The hot summer months are usually associated with skin ailments in dogs. Strangely, during the last very hot summer veterinarians saw fewer skin cases than usual, but with the onset or the colder weather some unusual skin ailments have appeared.

Causes of ear irritation in dogs

Over the past few weeks many dogs have been presented with quite severe irritations of the ears. Owners reported that their pets had suddenly begun scratching and flapping their ears vigorously. On examination, the external portion of their ear canal was very red, but unlike ear infections occurring during summer, there was no exudate.

Most of the affected dogs had a history of sitting very close to the fire or heater on coming in from outside. Perhaps the sudden change from very cold air temperatures to high direct sources of heat and vice versa induced an inflammatory response in the sensitive tissues of the ear.

Most cases seemed to settle down quickly with the application of a soothing ointment, but in severe cases an anti-inflammatory injection seems helpful.

What causes skin irritation on dogs?

Another localized skin irritation occurs on the dog’s stomach and inner flanks. Again, the pet might suddenly begin scratching or licking at its under surface. The surface of the skin is quite red and might be broken in some areas from vigorous scratching.

My unproved theory as to the cause oft his condition is that during cold nights the dog lies in a very tightly coiled position. This precludes any air circulation and condensation occurs on the surface of the skin, which provides a suitable environment for the proliferation of bacteria normally found on the skin surface. It is this mild skin infection which leads to the marked skin reddening and irritation.

Long haired dogs such as spaniels, Afghan hounds, old English sheep dogs and collies sometimes suffer from an irritation of the skin between the toes or the pads of the feet. During winter the hair of the feet gets wet from the dew on the grass. It might remain wet throughout the day and this provides ideal conditions for certain bacteria and fungi to proliferate.

In severe cases a dog might spend most of the day licking its feet, which of course leads to further irritation of the skin surface. Application of ointments are not usually successful in such conditions as it seems only to draw the dog’s attention to the area and encourages further licking.

A similar condition could occur on the tips of the ears of long-eared breeds. A thick scab might develop which is difficult to remove and makes it also difficult to apply medicaments to the surface of the skin.

It is sometimes necessary to sedate the dog to clean the area, and remove matted hair and exudate covering the skin. An ointment containing an antibiotic and cortisone is then an effective remedy.