The Dog Owners Guide to Canine Eczema
Canine eczema (also called ‘hot spots’) is often caused by certain allergies and will lead to the affected dog or puppy’s skin becoming inflamed. The skin condition also comes in two forms (dry and moist/wet) with both types causing different symptoms. With wet eczema the affected area will appear red and scaly producing a wet discharge. In relation to the dry form the affected area will appear dry, grey, flaky and the skin may start to wrinkle.
The affected dog will also start to scratch and lick the inflamed area which will only make the condition worst leading to bacteria entering the affected area causing more problems. The dog may also bite the reddened area causing the skin to break, bleed and then more prone to secondary skin infections. Due to the constant licking, biting and scratching the hair/fur may also start to fall out and become matted.
Where does eczema develop on dogs?
Canine eczema can develop on a dog’s back, legs, in-between the hind legs, on the tail, side and even between the toes (interdigital eczema). It is very common for dogs to lick and groom their feet especially after an injury, whether this is through a thorn becoming embedded or due to a graze or bruise caused by an accident.
The problem with this licking is when the affected area becomes wet which can then lead to feathering and then infection (especially on the foot pads and feet). The condition will then be exacerbated by the dog’s constant licking which will simply perpetuate the infection and inflammation. Unfortunately due to the eczema affecting the feet it is not uncommon for the dog to become lame.
What causes eczema in dogs?
Although the causes of canine eczema are often unknown (although a secondary reaction to fleas is the most common cause) the condition is often more common in certain breeds. For example Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds seem to be more prone to developing the skin infection.
With German Shepherds the eczema will normally start to develop on the dog’s rump with the primary cause thought to be fleas with the initial irritation also possibly due to the anal glands becoming impacted. In relation to Golden Retrievers the most commonly affected area is under the ear on the side of the dog’s face. Other breeds that are more common to the skin condition are Chinese breeds (those breeds that have wrinkled skin most commonly the Shar pei – see the picture on the left).
Although as previously discussed the primary cause of canine eczema is thought to be due to dogs being highly sensitive to flea bites it is also thought that food allergies and vitamin deficiency could be a cause. Eczema is also more common in warmer weather with some experts believing that this could be due to the higher proportion of mites occurring in warmer temperatures.
To help the vet come to an accurate diagnosis it is very important that a good picture is built up to exactly what the affected dog does in an average day or week. For example a dog that has developed a bad case of eczema may love to swim in ponds, lakes or rivers or run through bushy areas where thorns are likely to be found.
By discussing when the infection started and by looking at the dog’s previous medical history it maybe possible for the vet to get a really good idea about what may have changed in the dog’s immediate environment whether it is a new dog food or flea infestation.
As with all dog and puppy health problems this condition should be treated quickly and accurately diagnosed (as the symptoms of eczema in dogs can be similar to Ringworm , Mange and even parasites).
Treatment for dogs with eczema
Treatment for interdigital canine eczema will involve the foot (paw) being thoroughly cleaned with the hair (fur) clipped. Of course if there is an injury or thorn in the foot or pads this will need to be seen to (it is always a good idea for the vet to also examine the foot in minute detail to make sure that the area is completely free from any other thorns or foreign objects before any treatment is continued). The foot will then be dried and bandaged (this will stop the dog from continually licking the affected area). If the dog is constantly trying to bite and tear at the bandages then an Elizabethan collar may need to be utilized (this is a decision that can only be made by the vet).
Treatment for canine eczema will need to start with the vet trying to get to the root of the cause whether it is due to a food allergy or due to fleas. There are a variety of treatments that the vet may opt for including topical ointments such as a mixture of coal tar, sulphur and calamine (the affected area will need to have the hair removed before it is thoroughly cleaned and cleansed with saline before any topical cream is applied). Antihistamines may also be prescribed and if the condition is thought to have been caused by a vitamin deficiency or due to a poor diet then vitamin supplements can be added to the food (although this will need to be talked through with the vet).
There are other home remedies that maybe recommended (again this will need to be talked through with the vet) including aloe vera applied to the skin and primrose oil added to the dog food. Of course if fleas are thought to be the culprit then the bedding will need to be washed and the fleas eliminated through a variety of methods (take a look at our page on dog flea products to get the best pick).
If it is thought that the irritation is being caused by a specific shampoo then this should be discontinued (you should be able to determine whether a shampoo is the cause if you have made any changes to your dog’s grooming routine since the eczema started). Finally, you should always avoid using any skin products that are not designed for animals on your dog (for obvious reasons). Anyway we hope you found our guide to canine eczema useful, if you would like to learn about homeopathic remedies then why not take a look at the ‘Top Tips’ over on the right hand side.
A holistic approach to Eczema treatment
If your dog is suffering from this debilitating condition it is worth removing the meat from your dog’s diet (speak to your vet first). You should then start adding rice, vegetables and low fat cottage cheese to his diet instead. Of course if you really must feed your dog meat then choose lamb.
You can treat the affected areas on your dog with diluted Calendula essence. However, if the affected areas are moist you should spray them with Dr. Schaette’s Wound Balm. It is a good idea to spray the lesions before your pooch goes outside as this will help protect them from secondary infections.
Alongside topical treatments you could also start systemic detoxification therapy. The treatment should start with Toxex drops and then after a period of five days the medication should be changed depending on what type of Eczema your dog has. For the moist type you should use Psorinoheel drops. However, if the condition is the dry type then the treatment should consist of either Dermisol drops or Sulfur-Injeel ampules being administered to the affected area.
If your dog is experiencing advanced suppuratic Eczema then Staphylosal drops or Hepar sulfuris-injeel drops should be administered.
We must emphasis that you should not use any treatments unless you have spoken with your vet first or a vet trained in homeopathic medicines.
Crab apple is a great natural remedy for strengthening the overall condition of your dog.
There are many other homeopathic remedies that can be used to treat common skin conditions including probably one of the best and most often prescribed homeopathic remedies i.e. Sulphur. This remedy is often used to treat dog’s that have itchy and stinky skin which is warm or hot when touched.
If the skin happens to get more itchy at night and is dry and scaly then a homeopathic vet may prescribe a great remedy called Arsenicum Album.
If your dog is experiencing a condition known as Lick Granuloma (this is where the dog repeatedly licks the same area) then Ignatia 200c may be prescribed. Don’t forget you can always speak with a homeopathic vet, just look in the phone book or even better choose a vet through recommendation.
Experts recognize how important (EFAs) are in keeping your dog’s skin and coat in excellent condition. (EFAs) are Essential Fatty Acids which are actually the main building blocks of the skin. Not only do they great for dogs that are prone to allergies they are also great at relieving itching as they have anti-inflammatory properties.
Speak to your vet about giving your dog Omega-3 and Omega-6 supplements (especially if your dog has an allergy). These are found in foods such as Fax seed and Borage. Of course if you do choose a supplement (after speaking with your vet) try and find one that also contains Vitamin E.
There are also some great herbal remedies for common skin problems in dogs including Burdock, Cleavers, Nettle and Yellow Dock, as all of these remedies have a superb detoxifying action.