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Skin Diseases

In the whole range of dog ailments included in the term canine

pathology there are none more bothersome to treat successfully nor

more difficult to diagnose than those of the skin. There are none

either that afford the quack or patent-nostrum monger a larger field

for the practice of his fiendish gifts. If I were to be asked the

questions, Why do dogs suffer so much from skin complaints? and Why

does it appear to be so
difficult to treat them? I should answer the

first thus: Through the neglect of their owners, from want of

cleanliness, from injudicious feeding, from bad kennelling, and from

permitting their favourites such free intercourse with other members

of the canine fraternity. Overcrowding is another and distinct source

of skin troubles.

My answer to the second question is that the layman too often treats

the trouble in the skin as if it were the disease itself, whereas it

is, generally, merely a symptom thereof. Examples: To plaster

medicated oils or ointments all over the skin of a dog suffering from

constitutional eczema is about as sensible as would be the painting

white of the yellow skin in jaundice in order to cure the disordered


But even those contagious diseases that are caused by skin germs or

animalcules will not be wholly cured by any applications whatever.

Constitutional remedies should go hand in hand with these. And, indeed,

so great is the defensive power of strong, pure blood, rich in its

white corpuscles or leucocytes, that I believe I could cure even the

worst forms of mange by internal remedies, good food, and tonics, etc.,

without the aid of any dressing whatever except pure cold water.

In treating of skin diseases it is usual to divide them into three

sections: (1) The non-contagious, (2) the contagious, and (3) ailments

caused by external parasites.

(1) The Non-Contagious.--(a) Erythema.--This is a redness, with slight

inflammation of the skin, the deeper tissues underneath not being

involved. Examples--That seen between the wrinkles of well-bred Pugs,

Mastiffs, or Bulldogs, or inside the thighs of Greyhounds, etc. If the

skin breaks there may be discharges of pus, and if the case is not

cured the skin may thicken and crack, and the dog make matters worse

with his tongue.

Treatment--Review and correct the methods of feeding. A dog should

be neither too gross nor too lean. Exercise, perfect cleanliness, the

early morning sluice-down with cold water, and a quassia tonic. He may

need a laxative as well.

Locally--Dusting with oxide of zinc or the violet powder of the

nurseries, a lotion of lead, or arnica. Fomentation, followed by cold

water, and, when dry, dusting as above. A weak solution of boracic

acid (any chemist) will sometimes do good.

(b) Prurigo.--Itching all over, with or without scurf. Sometimes


Treatment--Regulation of diet, green vegetables, fruit if he will

take it, brushing and grooming, but never roughly. Try for worms and

for fleas.

(c) Eczema.--The name is not a happy one as applied to the usual

itching skin disease of dogs. Eczema proper is an eruption in which

the formed matter dries off into scales or scabs, and dog eczema,

so-called, is as often as not a species of lichen. Then, of course, it

is often accompanied with vermin, nearly always with dirt, and it is

irritated out of all character by the biting and scratching of the dog


Treatment--Must be both constitutional and local. Attend to the

organs of digestion. Give a moderate dose of opening medicine, to

clear away offending matter. This simple aperient may be repeated

occasionally, say once a week, and if diarrhoea be present it may be

checked by the addition of a little morphia or dilute sulphuric acid.

Cream of tartar with sulphur is an excellent derivative, being both

diuretic and diaphoretic, but it must not be given in doses large

enough to purge. At the same time we may give thrice daily a tonic

pill like the following:--

Sulphate of quinine, 1/8 to 3 grains; sulphate of iron, 1/2 grain to 5

grains; extract of hyoscyamus, 1/8 to 3 grains; extract of taraxacum

and glycerine enough to make a pill.

Locally--Perfect cleanliness. Cooling lotions patted on to the sore

places. Spratts' Cure. (N.B.--I know what every remedy contains, or I

should not recommend it.) Benzoated zinc ointment after the lotion has

dried in. Wash carefully once a week, using the ointment when skin is

dry, or the lotion to allay irritation.

(2) Contagious Skin Diseases.--These are usually called mange proper

and follicular mange, or scabies. I want to say a word on the latter

first. It depends upon a microscopic animalcule called the Acarus

folliculorum. The trouble begins by the formation of patches, from

which the hair falls off, and on which may be noticed a few pimples.

Scabs form, the patches extend, or come out on other parts of the body,

head, legs, belly, or sides. Skin becomes red in white-haired dogs.

Odour of this trouble very offensive. More pain than itching seems

to be the symptomatic rule. Whole body may become affected.

Treatment--Dress the affected parts twice a week with the


Creosote, 2 drachms; linseed oil, 7 ounces; solution of potash, 1

ounce. First mix the creosote and oil, then add the solution and shake.

Better to shave the hair off around the patches. Kennels must be kept

clean with garden soap and hot water, and all bedding burned after use.

From three months to six will be needed to cure bad cases.

Mange Proper is also caused by a parasite or acarus, called the

Sarcops canus. Unlike eczema, this mange is spread from dog to dog

by touch or intercommunication, just as one person catches the itch

from another.

The Symptoms--At first these may escape attention, but there are

vesicles which the dog scratches and breaks, and thus the disease

spreads. The hair gets matted and falls off. Regions of the body most

commonly affected, head, chest, back, rump, and extremities. There may

not be much constitutional disturbance from the actual injury to the

skin, but from his suffering so much from the irritation and the want

of rest the health suffers.

Treatment--Avoid the use of so-called disinfectants. Most of those

sold as such are simply deodorisers, and, applied to the skin, are

useless. Nor are they of much use in cleaning the kennels. Nothing

suits better for woodwork than, first, carbolic wash, and then a

thorough scrubbing with hot water and garden soap.

Some ointment must be used to the skin, and as I am writing for laymen

only I feel chary in recommending such strong ones as the green iodide

of mercury. If you do use it mix it with twice its bulk of the

compound sulphur ointment. Do over only a part or two at a time. The

dog to be washed after three days. But the compound sulphur ointment

itself is a splendid application, and it is not dangerous.

(3) Skin Complaints from Vermin.--The treatment is obvious--get rid of

the cause.

As their diagnosis is so difficult, whenever the dog-owner is in

doubt, make certain by treating the dog not only by local applications

but constitutionally as well. In addition to good diet, perfect

cleanliness of coat, kennel, and all surroundings, and the application

of the ointment or oil, let the dog have all the fresh air possible,

and exercise, but never over-exciting or too fatiguing. Then a course

of arsenic seldom fails to do good.

I do not believe in beginning the exhibition of arsenic too soon. I

prefer paying my first attentions to the digestive organs and state of

the bowels. The form of exhibition which I have found suit as well as

any is the tasteless Liquor arsenicalis. It is easily administered.

It ought to be given mixed with the food, as it ought to enter the

blood with the chyle from the diet. It ought, day by day, to be

gradually, not hurriedly, increased. Symptoms of loathing of food and

redness of conjunctiva call for the cessation of its use for two or

three days at least, when it is to be recommended at the same size of

dose given when left off.

There are two things which assist the arsenic, at least to go well

with it; they are, iron in some form and Virol. The latter will be

needed when there is much loss of flesh. A simple pill of sulphate of

iron and extract of liquorice may be used. Dose of Liquor arsenicalis

from 1 to 6 drops ter die to commence with, gradually increased to 5

to 20 drops.

Dandruff.--A scaly or scurfy condition of the skin, with more or less

of irritation. It is really a shedding of the scaly epidermis brought

on by injudicious feeding or want of exercise as a primary cause. The

dog, in cases of this kind, needs cooling medicines, such as small

doses of the nitrate and chlorates of potash, perhaps less food.

Bowels to be seen to by giving plenty of green food, with a morsel of

sheep's melt or raw liver occasionally. Wash about once in three weeks,

a very little borax in the last water, say a drachm to a gallon. Use

mild soap. Never use a very hard brush or sharp comb. Tar soap

(Wright's) may be tried.