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Cat and dog skin conditions: signs, causes, treatments and prevention

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With more than 100 pet skin conditions out there, chances are your furry family member will face one at some point. Since pet skin issues can cause your cat or dog discomfort and potentially lead to additional pet health complications, cat and dog skin conditions aren't a problem to take lightly. Here, we share signs of cat and dog skin disorders, review common causes, and look at both treatment and prevention steps.

10 signs of cat and dog skin conditions

1. Itching and scratching skin

2. Head shaking

3. Excessive licking or chewing

4. Sores or swollen areas on skin

5. Red, watery eyes

6. Sneezing

7. Hair loss, or a dull or greasy hair coat

8. Skin that is irritated, scabbed, scaly or flaking

9. Not wanting to be pet or other behaviors indicating discomfort

10. In cats, hiding or decreased grooming behavior

Common causes of cat and dog skin disorders

There are dozens of reasons your dog or cat may develop a skin disorder. In general, though, the reasons for pet skin conditions fall into four categories.

  • Climate. Summer heat or dry indoor air in winter can cause dry, itchy skin, while high humidity can trap sweat and dirt near your cat or dog's skin, increasing the risk of bacterial infections.
  • Allergies. Just like humans, pets can have allergic reactions. Common culprits of cat and dog skin allergies include pollen, dander, dust, insect bites, mold, specific foods and even chemicals in shampoos or other products.
  • Infections. Infections caused by parasites, bacteria, fungus or a virus can cause pet skin issues.
  • Genetics, disease. Some dogs and cats are born with sensitive skin or a predisposition for skin conditions. In addition, some diseases — such as certain cancers and the adrenal disorder called Cushing's — may lead to skin problems in dogs and cats.

Treating pet skin conditions

The good news is that many pet skin issues can be cured, while others can be vastly improved with ongoing management. The best treatment for cat or dog skin conditions will depend largely on the cause, but options often include:

  • Supplementing your pet's diet with omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids
  • Using pet-specific medicated shampoos
  • Giving your pet over-the-counter or prescription medications, such as antihistamines and steroids
  • Giving your pet allergy shots, a form of immunotherapy that may reduce sensitivity to allergens

Preventing skin problems in dogs and cats

Whether you're looking to head off trouble from the start or stop a skin issue from recurring, these preventive steps can help by removing dirt and irritants, and improving the health of your pal's skin and coat:

  • Brush and wash your pet regularly
  • Wipe off your pet's paws after time outside
  • Follow pet parasite and insect prevention measures
  • Feed your dog or cat a high-quality diet

Your pet's routine exams are a great time to talk with your veterinarian about pet skin condition prevention strategies. And, if your pet does show symptoms of a skin disorder, your veterinarian can identify the cause and work with you to develop a treatment plan that will put your pal back on track to healthy skin as soon as possible.

Your CareCredit credit card can be a convenient way to pay for veterinary services and products at participating providers. Find one near you with the CareCredit Acceptance Locator or Mobile App.

"A Pet Owner's Guide to Dog Skin Conditions,", posted April 18, 2019,, accessed June 13, 2019
"Spring Pet Allergies,", posted March 14, 2018,, accessed June 13, 2019
"Nix the Itch: Dog & Cat Allergies with Symptoms & Treatment,",, accessed June 13, 2019
"5 Common Cat Skin Problems,", Jessica Vogelsang, D.V.M.,, accessed June 13, 2019
CareCredit provides information solely for your convenience. Please always consult with a veterinarian on any medical decisions for your pets. Neither Synchrony nor any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, make any representations or warranties regarding the products or services described.

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