Teo the Labrador who developed an allergic skin rash

Teo is an active, life-loving dog, spending time in Sonia’s back garden and enjoying regular walks through the Wicklow countryside. He loves charging through undergrowth, and doesn’t seem to notice if he is barging through nettles, brambles or anything else that humans might find challenging. Until last year, he never suffered any adverse consequences. His fur coat seemed to protect him against scrapes and stings, and he didn’t show any sign of itchiness or discomfort after his walks.

Last year, in June, he developed two patches of sore skin: one on the right side of his face, and the other on his left paw. The cause was unknown: we presumed he had suffered an allergic reaction to something he had wandered past. He was given simple anti-allergy treatment, and the problem cleared up promptly.

A VISIT TO THE VET WAS NEEDED

Teo carried on with his normal active live with no more skin problems for over a year. Then, last week, Sonia noticed a tiny patch of sore-looking skin on the left side of his neck. She thought it might settle down, like a small patch of heat rash in a human, but over the weekend, it worsened dramatically. The area of moist fur on his neck increased  from the size of a thumbnail to the size of a human hand.  Red, sore-looking skin could be seen beneath the fur, seeping discharge that gave the fur a soaking-wet appearance. The affected area seemed to be increasing in size by the hour, so Sonia brought Teo down to see me.

Animal fur makes this type of situation complicated: it’s impossible to see what’s going on at skin level because the fur blocks the view, and you can’t apply ointments and other treatments to the skin, because the fur gets in the way. The first job for vets is often to use electric clippers to remove the fur, so that the full extent of the problem can be clearly seen, and  to allow proper treatment to be given.

Teo is a good-natured dog, and he stayed calm and quiet as I clipped the fur away from the affected area: many dogs need to be sedated because they just won’t sit still while this is done. As I removed the fur, it became obvious that the skin rash was far more extensive than we had originally thought. A red, raw, measles-like rash extended down his neck, covering an area around the size of a large dinner plate. I kept clipping the fur away to the edges of the rash: Sonia began to worry that I was going to clip the fur off her entire dog.

TEO HAD DEVELOPED AN ALLERGIC SKIN REACTION

Once the fur had been removed, it was easier to assess the problem. Teo had suffered an irritant or allergic reaction, and his skin had large weals like nettle stings. These had become infected with bacteria which were producing toxins and acids, aggravating the irritation and the rash. The warm weather, and the insulating effect of his fur coat, meant that the bacteria were multiplying more rapidly than normal. This type of problem is a classic “heat wave” condition, seen far more in the summer than in the winter.

Treatment was simple: a soothing anti-inflammatory ointment to be applied twice daily, and a course of antibiotic tablets to control the bacteria that were aggravating the situation.  We may not be able to stop him from enjoying his forays into the undergrowth, but at least we can use medication to dampen down the severity of his allergic reaction to any vegetation  that disagrees with his skin.

Teo was much better by the following morning and Sonia is hoping that the problem won’t recur: a once-yearly summer rash is more than enough.

TIPS

  • Skin rashes are common in pets in the summer months
  • The fur often disguises the severity of the problem
  • Treatment can involve antibiotic ointments and tablets, as well as other drugs

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