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Your Companion’s Skin and Coat

Cat scratching itself, likely suffering from pet skin allergies.

Did you know that the skin is the largest organ in the body?

Many animals are affected by skin diseases, often making them quite itchy and uncomfortable. Skin irritation can be the result of many different conditions. Certain endocrine diseases including hypothyroidism, Cushings disease, and diabetes are often first detected due to changes in the skin and coat. Other common culprits of skin conditions are related to infections (bacterial, fungal or parasitic).

Another common cause of skin irritation is allergies. We can think of an allergy as an animal’s immune system mounting a valiant protective response against something that it has (in this case, mistakenly) identified as a threat. This ‘threat’ (the allergen) is most often a protein from a plant, insect, animal or food – common allergens can be found in pollen, mold spores, dust mites, flea saliva, or shed skin cells, as well as diet ingredients like soy or chicken. As part of this overzealous immune response (the allergic reaction), the animal’s system releases strong chemicals that cause inflammation. We might initially see this inflammation as redness or swelling, which is often accompanied by an uncomfortable itching sensation. 

If you are visiting us with concerns of your companion’s skin, we will start by asking you a number of detailed questions. These questions may seem intensive, but gathering a thorough history is very important to help us diagnose skin problems. Next, additional tests may be recommended and will first be thoroughly discussed with you. Tests may include checking for fleas, skin scrapings, swabs, cultures, blood work, food trials, or biopsies.