A guide to skin conditions in cats and dogs

Ask any vet and they’ll probably tell you that skin conditions are one of the main reasons their patients are visiting. This is particularly the case for dogs.

Some skin conditions are worse during different seasons, so once you understand what may be affecting you pet, you can take preventative measures or be well equipped to deal with any sudden flare ups.

Causes of skin conditions in cats and dogs

Potential causes of skin problems in cats and dogs include:

Fleas (particularly Flea Allergy Dermatitis)
• Ringworm (a contagious fungal infection that can be passed onto humans and other animals that is characterised by round areas with a red ring around the edges)
• Parasites (such as ear mites and lice)
• Seasonal allergies, including various pollen, dust and mould
• Food allergies
• Contact Dermatitis following exposure to certain chemicals or fabrics
• Bacterial infections
• Stress (which can cause pets to chew and lick at their skin)
• Hormonal
• Nutritional imbalances

Some dogs also suffer from atopy – an allergic, very itchy skin condition which is in part a genetic abnormality and also a problem with the skin’s natural defence.

Skin conditions in pets, Skin problems in cats and dogs. A cat and dog together.

What are the symptoms of skin conditions?

It may be visible changes to your pet’s coat/skin condition or to their behaviour:

• Excessive hair loss
• Flaky or scaly skin
• Redness
• Bald patches
• Scratching (particularly for dogs)
• Licking and chewing their skin (particularly for cats)
• Lumps and bumps under the skin
• A dull-looking coat


Dermatitis and skin problems in dogs can also be caused by other problems, such as hormonal deficiencies that are a feature of other medical problems, or nutritional imbalances; however, these are less common.

Does your pet need to see a vet?

Because you can potentially tell a lot about your pet’s overall health from the condition of their skin, it’s advisable to take them to see the vet if you notice signs of a skin problem.

Skin conditions may lead to secondary bacterial infections that need additional treatment, particularly as a result of continuously scratching and chewing affected areas.

It can be challenging to diagnose exactly what is behind skin problems as there can be a wide range of potential causes (as listed above) but your vet will work with you and advise what you need to do to help.

Treatment for skin problems

Your pet’s treatment will depend on the underlying cause and can take a range of forms.

For Flea Allergy Dermatitis, it will be crucial to treat your pet for fleas so that they don’t suffer any further reaction.

If other parasites are the culprit (such as mites or lice), they will be tackled as an immediate priority.

There are a range of prescription medicines available to combat the various allergies.

Ringworm and other fungal problems will be treated with anti-fungal medication. If there are other pets in the home, they may also need to be treated (as it is a contagious condition and can spread to other animals and even humans).

If stress is to blame, you’ll need to work out what is causing your pet’s anxiety and take steps to address the situation.

Your vet will advise which course of treatment is suitable for your pet.

Preventing skin problems in cats and dogs

Prevention can be crucial for preventing future skin problems, particularly with regards to Flea Allergy Dermatitis. For pets who are sensitive to flea saliva, a year round flea treatment is crucial to prevent this. A single flea is all that is needed to trigger Flea Allergy Dermatitis in pets that are hypersensitive to it.

How can you help to relieve skin conditions?

When talking to your vet, ask for advice on how to:

  • Soothe the initial irritation
  • Remove the allergens from the skin
  • Help to repair and improve the skin barrier

Some of these measures could include:

  • Skin lotions and treatments prescribed by your vet
  • A healthy diet or supplements to prevent coat and skin problems
  • Avoiding direct sunlight for light coloured and hairless breeds so that sunburn does not become an issue
  • Regular dog grooming/ cat grooming to prevent matting of the fur

Keep an eye out for changes throughout the year and seek early advice from your vet to avoid any skin issues getting too serious.

MiPet Cover LifetimeFlex Pet Quote

It is always worthwhile considering having pet insurance in place in case your pet develops a skin condition. MiPet Cover doesn’t place exclusions at renewal on their LifetimeFlex lifetime cover policies, so ongoing conditions such as skin disease continue to be covered year after year. Why not get a quote today?


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