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Ask the Vet: Chewing on solutions to dogs' skin issues

Ask the Vet: Chewing on solutions to dogs' skin issues

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Q: My dog is licking and scratching her skin raw! I do not know what to do about it!

A: Skin issues can, unfortunately, be a common issue for dogs and can cause much grief for your pet! Itchy, raw, infected skin causes constant irritation, and dogs will chew, lick, and cause more trauma to the irritated skin.

Your first and most crucial step in healing the skin is to stop your dog from causing more injury. Constant chewing and licking will cause more infection, irritation, and will perpetuate the issue. Using an Elizabethan collar or another barrier is essential in trying to treat the skin. Although we all hate having to put an e-collar on our dogs, its use is vital in treating any skin issues.

If the skin issue is causing the skin to be moist or infected, placing a bandage is not the best idea. Using any type of dressing will only trap the moisture and perpetuate the problem. So, allowing the skin to dry out is essential, which is why the Elizabethan collar is so vital as dogs do not listen to us when we tell them to stop licking!

Next, you need to take your dog to your veterinarian to determine the cause of the skin issue. Many medical problems can cause itchy and inflamed skin. Allergies, hot spots, skin mites, metabolic issues such as hypothyroidism or Cushing's disease, dermatitis, and trauma are all possible causes for itchy raw skin. Blood tests and skin assessment are essential in determining the cause and then treating the issue appropriately.

The most common cause of skin issues is typically related to allergies in some way. Whether it is a food allergy or an environmental allergy, dogs will get chronic skin issues and ear infections related to those allergies. Unfortunately, allergies are not something that we can cure. We can only medically manage them to make your dog more comfortable.

Q: My friend's dog just died of pancreatitis; she was only 6-years-old. How did this happen, and how can we prevent it from happening to our dog?

A: I am sorry for your friend's loss, as that is a tragic way to lose a pet.

Pancreatitis can be a very devastating illness. It is exceedingly difficult to treat and, in some cases, can be fatal.

The pancreas is an organ that sits near the liver and stomach and is responsible for producing digestive enzymes. When we ingest food, the pancreas is stimulated to produce and secrete these enzymes into the intestinal tract so we can digest the food. The pancreas is also responsible for producing insulin that keeps our blood sugar regulated.

Inflammation of this organ can occur in dogs for many reasons. These include the ingestion of high-fat foods, dietary indiscretion, stress, and other abdominal issues that irritate the pancreas.

The pancreas is, unfortunately, a susceptible organ that is easily inflamed. Sometimes we cannot identify the original cause of pancreatitis, but the clinical signs are all the same. Pancreatitis is a painful illness, so most dogs will exhibit significant abdominal pain and be very nauseous, causing severe vomiting.

Dogs that are suffering from pancreatitis do not want to eat because every time they ingest food, the pancreas becomes more inflamed, worsening the pancreatic inflammation.

Treatment involves supportive care while the pancreas can heal and typically includes many days of hospitalization. If the pancreatitis is severe, it will cause systemic abnormalities that turn into a life-threatening issue. Some dogs, such as Schnauzers and dogs that have already had pancreatitis, are more prone to this disease, so monitoring them more closely is essential.

Preventing pancreatitis is nearly impossible. To help avoid this problem, make sure your dog does not ingest high fatty foods and try to minimize human food as much as you can!

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at


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