Cat relaxes in the gardenSkin issues are one of the most common problems that plague our pets. They are no fun, often resulting in itchy, smelly, or bald pets (sometimes all three!). They can be frustrating to diagnose and manage, as many different types of disease processes can look very similar.

Luckily for pet owners in the greater Montgomery area, Carriage Hills Animal Hospital is well-equipped to help animal lovers with pet dermatology issues. Our expertise and resources help us get to the bottom of your pet’s skin issue and get him or her feeling better, faster.

Starting Simple

A physical examination and history can help us make headway in diagnosing most pet dermatology issues. We will have lots of questions for you, including how long the problem has been occurring, whether your pet is itchy or not, what type of food you are feeding your pet, and what parasite preventatives you are using.

A thorough exam is also important, so that we can identify any underlying issues that could be contributing to a skin problem. The location and appearance of lesions can hold valuable clues.

We may also complete more specialized dermatological tests including:

Flea combing – It may sound pretty basic, but running a flea comb over your pet can help us to detect evidence, such as flea dirt, that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Tape prep – Using a small piece of cellophane tape, we are able to collect cells and tiny organisms from your pet’s skin surface to examine under the microscope.

Skin scrape – A gentle surface scrape of the skin can help to exfoliate tiny mites and other critters that can cause problems.

Ear cytology – Swabs from the ears can help us to determine what type of infection is occurring in your pet’s ears.

Dermatophyte culture – Incubating samples from your pet’s skin can help us to identify fungal infections such as ringworm.

Bacterial culture – We may recommend typing out the infection that is involved in your pet’s skin problem, so that we can more effectively target our therapy.

Blood tests – Basic diagnostics like blood testing can help identify problems, such as thyroid disease, Cushing’s Syndrome, and liver disease, that can result in skin lesions.

Advanced Pet Dermatology Testing

There are times when a basic examination doesn’t result in an answer for pets with skin problems. In these instances, we may need to do more advanced testing to get to the bottom of what is occurring.

Some pets may need:

Allergy testing – Blood or intradermal allergy testing can help us to identify specific allergens affecting your pet. This information can help you to avoid the offending allergen in some scenarios. When this is not possible, allergy vaccines can be developed to help an individual animal build tolerance to their particular environmental triggers.

Hypoallergenic food trials – Up to 20% of pets have food allergies that manifest as skin issues. Doing a true hypoallergenic feeding trial is the only way to rule this in or out as an issue, as blood and other testing has been shown to be unreliable for food allergies. Typically, a prescription diet will be used as over-the-counter options are not considered hypoallergenic.

Skin biopsies – Sometimes an actual surgical skin biopsy is the most efficient means of identifying what the problem is. Several autoimmune, neoplastic, and infectious diseases must be diagnosed in this way.

Pet dermatologic issues come in all shapes and forms. Whether they are a result of allergies, an endocrine disease, an autoimmune process, or a parasitic infection, successfully diagnosing the issue allows us to be most successful with our treatment.

In some cases, we cannot cure the cause of a pet skin problem, but by better understanding it we can effectively manage the symptoms–just as with humans. Carriage Hills Animal Hospital is here to diagnose and treat your pet’s dermatologic issues, no matter what it takes.