your dog's skin, hair, and the problems you may encounter there
Ever have eczema, poison ivy, or some other yucky, itchy, uncomfortable skin problem? Pretty disgusting, right? Sweat dries and makes it itch, dry air sucks the moisture out and makes it itch, clothing rubs up against it and makes it itch... it itches. Now imagine someone forced you to wear several sweaters whenever you had a skin flare-up and you'll know what it's like for your dog.
Beyond the skeleton, a dog's skin and hair protect his internal organs from damage and infection-causing bacteria. On top of that, hair protects the skin from his environment and serves as the primary defense against bacterial bad guys. Skin is very variable and can inflame, thicken, and agitate itself to stimulate immune system activities and keep infections from getting inside the body. By checking your dog's skin regularly and paying attention to things like continuous scratching, biting, and pawing, you can ensure that his first line of defense stays in top battle condition.
Why does my dog roll in the dirt all the time? It drives me nuts that I have to keep giving him baths.
So quit bathing him! He's trying to clean himself. Rolling in the dirt is also called "dry bathing" and is one of the ways your buddy makes sure he's squeaky clean, even in those hard-to-reach areas. Dry bathing helps him get pieces of dirt and debris loose when he can't get at them with his paws or mouth. It also stimulates the sebaceous glands, which emit oil to waterproof the skin and hair.
If you want to bathe Max once a month, go right ahead. It'll help him in his quest for cleanliness. Also pick up the necessary tools for brushing and grooming his coat and pretty up that pooch!
What about those little feet beards my dog has? You know, the hair between the pads on the bottom of his feet?
Those little "feet beards" keep dirt and smaller particles from working their way into the skin. Things like grass seeds can get easily get under your pup's skin and create inflammation or even cysts, so his feet beards are important in keeping him healthy.
Did You Know? The little particles of grass seed that can work their way into your dog's paws, eyes, and mouth are also called foxtails.
The tufts of hair between your dog's toes are an important means for keeping his body safe from foreign particles.
The fur between his pads should be of a reasonable length, but don't try to determine what is reasonable on your own. Talk to your vet or a professional groomer about the proper way to trim his foxtails or, if your dog tends to squirm, just ask the groomer to handle the dirty work for you.
What's the correct way to clean my dog's ears? This is especially important to owners with large-eared dogs like weimaraners, cocker spaniels, and Bassett hounds. While a little ear wax is fine and helps protect the inner workings of his ears, excess ear wax can indicate or lead to infection and should be treated. This balance can be tricky because of the composition of dog's ears. Rather than having one canal directly into the ear, pups actually have two that form a right angle. While the first may be fresh and clean, the second can retain moisture and form wax.
Ask your vet's support staff for an ear wax remover and wipe the outer portion of your dog's ear with a cotton ball. Do not insert the cotton ball into his ear canal. Keep checking his ears - if the wax returns with a vengeance before the week is out, schedule a check-up with your veterinarian.
If your pup is wirehaired (Yorkshire terriers, poodles, shih tzus, etc.), he probably has ear hair to rival your Uncle Frank's. While it's a built-in defense against infection, loose hair falling into the canal can actually cause infection itself and should be removed. This is way easier than plucking Uncle Frank. Grasp your dog's ear hair loosely between forefinger and thumb, then pull lightly. A few strands should come out easily and painlessly.
He has some weird thing in his ear. What is it? That depends - what does it look like? If it's a dark or black waxy substance, it may be ear mites, and you can find more information about them on page 35. If it's a smallish particle, it may be a grass seed or other foreign object. You can try to remove it carefully with tweezers to avoid infection, but if it has
Helpful Hint: Never use Q-tips to clean your dog's ears. Are you listening? Never. While you may have complete faith in your control of the cotton swab, dogs hate having their ears cleaned and may make a sudden movement to get away. The cotton swab can end up going further into their ears and cause damage.
worked its way into the ear canal you may need to seek professional help from a veterinarian or groomer.
If his ear is puffy, swollen, and hot, he may have a hematoma. These blood blisters are common in labs and golden retrievers and can result from a lot of head shaking. Your vet will probably drain the area and may add a few stitches to the flap to keep it from filling up again.
What kinds of things can cause a problem with my dog's skin? For all of their growling and teeth-baring, a lot of dogs are pretty sensitive, especially when it comes to their skin. Among the most common triggers of skin problems are diet or environment changes, and the latter can include anything from a new state to a newly mown yard or using a new detergent on your pup's bed. If you notice any inflammation on him and know that you recently made a food or detergent switch, try giving him his previous food or re-wash his bed in the previous detergent and watch him for a day or two. If the irritation doesn't subside, cart him into the vet's office for a check-up. Other major skin problems can be caused by fleas or other parasites, which you'll find more information about on page 31.
What's the right way to cut my dog's toenails? If you look closely at your dog's claws, you'll see a translucent section of nail alone and an opaque section of tissue below the nail. If you decide to cut his nails by yourself, use that section of tissue as a guide - never cut above it, as it can result in bleeding and infection. Use clippers of a size appropriate for your pup's claws and make sure the blade is sharp since dull blades mean that you have to apply more pressure and can be more traumatic for your dog. If you do cut too high and he starts to bleed, apply pressure using a paper towel or clean cloth soaked in warm water. If you're an extremely well-prepared owner and have a styptic pen, even better. You can find styptics in a drugstore with bee sting treatments, or just ask the pharmacist for help.
Did You Know? The noses of some dogs slowly fade from black to a lighter color or freckled combination of several lighter shades over time. This is called "Dudley Nose."
If you decide to clip your dog's nails yourself, use extra caution not to nic
other areas of the body, and a cut pad
Also be careful if you run
with your dog
gravel, as some breeds' pads can easily split or crack due to stress. If his
footpads begin to bleed, apply pressure using a warm, wet cloth. The bleeding should stop within 30
Some dogs don't like to have their nails clipped or even have their paws touched. In those cases, it's really in both of your best interests to take him to a groomer or the vet to have them clipped by a professional. It takes less time, cuts down on the risk of injury, and is just more pleasant for both of you.
My dog is going bald! I thought it was bad enough that my husband was losing his hair, but now my little baby is losing all of his fur! What's going on?
Whoa, there! Someone's a little too sensitive about the baldness. Calm down - fur loss isn't necessarily permanent, and it also doesn't necessarily mean that something is wrong with your dog. There are tons of things that cause baldness, some of which your dog has been inflicting on himself.
Have you noticed him licking a specific spot obsessively? If so, he may also be scratching it when you're not looking. This is referred to as lick dermatitis and can lead to both hair loss and skin irritation. Treatments for this condition often involve using the funky-looking satellite dishes you see some poor pooches wearing, since it keeps them from licking the area while a vet is treating it. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotic creams or pills, both of which fight the infection that may have been caused by the licking. This condition can also result from leaving your dog alone for long periods of time or not giving him enough exercise. He's bored! Check out the creative exercise methods listed on page 15 for some fun ways to distract him from that nasty hobby.
Perhaps the most recognizable skin/hair condition is ringworm, in which a circular patch of hair is lost and the underlying skin becomes inflamed. Contrary to what the name suggests, ringworm is a fungus, not a parasite, and can create a crust that dogs love to scratch off. Your vet may decide to let your dog's
Fun Fact: A dog helped in inventing VELCRO! The inventor, George deMestral, reputedly took his dog for a walk in a rural area and, upon arriving home, found his fur covered in burrs. After examining them under a microscope, he emulated the hook and eye structure to make one of the most versatile fabrics in history.
While dogs come in a variety of shades, some (typically blue and fawn-colored dogs) are more prone to skin problems like baldness and loss of color. If you notice odd hair or color loss on your pooch, it may be:
• Hypopigmentation - loss of pigment in fur or nose; may be seasonal or due to skin problems
• Hyperpigmentation - extra pigmentation or more vivid coloring; typically due to sunlight or allergies
• Color-dilution Alopecia - loss of hair in small circular areas accompanied by a fading of pigmentation; usually hereditary immune system try to heal the infection itself. If not, he'll probably recommend an antifungal bath and ointment.
And, unfortunately for your pooch, he can suffer from the same types of baldness as your hubby. Pattern baldness is symmetrical and usually strikes around the ears. And, just like your husband's baldness, there's no real treatment. Hey! Get the Rogaine away from the dog, okay? You'll just have to get used to his new look.
My dog doesn't look like my husband... he looks like my teenager! What's up with the zit minefield on his chin? Next thing you know, you'll be taking the dog down to the kennel and embarrassing him in front of all of his friends. Unlike your teen, a dog's pimples are an indication that his body is fighting hard to prevent some sort of infection. It's completely normal but should be monitored - when doggy pimples burst, the result is a lot worse than being called "Pizza Face" by the cute girl in study hall. The contents can eat into the skin and cause a secondary infection. If you notice several pimples bursting at once and causing your pup pain, get to the vet.
Did You Know? Vibrissae are the tiny touch-sensitive hairs on a dog's muzzle. They're so sensitive they can detect changes in the airflow around the face.
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