Data from golden retrievers sheds light on occurrence of skin problems in dogs
Skin problems are one of the most common reasons owners take their dog to a veterinarian. We looked at our baseline (starting) data to see what types of skin problems were noted during our study dogs’ initial examination, and found that more than one-third of our cohort (1,338 dogs) had at least one skin condition noted at baseline.
The top problem cited by our study participants was otitis externa – outer ear infections. Ear infections are common in dogs, and dog breeds (including golden retrievers) with underlying problems such as allergies and hypothyroidism have a higher risk of infection.
The second most common reported problem was hot spots. Hot spots, also referred to as acute moist dermatitis, are the result of intense licking and scratching. Hot spots most commonly are the result of insect bites and allergies, especially if the two occur simultaneously, such as flea-bite hypersensitivity. Hot spots can appear quickly, sometimes over the course of hours.
Rounding out the top conditions are allergic disease such as environmental allergies (atopy), flea hypersensitivity/allergy, food allergies, and contact dermatitis.
The least common condition, but one worth mentioning, is demodectic mange. Mange is a general term for skin diseases caused by mites. Demodectic mange, caused by Demodex canis, is the most common type of mange in dogs. All normal dogs have a few of these mites residing on their skin. The mites are harmless unless the dog has an immature immune system, or is immunocompromised (an example would be a dog with hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s disease). Demodectic mange is not contagious to other animals or people, and is a treatable condition.
In summary (some dogs had more than one condition noted):
- Otitis externa: 687 cases
- Hot spots: 349 cases
- Atopy: 64 cases
- Contact dermatitis: 53 cases
- Flea allergy dermatitis: 51 cases
- Food allergy dermatitis: 44 cases
- Demodectic mange: 35 cases
We’re continuing to monitor trends in the types of skin diseases described as our Golden Retriever Lifetime Study population ages. It is rare in veterinary medicine to have documentation of skin changes in individual dogs over a long period of time. This information may help veterinarians better understand the causes of skin diseases, and help in the delivery of effective prevention and treatment plans.