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Skin Problems with Westies

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Veterinarians are consulted by dog owners for skin problems more than any other group of diseases. Dog’s skin is almost as sensitive as human skin and both suffer from almost the same ailments, though occurrence of acne in dog is rare. For this reason, veterinary dermatology has developed into a specialty practiced by many vets.

Since many skin problems have visual symptoms that are almost identical, it requires the skill of an experienced veterinary dermatologist to identify and cure many of the more severe skin disorders. Pet stores sell many treatments for skin problems but most of the treatments are directed at symptoms and not at the underlying problems.

If your dog is suffering from a skin disorder, you should seek professional assistance as quickly as possible. As with all diseases, the earlier a problem is identified and treated, the more likely is the cure.


Hereditary Skin Problems

Veterinary dermatologists are currently researching a number of skin disorders that are believed to have a hereditary basis. These hereditary diseases are transmitted by both parents, who appear normal but have a recessive gene for the disease; meaning that they carry, but are not affected by, the disease. These diseases pose serious problems to breeders because in some instances there are no methods to identify carriers.

Among the hereditary skin disorders, for which the mode of inheritance is known, are acrodermatitis, cutaneous asthenia, hematopoiesis, color dilution alopecia and nodular dermatofibrosis. Some of these disorders are limited to one or two breeds, while other affect a large number of breeds. In West Highland White terriers, epidermal dysplasia is most commonly found. Young puppies manifest dark-colored skin and are very itchy. The dark, thickened skin appears dry but greasy, like a dog suffering from bad allergies. Diagnosis is accomplished by skin biopsies and only experienced dermatologists are qualified to identify epidermal dysplasia. There is no known cure, but vets prescribe potent topical and oral medications to control the discomfort. Affected dogs and their relatives should not be bred.


Auto-Immune Skin Conditions

Auto-immune skin conditions are commonly referred to as being allergic to yourself, while allergies are usually inflammatory reactions to an outside agent. Auto-immune diseases cause serious damage to the tissues that are involved. The best known auto-immune disease is lupus, which affects people as well as dogs.

The signs are variable and may affect kidneys, bones, blood and skin. It can be fatal to both dogs and humans, though it is not thought to be transmissible. It is usually successfully treated with cortisone, prednisone or similar corticosteroid, but extensive use of these drugs can have harmful side effects.


Airborne Allergies

Westies show greater tendency toward inhalant allergies than other breeds. The usual offenders include pollen, dust and molds. Humans have hay fever, rose fever and other fevers from which they suffer during the pollination season. Many dogs suffer from the same allergies. When the pollen count is high, your dog might suffer but don’t expect him to sneeze and have a runny nose, like a human would. Dogs react to pollen allergies the same they react to fleas, they scratch and bite themselves.

Westies tend to rub their faces with their front feet, lick and bite at their front feet and develop rashes on their bellies or in the armpits. Westies are very susceptible to airborne pollen and house-dust allergies, so do not think that your Westie will only encounter potential allergens outdoors. Dogs, like humans, can be tested for allergens. Discuss the testing with your veterinary dermatologist.

5 Responses to Skin Problems with Westies

  • I’d always advise going to the Vets with skin complaints. But when I first got my Westie she had patches of eczema. At the time I knew Vets had little success in treating this. I decided to try a home remedy for a few months before going to the Vets. First thing every day, I washed the patches in hot but not too hot water, dried them off with a hair-dryer. Then applied Germolene to the patches. I chose Germolene because my Westie didn’t like the taste. 10 hours later I washed it off with hot water again, dried with hairdryer and re-applied the Germolene. The Germolene did rub off but I made sure I had covers on the bed and sofa. I did this twice a day for 6 months. After 6 months the eczema was gone. I’m not saying this will always work, and it was a mild condition, but not everything the Vet offers will work either – and some medications cause more health problems. Anyway, if it hadn’t appeared to be working after a week I would have gone to the Vets, but it improved after a week and went on improving.

  • My Westie started with itchy skin, after the Groomer shaved her . I HATE when they shave her but they said her fur was beginning to matt, so it was best for her . I just bought a shampoo called ” DermOpt”.. I’m hoping it helps her itchiness. Has anyone heard of this shampoo and is it any good ?

  • There is a very effective natural way to help your pet with skin and auto immune problems. Forever living Aloe Vera , widely endorsed by many health professionals is essentially identical to the natural leaf. It is effective on the epithelial tissue, inside and outside thd body, it also has an immunomodulating effect which will help to put the body back into balance, whether you are a dog or a person! Completely natural, safe and no long term side effects

  • Would have been nice to cover food allergies, as these are a huge issue with skin and ear issues in Westies. Chicken and grain seem to be the worst aggravators for the Westies I’ve had. We now use an LID diet of lamb & rice and ONLY freeze dried lamb lung treats. The salmon jerky treats seem to upset our 15-yr old Westie’s stomach after using them for a few days in a row. No more backing off of the food, no more itchy skin and no more ear infections. As she’s gotten older, we’ve had to become more and more strict. Even a single cracker or pretzel will send her into itchy fits for days from the wheat. It’s nice that there are dog foods, even non-prescription ones, that work for the food allergies. I remember when the only choice was to cook for your Westie.

  • Here we are at the end of November and (knock on wood) my darling Samantha has NOT gotten her Fall breakout of skin allergies that come each November & June – like clockwork. I have been diligent this year – while working with our new vet – to keep her skin medicated, her coat clean and her allergies in check when they bounded in on the jet-stream this month. The rest of the family got our seasonal allergies as usual, but our little Sami, bless her heart, didn’t suffer a single red patch. We are now using a really great anti-bacterial shampoo and conditioner that our awesome vet at Banfield prescribed for her and she gets washed once a week now that we have the pesky skin condition under control. As we all know, keeping Westies white is a daily chore, but we use hypo-allergenic baby wipes between baths to keep her coat as clean as possible and we clean her feet with white vinegar when we notice her starting to lick and it neutralizes the yeast that we found to be a huge part of the problem – so no more red feet an face either! Last summer my little girl had to be shaved back as close as we could get her and her poor skin was almost blood red at the worst of her skin infection. i can say now, with great relief that she has not had any hot spots in over 6 months and she is sleeping through the night comfortably!!! I know it isn’t the answer for every Westie, but we had our time of trial and error and we finally found what works for us. I just encourage everyone to hang in there – once you find a treatment, it is easy to do when it works! =o)

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