Might It Be Mites?

     Here are the symptoms: intense itching, scabs or crusting, reddening skin and thinning coat.
     Here are (some of) the possibilities:
- Food allergy                   - Fleas
- Environmental allergy   - Mites
- Bacterial infection           - Yeast infection

ALL SIX of the diseases above can produce the symptoms listed and there are many more that could be on this list! This patient was itchy and has crusting on this tail. His thin coat and red skin is evident here on his back legs and tail.    Photo: Animal Dermatology Clinic
       The symptoms of a pet with Scabies mites can be confusing to pet owners. In an effort to resolve the situation quickly and with little cost, many pet owners consult “Dr. Google”. In some fashion, these symptoms can be found on a pet with all of the diseases listed above. How to decide?
      Sarcoptes scabiei and Notoedres cati mites are microscopic parasites that burrow into the skin of dogs and cats respectively, where they deposit eggs that hatch over the course of a week. After hatching, the larvae make their way to the surface of the skin where they feed on the host (the pet). The larvae then grow into a nymph stage. Think of these nymphs as teen-age eating machines.
       The nymph can now travel on the skin to another area on the pet surface continuing to feed as they molt into adults. As adults, they mate and deposit more eggs in the skin, restarting the cycle. This episode is completed in a short three weeks!

      Some pet owners attempting to resolve the symptoms on their own usually try the food allergy route because the popular trend on Dr. Google is that grain or corn is the culprit of an itchy dog (although the protein source is usually the allergen, not the carbohydrate). In truth, if a strict and disciplined food elimination diet is followed, the results will help to eliminate or identify a food allergy. A food trial can go as long as 12 weeks, all the while as many as four generations of multiplying mites are now feeding on the canine buffet of Fido or feline smorgasbord of Fluffy!
      Most flea treatments are ineffective on mites and whatever over-the-counter products purported for allergies are no benefit.
      To prove that mites are the cause, the veterinarian must scrape sample areas on the pet. The skin scrape is performed with the edge of a scalpel and with a fair amount of pressure, so much as to obtain cells from the topmost layer of skin with the goal that mites are captured in the sample. That sample is placed on a glass slide and with the aid of a microscope, the veterinarian looks for evidence of mites. Negative skin scrapes DO NOT eliminate mites as a cause. They are difficult to find in most cases and treatment should be undertaken if suspicion is aroused.
       Treatments will vary depending upon the breed type and circumstances surrounding the case therefore, another concerned pet owner who offers advice of successful treatment of their experience with scabies may not be suitable for another pet.
       Mites are contagious and can affect other dogs and they can also transiently affect humans as well. Other canids (foxes, coyotes and wolfs) can be carriers and your dog can contract mites by frequenting areas where an infected wild animal was present.
      Once mites are identified, the pet owner must thoroughly clean the environment where the pet lives including bedding, harnesses and collars. Veterinary clinics will disinfect and temporarily quarantine the examination room after a pet with mites is seen to prevent other patients from exposure to the parasite, although Scabies mites are obligate parasites, meaning they cannot survive long off the host.
       Remember, mites cannot be seen with the naked eye and although the veterinarian may strongly believe that the mites are present based upon case history and a physical examination, it is possible that a sample containing mites cannot be found. In many cases, the veterinarian will proceed and begin treatment for eradicating the mites.

First Aid for Pets:  Be prepared!

     Many have a first aid kit available as a mini-emergency station in their homes. Keeping a kit in your car is especially handy when you are on the road. But what about your pet?
The American Red Cross has maintained a message of preparedness for those unplanned situations that may occur. With the large number of pet owners, it is a good idea to keep basic first aid supplies for your four-legged friend.
Fully assembled pet first aid kits can be purchased at larger pet supply stores or on-line. The American Red Cross website provides an extensive list of items that could be included in a kit that you can assemble yourself. More information is in Pet First Aid by Barbara Mammato, DVM, MPH, a handbook sponsored by the American Red Cross and The Humane Society of the United States.
To expand on your preparedness, some chapters of the Red Cross offer classes in First Aid and Animal CPR. From the Animal Kennel Club website: “The Red Cross four hour Pet First Aid Training course utilizes mannequins to learn the correct skills for small-medium and large dog CPR as well as how to perform CPR on cats. The instructor will demonstrate CPR, rescue breathing and how to care for choking emergencies. You will learn how to splint broken bones; control bleeding and emergency care for poisoning and bloat/torsion. How to deal with burns and other common emergencies and illnesses are also covered in this course on Pet First Aid.”
There is no substitute for the professional care of a veterinarian, but having a first aid kit and knowledge of basic medical care should an emergency arise could prove to be beneficial.

Cats Flipping Their Wigs

      If your cat needs a fashion update, there’s a wig for that. Yes, a wig.
      Kitty Wigs ® is an on-line site (www.kittywigs.com) that currently offers four choices of feline wigs ($65) to get your kitty to be, well, the cat’s meow.
      If you love the look, but your Miss Kitty is not so thrilled about it, not to worry, because you can get a peek of some of the feline fashionistas collected in a book also available for purchase. In addition, they offer a video of models presumably on the catwalk (where else?), gift cards and more.
Photo:  Courtesy of Jill Johnson

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As specialists, we stay current on new research and treatments and are actively involved with the research. Our dermatology practice is not limited to small animals and we often have equine and occasionally exotic patients. Learn More >