Canine Psoriasisby Deborah Lundin
Canine psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that causes a scaly, silver or reddish rash on your dog’s skin. Because symptoms are similar to canine seborrheic dermatitis or eczema, a veterinary diagnosis is necessary to determine the exact condition and cause before treatment can begin. Regular monitoring of your dog’s skin allows you to notice when abnormalities, such as psoriasis, develop.
When the Immune System Malfunctions
Psoriasis occurs due to a malfunction in the immune system. Typically, the immune system activates to attack infections or foreign bodies. In psoriasis, the immune system attacks normal skin cells, resulting in an overproduction of T-cells. These T-cells form patches of thick skin, or scales, on the skin's surface.
What to Look For
When your dog has psoriasis, typical symptoms include red and scaly patches on the skin. Typical areas affected include the scalp, legs, elbows and the base of the tail. These scaly patches of skin cause extreme itchiness. If left untreated, excessive itching and scratching can lead to open wounds and secondary skin infections.
Genetics, Food or Other Allergens
While genetic factors can play a role in psoriasis development, allergies are often a common trigger to the immune system response. Common allergens include commercial dog food ingredients, shampoos, plants, fabrics and insecticides. If your dog develops psoriasis, your veterinarian may discuss possible food or environmental changes that may have triggered the immune response.
Determining the Cause
Before treatment begins, it is essential to determine the causative agent of the psoriasis. For example, if a food allergen is the root cause, treatment may be unsuccessful if your dog continues to ingest the allergen. Your veterinarian may discuss dietary changes or the need for an elimination diet to determine the exact allergen. If a contact allergen is suspected, such as shampoo, its use must be discontinued.
Eliminating the Itch
After determining the underlying cause, treatment for psoriasis includes nutritional supplements, such as zinc and omega fatty acids, to boost the immune system. Topical treatments for the skin include various ointments, shampoos and lotions, such as coal tar or potassium permanganate. Regular exposure to UVB sunlight helps treat psoriasis, so if the sun is shining, let your dog spend some time outside during the day.
Human Psoriasis and Dogs
If you suffer from psoriasis, your dog also could be at risk. The risk, however, is not developing psoriasis. The topical medication, calcipotriene, is often used to treat human psoriasis. This medication is severely toxic to dogs if ingested. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, weakness, seizures and death. If your dog ingests your medication, consult your veterinarian immediately.
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