Q. My dog has skin trouble.
A. This must be the most common health problem besetting Bull Terriers, and perhaps all breeds, although it could be the difficulty in curing these problems that makes it seem this way. There is no short answer to this. As with humans, one of the most frequent causes, and usually the worst problem, is an allergic reaction. This is where a substance creates an abnormal reaction from the body’s defence mechanism by identifying a normally harmless substance as an enemy, and histamine produced by the body puts it into an unnecessary defence mode The allergens that initiate these reactions may be contained in food, in the air, or with any other particles coming into contact with the affected creature Allergies are responsible for more skin problems than most owners would ever imagine. The worst periods for these attacks often seems to be spring and summer which would indicate a vegetation connection in these instances. Initially change the dog’s diet, and change its bedding. Cotton is the safest, wool probably the worst.
Relieving the symptoms is usually the first action in any irritant skin problems. Most vets will use a steroid, and antibiotics. Steroids, do not cure these conditions, but are anti-inflammatory drugs which do reduce the inflammation and alleviate most of the irritation to the dog, and thus stop it scratching. They can show a dramatic short term result. The antibiotics are to combat bacteria infections and particularly to cure or prevent a secondary infection. Changing the diet also is important, and may help more than the owner could imagine. Sometimes it is the food that is causing the allergic reaction.
Regardless of the cause, the symptoms are obvious. The skin gets more pink, there is irritation, sometimes skin eruptions, and eventually there may be a loss of hair in affected parts. In extreme cases the dog may also become debilitated.
Treatment for allergies consists of helping reduce the symptoms, and an attempt to identify the cause of the allergy, and this identification is usually not easy. Once identified, avoidance of the allergen is often the only control that can be achieved. There is no simple cure-all available, but new drugs are appearing which may sometime help with these cases.
Fleas, a problem in their own right, can cause flea allergies. Fleas themselves are not the allergy, but a dog may have the allergy to flea bites. This often manifests as bald and ragged hair often at the base of the spine. Clearing, and keeping clear of the fleas, will rectify this problem and the main danger with this, indeed with all skins problems, is secondary infections. All dogs can suffer parasites, not only fleas, and a constant vigilance is prudent. Fortunately suitable remedies and preventives are available from your vet or pet shop.
Skin problems do not kill dogs (although occasionally they make the dog’s life such misery that euthanasia becomes the only answer), and too often a control rather than a cure is all that can be achieved.
Other and usually lesser problems can include moist eczema, usually localised patches which, as the name denotes, are moist. Sometimes this is caused by feeding too much carbohydrate, reduce this and the problem may go. It is fairly easy to cure though, although if it is a diet problem, and the diet is not corrected, it will reappear.
There is also dry eczema, more severe and covering more of the body. The cause is not always obvious but is probably a genetic problem- thus do not buy a puppy if the parents have skin problems! The symptoms are similar, but over a larger area.
Another possibility is parasites- fleas, mange and lice and your vet may take a skin scraping for microscopic examination to confirm or eliminate this. Fleas and lice are easily rid of, mange not so. Basically there are three types of mange, of the ear (discharges wax and irritation), and sarcoptic or demodectic. The former much easier cured than the second. There is also feet eczema; this is dealt with in another section.