Pet And Animal Skin Diseases
There are a vast number of skin diseases and it is not feasible to list them all here and it would not be helpful to do so anyway. What is more helpful is to organize skin diseases by general characteristics. Some helpful distinctions for skin diseases include:
Is the disease congenital? In other words, is it evident at birth or soon after birth? If a disease is not congenital, we can say that it is acquired, meaning that the skin appeared healthy prior to the disease developing.
A slightly different distinction is whether the disease is hereditary or in other words known to be inherited from parents who carried the disease in their genetic material? Some hereditary skin diseases may not show visible signs of disease until after many months or even years of age.
Some diseases, including autoimmune skin diseases and allergic skin diseases are acquired yet there is evidence to support that the tendency to develop some of these diseases may be inherited. In humans certain genes are found more often in individuals who develop allergies and these genes can be inherited. However, not all individuals who inherit these genes will develop clinical disease. So, other factors may come in to play. These factors include parasitism at key points during the development of an individual's immune system, infectious diseases, and perhaps as yet unknown environmental factors.
Congenital Skin Disorders
Examples of congenital skin disorders include:
Acquired skin disorders:
- Parasitic skin diseases and infectious skin diseases are straight forward examples of acquired skin disorders. Allergic skin diseases and autoimmune skin diseases are acquired, though individuals may be predisposed to developing these disorders because of genes inherited from parents.
Pet & Animal Parasites & Parasitic Skin Diseases:
Credit: Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Fleas. They make pets' lives miserable, and humans begin to itch just at the thought of them. Vets are often asked what pill, drop, dip, collar, or shampoo works the best to get rid of these persistent parasites. The answer is that flea collars and flea shampoos rarely will eradicate a flea problem. Newer topical flea control products, vials containing liquids applied to the skin surface, are usually effective provided they are used correctly. Newer oral flea products also can be very effective if used correctly. Brewers yeast is not adequate flea control; garlic is not adequate flea control. The flea life cycle is fairly complex, and understanding the various stages will make it easier to get rid of them.
- Ear Mites
Ear mites are tiny parasites that live out their life cycle mostly inside the ear canal. They are common in puppies and kittens and in strays, and can cause severe irritation and itchiness of the ears. They are highly contagious, but usually easy to diagnose.
The most common ear mite of cats and dogs is Otodectes cynotis, and therefore an infestation with ear mites is sometimes called "otodectic mange."
- Demodex Mites
Demodex mites are microscopic and can inhabit the skin of dogs and cats. In healthy dogs, mites are few in number (very difficult to find) and cause no skin disease. In some dogs though, the mites can multiply and cause skin disease. Mite skin disease is also called “mange" and if cause by Demodex is called demodectic mange or demodicosis.
- Cheyletiella Mites
Credit: By Kalumet on Wikimedia Commons
Cheyletiella are mites that live on the skin, causing irritation, dandruff, and itchiness. A distinguishing feature of this mite species are the large, claw-like mouth parts. These mites can be found quite commonly on cats, dogs and rabbits, and other species. Though humans are not a natural host for this parasite, Cheyletiella mites can happily live on humans for a while, causing an itchy rash.
- Sarcoptes Mites
Sarcoptes are mites that burrow through the upper layers of the skin. They are contagious to other animals and also to people. They often cause significant skin disease, partly due to an allergic or hypersensitivity reaction that occurs in the skin of infested individuals. Fortunately, they are fairly easy to kill. However all contact pets need to be treated simultaneously to avoid transfer of parasites back to the patient.
- How to Remove a Tick From Your Pet Or Yourself
Credit: James Gathany/CDC
There are many ideas about the best way to remove a tick, one of the most common tricks being to put a lit match on the tick to make the tick "angry" enough to back out on its own. The truth is, this can actually make things worse for you and the tick; injecting more foreign material into you (or your pet) from the tick. Early removal of the tick is very important. Find out how to check for and remove ticks safely in this how to.
- Ehrlichia - Tick-bourne Bacterial Disease
Credit: James Gathany/CDC
Ehrlichia is a type of bacteria that infect dogs and other species worldwide, causing a disease called ehrlichiosis. Ehrlichiosis has also been called tropical canine pancytopenia (and several other names). Ehrlichia is commonly transmitted by ticks.
- Cuterebra Parasite - An Opportunistic Parasite
Credit: CDC/ Dr. George Healy
A Cuterebra parasite is an opportunistic parasite found under the skin of small mammals. This parasite is the larval stage of the Cuterebra fly that uses animal hosts to complete its life cycle. Learn more about this parasite, most commonly seen in summer and fall, in this FAQ.
Credit: CDC/ Janice Carr
Giardia is a one-celled protozoan parasite that lives in the intestinal tract of many animals. When this parasite produces a diarrheal disease in animals (including humans), it is called Giardiasis. Learn about this parasite, how it is transmitted, signs of disease, and how it is diagnosed and treated in this FAQ. Giardia rarely causes skin disease, an exception may be birds, in which it is considered a cause of feather-picking.
Hookworms are small, thin worms that are less than an inch long. Hookworms are intestinal parasites that are common in dogs. There are three species of hookworms that affect dogs, and some can also affect humans by migrating through the skin. Migration of hookworms through the skin of dogs can cause dermatitis of the paws. However, this occurs when dogs are living in environments where there is accumulation of infested fecal material. Intestinal parasitism may play a role in an individual's susceptibility to development of allergies.
Whipworms are intestinal parasites that are relatively common in dogs, but only occasionally seen in cats. Whipworms are small worms, reaching a maximum size of 2-3 inches. They have a thin, whip-like front end and a thicker back end. They attach themselves to the walls of the large intestine, feeding on blood. Intestinal parasitism may play a role in an individual's susceptibility to development of allergies.
Credit: CDC/Dr. Lucille K. Georg
Technically not a parasite, Ringworm derives its name from the classic red, round "worm like" lesion seen on human skin that is infected.
Ringworm is a fungus that may or may not create clinical signs in animals, but may spread from animals to humans, creating the classic lesion.
- Babesia Protozoa
Credit: Scott Bauer (USDA ARS)
Babesia infections occur in dogs and other species, and are transmitted mainly by ticks. Babesia are protozoal parasites that attack blood cells, though the severity of illness varies considerably depending on the species of Babesia involved, as well as the immune response of the infected dog. Parasitism may play a role in an individual's susceptibility to development of allergies.
Credit: by tanakawho on Flickr
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite that lives mainly in the blood vessels of the lung and in the heart, transmitted by mosquitoes.
Heartworm disease has been seen in several species, but dogs are very susceptible. It can be fatal and is difficult to treat, but fortunately heartworm disease is easy to prevent. Parasitism may play a role in an individual's susceptibility to development of allergies.
Common monthly preventative drugs include Heartgard (ivermectin), Heartgard Plus (also can prevent some intestinal parasites), Revolution (selamectin) also can prevent some intestinal parasites and also some skin mites, and Interceptor (milbemycin) that also can prevent some intestinal parasites.