablet, says Dr Somani. In cities like Mumbai, where fleas are overly present in the environment, a good flea preventative should always be on board at regular intervals. Dr Somani says, “I also see a lot of people use an ‘anti-flea shampoo’, which honestly won’t help at all as it gets rinsed off and doesn’t stay on the pet’s skin for long enough to make an impact.”
Skin-related problems can take a long time to resolve. If your pet has experienced recurrent skin infections, consider taking them to a veterinary dermatologist. According to Dr Somani, a recent survey revealed that 73% of pet owners worldwide visit their primary veterinarian at least three times, and 40% make at least five visits before seeing a dermatology specialist. In addition to delaying a definitive diagnosis, these repeated visits have led to the inappropriate administration of antibiotics and anti-fungals, the wrong dosage of anti-pruritic drugs, excessive steroid use, etc. In her opinion, a pet owner should seek out a specialist dermatology consultation the moment they notice any skin lesions to guarantee an accurate diagnosis and comprehensive treatment strategy.
Taking good care of your pet’s skin will not only keep them looking their best but also contribute to their overall health and happiness.
Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.