Author: Dr. Brenda Gough

This is a good time of year to talk about skin!!  So many of our pets suffer from one form of skin disease or another.

When we do the physical exam, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, there’s a lot of time and attention paid to the skin, but you may not realize that we are even looking at it!

The skin is the LARGEST organ of our body!  And that goes for animals too.  It does a lot of different things including protection from the elements , heat exchange and protection, it works intricately with our immune system, it shows emotion (stress leads to increased shedding, fear leads to hair raising, etc) AND, the best part – it makes them look pretty.  LOL!

When we are doing our physical check over of your pet, we are checking for many many things related to skin including:

  1. Checking for parasites – probably one of the most common things we do when looking at skin – fleas, ticks, mites, mange, and other creepy things that make me continue to itch even when I leave the exam room….lol!
  2. Checking for lesions – looking for scabs, crusts, rashes, redness, different pigment patterns, all those things that can lead us to different diseases.
  3. Checking for hair loss and abnormal hair patterns – hair loss on the flanks can mean hormonal imbalances like thyroid or growth hormone issues. Hair loss from chewing can indicate skin infections, allergies, or even emotional issues.
  4. Looking at the quality of the hair – you are what you eat! If your pet is on an icky diet, their hair quality is poor.  If they are nice and shiny and silky, the diet is probably pretty good!
  5. Is the hair matted or unkempt? Especially compared to previous exams – if a cat or dog is not grooming themselves well, it may be an indicator of internal disease or illness, or sometimes pain.  Arthritis pain makes it hard for our senior pets to get into a good position for grooming, so that job gets left to us.
  6. Tumors in the skin are very, very common, and can be as simple and benign as a sebaceous adenoma (those are those warty things older dogs get) or can be a serious as a Mast cell tumor, where even little ones can cause big problems. Lumps and bumps should always get checked out.
  7. Injuries – from grooming boo boos, to bite wounds, the skin is so important in keeping us whole!

There’s an entire blog series that I could dedicate to skin, and maybe just maybe I will!  But for now, just be aware that the skin is one of our most important organs and we need to take care of our pet’s skin and fur!!!

As your veterinary care team, we can help you do that!!!  Let’s all keep your pets shiny coat ‘magazine cover‘ worthy!!!