Springer Spaniel Skin Problems

Here’s a recent article I published on springer skin problems:

There are 5 main causes of skin problems in dogs, but springers do fare well compared to other breeds. The main causes are hereditary conditions, infectious diseases, immune system problems, dermatitis (allergic reaction to external agents), and internal diseases (which may present skin problems as one of the symptoms).

Fortunately, springers are not as susceptible as most other breeds to hereditary skin problems, or to immune system problems. Some of the underlying conditions can be treated and ‘cured’ easily, others are systemic and could require lifelong treatment and palliative or (easing) therapies such as topical creams.

Like most breeds though, they are susceptible to transmitted skin conditions (such as mange), and dermatitis arising for a variety of reasons.

Depending on what references you read, any form of irritation of the skin could be termed ‘dermatitis’. Now let’s consider the three main problem areas with springer spaniel skin:

Infectious Diseases

By definition, these are picked up from other dogs, or ‘traces’ of other dogs, such as stools, vomit or fur, though for infectious skin diseases, contact with other dogs is the most likely reason. Canine scabies is a fairly commonplace infectious disease. Ringworm (a fungal infection) is less common in adult dogs than in puppies.

Springers may also become infected with contagious lice.

If you have any suspicion that your springer has an infectious disease, then get a vet’s opinion immediately.

Dermatitis

There are several causes of dermatitis, including bacterial, fungal, yeast, or infection by a parasite (eg the mange), seborrhoea, food allergies, flea bites (their saliva is a common allergen), drug intolerance; exposure to toxins, nutritional problems, contact with an irritating substance, and sunburn. Food allergies may be more difficult to pin down, and dietary adjustments might be necessary. If you suspect an allergy, then talk to the breeder – your dog’s parents may have had similar problems. If you are treating your dog for another condition, then an allergy could be due to a reaction to a drug. Your vet would be aware of this. Problems arising from a nutritional deficiency could be due to bad diet, but this is rare for dogs which are properly fed, unless their bodies are unable properly to process, say a particular mineral or vitamin. This of course could be an aspect of a metabolic disorder.

Internal Disease Presenting Skin Symptoms

These include metabolism disorders (the body’s ‘engine’) and endocrine (hormonal) disorders. Cancer could result in excessive itching due to skin irritation. Secondary Problems Problems with the skin which make your springer scratch and lick can lead on to other problems such as Hot Spots. ‘Hot spots’ – acute moist dermatitis – arise from over-licking a particular spot on the skin (overlicking means licking more than would be usual form grooming or exploration and interferes with your dog’s other activity). This over licking might be in response to, say, a flea allergy.

If not treated, then the over licking can lead to a staphylococcal infection which may need antibiotics to cure it, and should always be examined by a vet. Indeed, any other skin problem which results in broken skin should be treated carefully to prevent secondary infections.

Prevention

Because springers are ‘gamey’ dogs and get up to all sorts of mucky mischief they should be cleaned and examined regularly. In most cases, prevention is straightforward. Groom your dog regularly, examining the coat and skin, and use a medicated pet shampoo. If you live in an area where ticks are prevalent (your vet will advise), you should check his coat for ticks and use a tick powder regularly.

Obviously, if your dog has discovered any sort of dead animal when out with you, then a good cleanup is essential.

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