Ear infections, otherwise known as otitis, are one of the most common presenting complaints in dogs during the summer months.
Signs of ear infections include scratching at the ear, head shaking, odor, redness of the ear canal, and in severe cases, a head tilt and/or loss of balance.
Ear infections can occur for a variety of reasons. The structure of the ear can predispose them to infections. Think about floppy eared dogs or dogs with excessive hair in their ears. Moisture in the ear from swimming or humidity in the environment can also predispose dogs to ear infections. Finally, allergies can predispose allergic dogs to ear infections. Ears are an extension of the skin. The same way allergic pets get skin infections, they also get ear infections.
If you notice any of the mentioned signs, your dog needs to be seen by your veterinarian for an exam. They will perform a full otoscopic exam and then take a sample to be evaluated under a microscope to determine if there are bacteria and/or yeast present. Medication will be prescribed or applied depending on what is found in the ear.
Many dogs are allergic to allergens in the environment during the summer months. Unlike in humans, who get runny eyes and sneeze, dogs are affected by allergies through their skin. Allergens attach onto an allergic dogs skin and cause a defect in the skin barrier–predisposing them to skin infections and causing them to be itchy. Both the defective barrier and additional scratching predispose them to skin infections.
Allergic dogs may have itchy skin +/- skin/ear infections. They may have hair loss, crusts, redness, scabs or pustules on their skin.
If your dog has any of the above signs they need to see a vet. The vet will look at a sample of the abnormal skin under the microscope to determine the type of infection, and then will likely dispense a medicated shampoo and/or oral medication.
In chronic allergic dogs, there are medications that can be given that block their ability to recognize that they are itchy, and therefore, prevent them from itching and doing further damage to their skin. Allergy shots are also available. Steroids may be an option as well.
A hot spot is a skin infection that is most often started by chewing or scratching at a site on the skin due to allergies, fleas or anything that causes irritation to the skin.
A hot spot, otherwise known as acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis, is a localized area of moist, red, itchy, and infected skin. Pus usually oozes from the damaged skin due to the secondary bacterial infection. If the puss dries it can form a tightly adhered crust and hair loss over the infection site. Hot spots are more common during hot, humid weather, but can occur year-round, depending on the inciting cause of the hot spot.
The treatment your veterinarian chooses will depend on the severity of the hot spot, pain, location, the length of time the problem has been going on and if the problem is chronic.
Treatment includes clipping/shaving and cleaning the inflamed/infected area. Clipping and cleaning will allow your veterinarian to see how large the inflamed area is to be able to treat accordingly. The main goal is to get the skin dry and clean. Treatment may involve oral or topical antibiotics and steroids to reduce infection, itchiness, pain, and swelling and e-collars or similar collars to prevent your dog from bothering the infected area.
Fleas can be a problem in the warmer months. Dogs with fleas will present very itchy, and if they have a flea allergy they can have a skin infection and hair loss as well.
Make sure all dogs and cats in your home are on an adequate flea preventative to prevent fleas.
Dogs with light skin and a short or thin hair coat are particularly prone to sunburn, skin cancer, and other solar-induced skin diseases.
Sunburn can appear as red skin or hair loss. The most common sites for sunburn in dogs are the bridge of the nose, ear tips, skin surrounding the lips, and any other area where skin pigmentation is low. The skin on the groin, inside legs, and abdomen can also get sunburned because hair is very thin and UV light can reflect off of concrete surfaces to affect those areas of skin. Also, dogs that like to expose their belly to the sun may get sunburn on their belly.
The best way to minimize UV exposure in dogs is to avoid the sun between 10 am-3 pm by keeping your dog inside. If that is not possible, sunscreen can be applied to protect the skin. It is best to use sunscreen formulated for dogs or UV protective clothing/sun suits for dogs.