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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Features November 2013 Issue

If Your Dog Has Skin Disease

While bathing a dog with a normal, healthy coat of skin is not strictly necessary, if your dog has skin disease, bathing can be a very important part of treatment. Indeed, says Andrea Lam, DVM, a veterinary dermatologist at the Cummings School, “dogs with most skin diseases absolutely do need to be bathed to help maintain healthy skin function.”

As an example, she mentions a type of mite called Demodex that lives in a dog’s hair follicle. “If these mites overgrow for any reason,” Dr. Lam comments, “the hair will start falling out and the dog will develop an infection on his skin. It’s a common condition in young dogs. In such a case, we would recommend a special medicated shampoo that contains benzoyl peroxide because that substance has follicular flushing action. It flushes out the hair follicles where the mites are living.”

A dog with skin allergies lacks moisture in his skin and is also prone to secondary bacterial infections, “so for that pet, it’s probably best to use a shampoo that has antimicrobial components,” she says.

In these types of cases, Dr. Lam notes, it may be necessary to bathe a dog on the order of once a week. “It’s truly a therapeutic application,” she says. It’s not just to reduce an offending odor or get dirt off your dog’s paws.

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