'Hot spots' can lead to a host of summer skin problems for dogs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 July, 2011, 12:00am


Chances are that if you wore a fur coat all summer in Hong Kong your skin would get hot, sweaty and itchy. For dogs that leave the confines of an air-conditioned apartment, summer can bring a host of skin problems.

'Any dog that isn't looked after properly, can get skin problems, more so in the summer, particularly secondary skin infections,' says veterinarian Catherine Sen at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

With heat and humidity in the summer, says Sen, yeast and bacteria on a dog's skin can overgrow and, in some instances, cause 'hot spots' or redness and dandruff, which can be 'itchy and often very smelly'.

Dogs may also have yeast overgrowth (malassezia dermatitis), which Sen describes as a horrible, mousy smell and can be extremely itchy. 'Some dogs can get a hypersensitivity to the yeast, and there is often lots of associated dandruff and redness,' she explains. 'It's not infectious, if you are sleeping with a dog that has a yeast infection [on its skin], you wouldn't want them in bed with you.'

Too frequent bathing or using perfumed or drying products can also cause problems. 'If they [owners] shampoo too much, this can strip the dog's skin of its natural oils, which disrupts the skin's natural barrier to infection. Dry skin may result in secondary infec- tions,' says Sen, adding that dogs with matted fur, that haven't been groomed properly, are prone to get bacterial infections.

By using the correct product, Sen says shampooing can help soothe and cool the skin rather than make it 'dry and hot'. She suggests taking your own hypoallergenic or moisturising shampoo to the groomers, such as soap-free Epi Soothe Shampoo or a mild product such as Johnson's Baby Shampoo.

Owners shouldn't think that medicated shampoos are beneficial for all dogs. They should only be used for animals with prescribed conditions such as bacterial infections and to fight fungal infections, according to Sen.

Allergies are also important primary causes of skin disease in dogs and cats. There are four categories: contact, food, flea and atopy (allergies to pollens, storage mites and house dust mites).

During the summer, atopy or flea allergies are more commonly seen. Atopic dermatitis is considered as the hay fever for dogs. 'Increased humidity in the summer provides the ideal environment for house dust mites. You can't see them with your eye, but they are everywhere and are pretty impossible to eliminate from your house,' says Sen.

As dogs often spend more time inside during the summer months, they are also spending more time with the house dust mites. Areas of the house such as bedrooms or sofas have the highest concentrations. Using a dehumidifier or air conditioning to reduce the humidity inside your apartment may help.

Fighting fleas needs to be a year-round battle. 'Unlike Europe, fleas can breed all year round. Hong Kong offers the perfect conditions for them,' says Sen.

In a single year, one flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs and if your dog brings home just one flea, your home can get infested.

'If you are not taking proper care of your pet, by using flea prevention and using hypoallergenic moisturising shampoos, you are asking for trouble, especially in the summer months,' says Sen.