by Dr. Herb Friedman

Skin conditions in pet ani­mals are among the most frustrating diagnostic chal­lenges in veterinary medic­ine. Most pets, sooner or later, turn up with some sort of dermatological condi­tion that requires veterinary care.

Some owners have the optimistic viewpoint that the condition will disappear without treatment, whereas other owners insist on trying out some remedy that their doctor gave to them six years ago for athletes feet.

Both owners usually end up disappointed and present the poor veterinarian with unneeded complications to what possibly was a relative­ly uncomplicated case. A simple example of a skin condition seen frequently in Japan is flea bite dermatitis.

Fleas (Japanese say “no-mi”) are not only a nuisance to the owner who discovers himself bitten but moreso, they are a great source of discomfort to many pets. Some dogs or cats can be inundated with fleas and will not show any great annoy­ance.

Other pets may be bitten by one flea and require med­ication to stop the itching and relieve the imflammation caused by such. The flea (for this purpose, the com­mon dog flea) is a highly resistant parasite found throughout the world. Usu­ally, they thrive in warm climates and therefore are more noticeable and do more damage in the summer and early autumn months.

In Japan, fleabite dermat­itis is very prevalent and has been getting to be more and more of a problem with each passing year. Because strong flea repellents are chemically toxic materials, they must be licensed.

In the U.S. and the U.K., there are many good pro­ducts available but here in the host country, about all you can get are over-the-counter preparations that are designed for supermarket and petstore sale –  and are too weak to do any good. The reason why the good products don’t get licensed is the high expense involved and the enormous amount of red tape one must go through with the government agency.

After adding up the work, time and money involved get­ting such a product licensed and registered, most com­panies decide that it just isn’t justifiable and they bring over a weak product instead that does not require all the effort and aggrava­tion.

Unfortunately for the pet, these petstore remedies usu­ally are ineffectual.

Another serious pest is the common dog tick which abounds in our parts and is particuarly omnipresent dur­ing the summer and fall seasons. The tick larvae stage usually is picked up by the dog or cat while walking in tall grass. The female tick engorges itself with the dog’s blood whereas the male tick does relatively no dam­age.

Petowners should check their pets around the neck area, on the ears, and inside the ears for ticks and around the neck and near the rear flank area for fleas. Both fleas and ticks are known transmitters of disease and for this reason alone, they should be avoided when pos­sible and eliminated when found.

Mites are also problems, both for man and beast. The two most serious mites af­fecting dogs and cats are the sarcoptic mite and the demodectic mite.

Both of these parasites burrow under the skin, live in the hair follicles, and causes variations of what we commonly refer to as mange. Some miles are not harmful, but these last two are always referred to by veterinarians as mange mites. Mange mites cause serious skin con­ditions that lead to an ertensive loss of the hair coat, and in many cases, excruciat­ing itching.

Of course, the animal will bite and scratch at these areas, further infecting them, and soon there will be a complicated skin condition which involves not only mange, but staph, dermat­itis as well as injury due to self-mutilation. More about these next issue.