Eczema in Dogs
Dogs can suffer from eczema, a skin disease characterized by inflamed, irritated skin, just like humans do. In fact, at least 10% of dogs are known to suffer from eczema.
Eczema, due to the iconic inflammation and irritation, can lead to both itchiness and pain in your dog. This can cause them to lick and scratch constantly, which has the possibility to lead to more complicated issues later in life such as scarring and even infection. If your dog has recently been diagnosed with eczema, it’s important to do your research to learn more about the condition, starting with the causes.
What Causes Dog Eczema
Eczema can be caused by an abundance of things, making pinpointing the exact cause difficult. One of the most common causes, however, is atopic dermatitis, which, according to a 2010 scientific article, is a skin condition triggered by exposure to certain allergens and irritants. This can be anything from dust to grass to a certain chemical in your dog's shampoo. One of the leading causes of atopic dermatitis, though, is an allergy to fleabites. Atopic dermatitis is just one cause of eczema in dogs, though; other causes include things such as genetics, breed, and even the climate where you live. Dogs who live in warmer areas are more prone to develop ‘hot spots’, a form of eczema known as moist eczema.
You may even find that your dog’s eczema stems from some surprising causes. This can include the material that their food and water bowl is made out of, any airborne allergies within the home such as smoke, and even psychological issues such as boredom and stress. All of these can trigger eczema within your dog, so it’s important to analyze every aspect of your dog’s life when you are trying to determine the cause of your dog’s eczema.
If your dog fits into any of these high-risk groups – highly sensitive, genetically predisposed, or located in a hot climate – then it’s important to make sure you are able to recognize the signs of eczema so you can begin treatment as soon as possible.
The Signs of Eczema in Dogs
Eczema shares a lot of its symptoms with other common issues, which is why it is important to speak to your veterinarian for a professional diagnosis. Without your veterinarian’s eye, you may mistake the symptoms of eczema for seasonal allergies, fleas, or even ringworm.
One of the most noticeable signs of eczema in your dog is the constant overgrooming. It is this licking, chewing, and scratching that can lead to other problems such as alopecia, or hair loss, and bacterial infections. After you see your dog demonstrating this behavior regularly, you’ll find that the fur around the area is matted and appears wet due to the pus from the damaged, inflamed area, and there may even be blood depending on how roughly your dog grooms and nips at the area. Upon closer inspection, you may find open lesions, sores, and severe redness and inflammation. These wounds may have discharge and a foul odor. Finally, if the behavior continues for an extended period of time, you will notice the skin thickens and develops a dry, flakey texture.
Before your dog reaches this point, since they are the most susceptible to infections once they develop open wounds and a tendency to overgroom themselves, it is important to take the steps to begin treating your dog. One of the first steps your veterinarian will take is prescribing a treatment that will work best for your dog’s particular symptoms and lifestyle.
Treatments for Dog Eczema
There are multiple treatment methods, both pharmaceutical and homeopathic, for canine eczema.
If you choose to take the pharmaceutical path, you will need to speak to your dog’s veterinarian for a prescription. Oftentimes, your vet will prescribe an anti-inflammatory medicine; this can include steroids and NSAIDS. Your vet may also prescribe a topical treatment for dog eczema. A topical treatment is designed to treat your dog’s eczema while also treating the associated pain and itchiness.
If your dog has a particularly severe case of eczema, your vet may refer you to a specialist such as a veterinary dermatologist. In this case, the specialist may set your dog up for immunotherapy. In immunotherapy, rather than finding out what is causing your dog’s eczema and treating the cause, your veterinarian will begin to work on changing the way your dog’s immune system reacts to different allergens. This treatment has a low cure rate, though, and your dog will most likely need to attend these sessions for the rest of their life.
Another option that your veterinarian may prescribe is allergy medication other than antihistamines. Rather than treating the allergic reaction through the immunology pathway, your vet will prescribe medication that acts throughout the body to suppress the eczema associated itchiness and pain.
Pharmaceutical options aren’t your only choices, though. If biweekly immunotherapy sessions or a lifetime on a variety of pills doesn’t fit your lifestyle, you may want to consider more homeopathic methods that you can do at home. Most of these methods are fairly simple and will produce nearly instant results. However, if you find that your dog’s eczema isn’t going away, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian for advice on alternative treatments so that your dog’s health isn’t at risk.
One of the most praised treatments for eczema in both dogs and humans is oatmeal. Oatmeal can soothe the inflamed irritated skin while soothing the unbearable associated itchiness. This can help cure your dog’s eczema while also reducing his or her chance of infection by helping suppress the need to scratch and chew the area. The best way to incorporate oatmeal in your dog’s life is through an oatmeal soak. Mix oatmeal with water to form a watery paste and massage it gently into their skin, paying extra attention to make sure you don’t irritate the area further. After 10 minutes, use warm water to rinse your dog.
If the treatments for eczema described earlier seem like an interesting method, but you don’t want to use pharmaceuticals, there are also homeopathic topical treatments for dog eczema. One of the most popular ingredients in these is CBD oil. CBD oil is praised for its ability to reduce pain and sooth skin. This is then mixed with a variety of essential oils and other ingredients, such as turmeric, to help even more. These extra ingredients help keep the dry, flakey skin moisturized while working to prevent any future issues. The Paws Effect balm uses a blend of oils like cedarwood and different flowers in combination with olive and coconut oils, both of which are extremely moisturizing, turmeric, and CBD.
There are also certain lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the number of allergens that your dog is exposed to on a daily basis. First, if your dog is using a plastic bowl to eat and drink out of, replace that with a stainless-steel bowl. Plastic bowls have a tendency to have microcracks and other damage that become the perfect area for bacteria to hide and fester. Then, when your dog is eating or drinking, they come in contact with the bacteria and it causes the allergic reaction that manifests as eczema in your dog.
Finally, you may want to consider your dog’s mental wellbeing. Boredom, stress, and anxiety can result in overgrooming, which introduces bacteria to the skin and, as a result, can cause eczema. Make sure that your dog is getting enough productive playtime every day. Also make sure that they have the proper toys so that if they do become stressed or frustrated, they can chew to relieve these negative feelings without the fear of choking on broken pieces.
If you do decide to try homeopathic methods, it is important that you know what not to do. Your dog’s skin is different than your own, and, therefore, it cannot handle certain things as well. This means that if you use the wrong chemical or mixture, you can actually worsen your dog’s eczema. Make sure that you never use essential oils, especially tea tree oil, on your dog without thoroughly diluting it. If you aren’t sure how to create a dilution that is safe for your dog, you can find guides like this one that will help you.
No matter if you choose to take a pharmaceutical route or a homeopathic route, it’s important to dedicate the time to researching eczema and its various signs and treatments to make sure your dog is as healthy and happy as possible. Most of the time, eczema is caused by simple issues such as atopic dermatitis or exposure to allergens, which means that you can easily treat it at home. However, the associated symptoms such as pain and itchiness along with the possible complications can make treating eczema a little trickier. Therefore, in most cases, it’s best to speak with your vet to set up a clear plan for treating your dog’s eczema along with his or her signs and symptoms. No matter how you go about treating your dog, they will appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to relieve their pain and discomfort while helping them to be in their best health.