Pet’s Skin Problems
Dermatology products and solutions your customers will need as they begin to see more clients for pet’s skin problems.
During the years I volunteered with our local humane society, I spent most of my time working with dogs in medical isolation until they were ready for adoption. Regardless of their other health issues, the majority of dogs always seemed to have skin problems, most often likely due to a poor diet or untreated allergies. Whether it was dry, flaky skin, excessive shedding, or a more severe condition, it was upsetting to see so many animals that had probably been in discomfort for some time, and possibly surrendered for something that could have been easily treated.
There are more than 160 different skin disorders in dogs, so diagnosing and treating long-term dermatology issues can be particularly challenging for veterinarians and frustrating and expensive for owners. So many conditions may seem overwhelming, but at its simplest, there are two types of canine skin disorders: curable and incurable conditions. Most pets presenting with a chronic dermatologic disorder are afflicted with either an endocrine-related disease, such as hypothyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), or an allergy-related issue. A dog with an allergic disease will generally have inflamed, itchy skin (pruritis). Both allergies and endocrine diseases often lead to secondary skin infections.
According to the AVMA, about 20% of pets have allergies. Environmental allergies are thought to originate with a defect in the barrier function of the skin, and food allergies with a similar defect in the gut. A recent veterinary survey showed that about 50% of allergic pets’ symptoms improved with dietary changes; nearly two-thirds improved with hyposensitization (injections derived from the allergens), and 90% improved with a combination of both.
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) or flea bite sensitivity is the most common dermatologic disease in dogs and is the main cause of feline miliary dermatitis in cats. The allergy is caused by a reaction to the saliva injected by fleas as they feed that contains a variety of histamine-like compounds. The pruritis associated with FAD can be intense and may spread over the animal’s entire body. If allowed to progress, dogs can experience hair loss (alopecia) and secondary bacterial or yeast infections. Obviously, controlling fleas and preventing their recurrence is critical for pets with FAD.
The second most common allergy affecting about 10% of dogs is atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease caused by an inappropriate immune reaction to environmental allergens mainly absorbed through the skin, orally, or even from breathing. About 60 dog breeds are considered predisposed to this condition and most dogs first show clinical signs between 1 and 5 years of age. Lacking the skin barrier protection against allergens allows them to penetrate the skin and trigger a reaction. It can be difficult to diagnose since the clinical signs of scratching, rubbing, chewing, and excessive grooming overlap with other allergies. Atopic dermatitis is a lifelong disease, but along with allergy shots and other medications, treatments that improve the skin barrier and target the itch cycle greatly improve the quality of life for affected dogs. Knowing the functions and benefits of these products will add value to your conversations about dermatology products.
Two symptomatic treatments for atopic dermatitis target IL-31, the molecule responsible for triggering the itch receptors on nerves. Apoquel (oclacitinib) tablets block the itch receptor, while injectable Cytopoint is a biological that binds to IL-31 and neutralizes it. The effects of Cytopoint injections may last up to 4 to 8 weeks. Redonyl Ultra (Ultra-micronized Palmitoylethanolamide – or PEA) is a nutraceutical soft chew that helps stabilize mast cells, a type of white blood cells activated by allergens that release histamine and inflame the skin. Dermaquin Skin Support Supplement was released earlier this year as a veterinary-exclusive soft chew that helps support and fortify the skin barrier, making it more difficult for allergens to cause a reaction.
Summer skin issues
After weeks of pet grooming services being put on hold due to restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 epidemic, veterinarians may be seeing more pets than usual with skin issues this summer. Dogs and cats who haven’t been trimmed, bathed or brushed regularly may have flaky, irritated skin from a lack of airflow within the coat. Malassezia (yeast) infections cause greasy, odorous skin and are common in several breeds that require regular grooming, like cocker spaniels and West Highland white terriers. Seborrhea causes oily, flaky skin and is often due to low fatty acid or protein in the diet. Hot spots and moist dermatitis cases are common in the summer, and dogs can get burned from sun exposure, particularly white or light-colored dogs with short hair like bulldogs, greyhounds, boxers and pit bulls.
Make sure your clients are stocked with the necessary products for a variety of skin problems, both in-clinic to send home with patients and in their online store for convenient delivery. These should include:
- Antimicrobial shampoo, preferably with a combination of antibacterial and antifungal therapy, plus ingredients that replenish the skin barrier. For pet owners who can’t or won’t shampoo their pet, wipes or mousse with the same formulations are a less-stress option.
- Topical hot spot treatment in an antimicrobial spray or hydrogel formula.
- Canine sunscreen, specially formulated for dogs. Common ingredients found in human sunscreen such as zinc oxide are highly toxic to dogs if ingested.
- Omega-3 fatty acid supplements in liquid or gel caps.
- Parasiticides, such as those in the isooxazoline class that kill not only fleas and ticks but are also effective at killing skin mites and lice.
- Your customers’ preferred brand of therapeutic diet, for sensitive skin or diets for their patients with food allergies.
Skin problems are often difficult to diagnose and rarely an easy fix. They can have wide-ranging causes and their treatment often requires a multi-modal approach. Product knowledge that goes beyond the basics gives you the opportunity to discuss and recommend the wide variety of dermatology products you offer. You become much more than just another sales rep when you’re able to help your customers provide exceptional client and patient care.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/razyph