Dermatitis, External Parasites and Your Dog's Skin
Dermatitis in dogs refers to a skin condition that becomes red, sore and sometimes swollen or blistered. Such signs of dermatitis often arise as a result of an external factor that causes inflammation and can lead to an allergic reaction.
One instance of dermatitis is caused by external parasites found in your dog's environment irritating their skin and can result in the development of an allergic reaction.
The skin is the largest vital organ of your dog's body, so it needs to be looked after with care. Dermatitis caused by parasites can lead to the disruption of your pet’s natural skin barrier, which is the first line of defense against even more pathogens and secondary infections.
Where Do External Parasites on Dogs Come From?
External parasites, such as mange (mites), fleas, ticks and lice can be transferred to your dog from other pets and objects, such as dog beds, rugs, sofa and soft toys.
What Are the Common Signs of a Parasitic Reaction?
Two common causes of parasitic dermatitis include flea bites and mange (mites).
Here are some of the common signs that a parasite has infested your dog:
Contact Your Veterinarian
Though the signs of parasitic reactions can be similar, your veterinarian will likely be able to understand what is affecting your dog by looking at where on your dog's body the reaction is occurring.
If your dog is scratching more than usual, particularly from the lower part of their back and down to their tail, they may be suffering from flea allergy dermatitis.Read more
If your dog is suffering from mange they may show signs itching around their ears, belly and joints.
What Is Mange?
Mange refers to skin diseases caused by mites and can be split into two types: Sarcoptic Mange and Demodectic Mange.
This type of mite is not visible to the eye as it typically burrows underneath the skin. Sarcoptic Mange is very contagious so if your dog is suspected to have this, it is best to separate them from any other pets in the household while you manage the infestation.
If your dog has been raised by their mother during the first few days and weeks of their life they will likely have had this mite transferred to them by their mother. For the most part, this type of mite doesn't have any effect on dogs, however if there is a change in your dog's immune system this could potentially lead to the mites causing a serious skin disease.
Fleas are tiny insects that attach themselves to animals, such as dogs, to feed. Fleas can result in your dog itching and scratching repeatedly to relieve the irritation caused by the bite. In some cases, an allergic reaction may occur, known as flea allergy dermatitis. Commonly are found around the ears and the tail, you can regularly check your dog for fleas by regularly grooming with a small comb.
Lice are tiny organisms that can be found in your dog's hair and attached to their skin. Lice on your dog can cause itching and hair loss if not found and managed quickly.
Like fleas, ticks also feed off the blood of animals, such as dogs. Again, it's important to check your dog regularly for ticks as if not removed properly and quickly may lead to serious illnesses, such as Lyme Disease.
How Might Veterinarians Manage Parasites?
Once your veterinarian has identified the type of parasite that is causing a reaction, they will be able to recommend management options.
Fleas - If your dog is suffering from fleas, a veterinarian may recommend a flea control product to first remove the existing parasites from their coat. You will likely also need to treat your home to remove existing parasites and stop the reproduction of future fleas.
Mange - If diagnosed with mange your veterinarian will recommend the appropriate management to remove mange from your dog's skin. They will likely also suggest different methods to heal and strengthen their skin.
For advice, make sure you speak to a veterinarian who will be able to provide a detailed plan of action to support your dog.
Understand How Parasitic Allergies Can Affect Your Dog
Yes, fleas can jump from dogs to humans and bite, however, fleas cannot survive for long periods of time on human hosts.
Your veterinarian will be able to recommend appropriate treatment options based on your dog's individual requirements. In some instances, they may recommend treating your dog with a monthly flea control product.
Yes, sarcoptic mange can be passed onto humans as well as other pets, although the mites may not be able to complete their usual lifespan on a human. Despite this, the mites may still cause some level of discomfort for humans.
There are two types of mange that can occur in dogs: sarcoptic and demodectic mange. They differ in how they arise, with sarcoptic mange being highly infectious, while demodectic mange is often present in dogs from a very young age and only becomes an issue if their immune system is disrupted significantly. Speak to your veterinarian if you believe your dog has mange and they will be able to advise which type they are suffering from.
As with most external parasites, if your dog has mange they will most likely be itching and scratching from the resulting discomfort. Hair loss, redness and discoloration of the skin can also indicate external parasites are in their coat and on their skin. In the case of mange, your dog may be more likely to itch around their ears, joints and belly area.