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
(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
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
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.