Pet Skin Conditions: Causes, Types & Treatment

Pet skin conditions are fairly common, even those that are well-fed and live in clean homes. Many people assume that, if their dog or cat is scratching and chewing constantly, it must be fleas, but there are actually a number of other reasons why your pet may be itching, and you might need to get pet health care from the vet.

If you’ve got an itchy pooch or cat, read on to find out what it might be, and what you can do about it. But remember, not every scratch is a sign of a problem. Just like humans, all animals get the occasional itch that needs to be scratched.

Just like with humans, dogs and cats can have allergies to things in their environment, even their food. Grasses and pollen can cause an allergic reaction in pets that has them scratching all day. Your vet will typically be able to pick up what the cause is from a blood test or by conducting an intradermal skin test.

One way to reduce the itching is to remove the cause of the allergy, although this isn’t always a practical solution – you can’t really remove your entire lawn! Your vet may put your pet onto antihistamines, medicated shampoo, creams, and/or supplements to help reduce the allergy.

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If these treatments don’t work, a more long-term treatment must be looked at, such as immunotherapy. This is when a serum containing small amounts of the allergen is injected to develop immunity against it, and this may need to continue for months, or even years.

Failing this, corticosteroids have proven to be effective, but long-term use of these drugs can have negative side-effects, so your vet will need to evaluate what is best for your pet. Food can also cause allergies, so it’s important to examine this as a possible cause.

Remember that, although just about all brands of pet food claim to provide a balanced diet, many are inferior. Consult your vet about what is the best food for your dog or cat.

Common Causes of Pet Skin Conditions


Parasites such as fleas and ear mites can make our skin crawl just at the thought of them! Both are common in South Africa and can often be difficult to treat. If your cat or dog is shaking her head and scratching her ears repeatedly, a trip to the vet to check for ear mites is recommended.

Injections, shampoos, dips, creams, tablets, powders, collars, sprays, and spot-on treatments can be effective in treating parasites, depending on the parasite, as well as the pet.


Infections are another culprit of the list. They can be fungal, bacterial, or yeast infections. One of the more common fungal infections is ringworm, which is not actually a worm at all. Your vet will likely treat ringworm by either prescribing special shampoo or ointment, and sometimes oral medication will be given.

However, treatment performed over months may be required to eradicate the infection, and remember that it is contagious, so if one pet has it, you may need to treat all pets.

Yeast infections are typical when there is another underlying problem, such as an existing skin condition or hypothyroidism, for example. Your vet will need to thoroughly examine your pet’s overall health and environment to determine treatment.

Remember that, if you are concerned about the health of your pet, a trip to the vet is always worth it. It may save you a great deal of money and heart ache in the future. If you’re worried about the cost of frequent vet visits, Oneplan Pet Insurance offers a variety of Pet Insurance plans to suit your pet’s needs and your budget.

Another great benefit is that they pay out routine vet visit claims beforehand so all you have to do is swipe your Onecard when the bill comes your way (and you can keep your favourite vet)!

For more info, you can chat to their service team here, or get an obligation-free quote here.

Yours in Not-so-average Pet Advice,

The Team