Common SKIN problems in dogs & cats

Did you know that the condition of your pet’s skin and coat can tell you a lot about his overall health? If your dog or cat‘s coat is dry, brittle or lackluster with flaky or greasy skin, then he has developed a skin problem.

Skin problems and skin allergies are very common in dogs and cats,  but when treated usually improve significantly. The skin is one of the largest organs in the body and plays a huge role in the functioning of the immune system. It is therefore one of the first places where ill health and allergies can show up.

Skin allergies, constant itching and hair loss can be very uncomfortable for your dog and cat. Conventional treatments can have unwanted side effects and compromise adrenal functioning.

The Feelgood Pets team takes a look at the common causes of skin problems in dogs and cats and discusses how you can help your pet naturally.

What are the most common skin problems in pets?

There are a number of causes contributing to skin problems in  dogs and cats.

1. Fleas

Fleas are definitely one of the main causes of skin problems in both dogs and cats when left untreated.  For some animals, one bite from a flea can cause an allergic reaction and develop into a skin rash – this is known as flea allergy dermatitis.

It causes persistent itching and scratching and irritation of the skin. Certain flea treatment products such as flea collars may also bring about an allergic reaction in pets.
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2. Seasonal allergies

Does your dog or cat tend to itch and scratch more during spring or summer? Your pet may be sensitive to allergens such as pollen, trees, grasses or shrubs which causes an allergic skin reaction.

Allergens in the home such as house dust, house mites, mould, animal dander or feathers may also irritate your pet’s  skin. These allergens are usually inhaled, ingested or passed through the paws of the feet (or even the skin of the tummy, especially in smaller, short legged dogs).
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3. Food allergies

Your pet may develop allergies because of certain ingredients in the food that he is eating – this could include beef, chicken, lamb, fish, dairy products, wheat, corn or soy.

Fillers, preservatives and artificial colourants in pet foods may also be the cause of an allergic reaction. Dog biscuits, chews and treats may also contain foreign ingredients that causes an irritated or inflamed skin.
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4. Bacterial or yeast infections

Dogs and cats are susceptible to bacterial, fungal and yeast infections especially if they already suffer from allergies, lick or scratch their skin frequently, have lots of skin folds or floppy ears. 

Typical symptoms of a fungal skin infection (which can also occur in the ears) are itchy inflamed ears, licking and biting of the paws and skin and smelly, greasy skin.
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5. Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious skin disease found in dogs and caused by infection from the Sarcoptes scabei mite. It causes intense itching, inflammation, hair loss and scaly patches.

Immediate treatment is recommended. As it is a contagious disease, keep other pets and family members away from the infected animal.
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6. Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection which is also highly contagious and tends to affect puppies and kittens as well as cats and dogs with weak immune systems.

Classic symptoms to watch for include lesions which are patchy, crusty and circular in shape and cause hair loss. This fungus spreads quickly and it is vital  that the infected pet avoids contact with other animals and household members.
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7.  Parasites

Intestinal parasites such as round worm, tape worm, whip worm or hook worm causes a dry, brittle and dull coat in both cats and dogs. They are common in puppies and kittens as well as older dogs and cats.

Routine de-worming of your pets as well as practicing good hygiene is very important to prevent an intestinal parasite infestation.
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8. Metabolic or hormonal problems

An imbalance of reproductive hormones can cause skin problems such as dry, brittle fur, dandruff, itching or darkening and thickening of the skin. It is usually recommended to neuter or spay your pet if hormone levels are abnormal.
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9. Stress

Pets that are stressed or anxious may start licking and biting their paws, tails or legs excessively. They do this as a way to comfort themselves or relieve anxiety – it is a coping mechanism.

Some dogs and cats also lick their paws when they are bored or suffering from separation anxiety. If the anxiety or boredom is not addressed, your pet may end up developing an obsessive compulsive disorder, licking himself  constantly and causing bald, inflamed patches to appear, also increasing the risk of skin infection.
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10. Grooming products

Certain shampoos, flea treatments and grooming products with synthetic ingredients can aggravate your pet’s skin – especially, pets with sensitive skins. This can then cause irritation which leads to itching and a rash.

Remember to use products that are specially formulated for pets and that suits their skin type. 
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What you can do to help!

1. Feed a healthy diet

Nutrition is key in order to maintain a healthy skin and coat in your dog or cat. Dogs and cats that are fed an inadequate diet will experience a deterioration  in the appearance of their skin.

Feed your pet a well-balanced diet that contains all the vital proteins, vitamins and minerals. Organic foods, both raw and cooked have been known to improve the overall skin condition while also addressing underlying health problems. 

As most dried dog foods contain preservatives, colourants and other artificial ingredients, there is a higher risk of allergies and other health-related problems. Try changing your pet’s diet and see if this also improves skin problems and allergies. We recommend Grandma Lucy's Artisan Chicken!


Try Doggone Raw Active Food and Vondi’s Cooked Food for your dog and cat – both these ranges are stocked at the Feelgood Health Shop , Unit 6, Westlake Lifestyle Centre, Westlake Business Park, Cape Town. Tel: 021 797 0193
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2. Regular grooming and skincare

Regular grooming is as important as feeding your pet a healthy diet. Brush your pet’s coat every day, especially if your dog or cat has long or curly hair. – this will prevent hair from becoming tangled or matted and reduce the amount of loose hair lying around the home.

While most dogs need an occasional bathe when they are dirty or smelly, some owners bathe their pets too much. Bathing your dog frequently can strip the natural oils from the skin and  cause irritation.

Be sure to use natural pet shampoos especially suited to your dog’s skin type and NEVER use human shampoos! 
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3. Treat fleas and parasites

Use flea treatments at least once a month, especially during the summer months to remove fleas and ticks from your pets. Consult your vet for a flea treatment that is safe to use – this could be a shampoo, dip, spray or tablet.

Remember that treating fleas doesn’t stop with your pets only! Your home and outdoor area has to be treated too.

Vacuum your carpets and upholstery thoroughly to prevent re-infestation. Wash pet bedding and cushions in hot water as well as kennels and outside areas. Vondi's Tick & Flea Shampoo for Dogs & Cats is a natural shampoo containing herbs known for their flea repellent effect and can be used along with conventional flea treatments for dogs with a flea bite allergy.

De-worm your pet every three months as a precaution to keep him in good health and don’t forget to pick up poop every day. For a natural deworming remedy that can be used by people and pets alike, see Worm Dr by Feelgood Health
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4. Reduce stress and anxiety in pets

Dogs and cats that are naturally anxious or get stressed easily may lick and bite their paws excessively as a way of coping. Bored pets as well those that suffer from separation anxiety may also comfort themselves by licking their paws, tailsand legs.

Try to keep your pet’s environment as calm as possible. Keep bored pets entertained by providing treats or toys when you go out.

Exercise pets to relieve separation anxiety and try to come home at the same time every day so that they know that they can count on you.

Natural remedies for stress and anxiety can help to calm dogs and cats with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), who lick and bite themselves compulsively as a way of reducing anxiety.
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5. Natural remedies

The Feelgood Pets range has natural remedies to treat various skin conditions:
1. AllergyItch Ease  - a 100% homeopathic remedy to quickly relieve itching and scratching in pets
2. Skin & Coat Tonic – a herbal remedy which promotes a healthy skin and glossy coat
3. AllergiClear Pets –  a herbal remedy which acts as a natural antihistamine and reduces and prevents allergic dermatitis, flea bite dermatitis and inhaled allergens
4. PetCalm – a 100% homeopathic remedy that reduces anxiety and stress in nervous and highly strung pets, as well as dogs and cats with obsessive compulsive problems (OCD).
5. Natura Pets Hypo-Allergen Shampoo – a natural shampoo for dogs, cats, puppies & kittens 
8. Vondi's Khakibos Spray– helps to repel fleas and ticks naturally 
9. Natura Pet Itch Relief Shampoo – a natural shampoo for dogs & cats with itchy skin
10. Ear Dr – natural ear drops for ear infection and ear mites in pets 
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