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Psoriasis in Dogs: What You Need to Know

Psoriasis in Dogs

Psoriasis in dogs is something that dog owners may be wondering about considering that this skin condition is quite common among humans. Psoriasis is a skin condition known to arise as a result of an overactive immune system. Affected people tend to develop flaking of the skin, inflammation, and the eruption of scales and red patches which can be quite itchy, and sometimes painful too. The next question to ask though is "can dogs get psoriasis as humans do?" And if so, how is dog psoriasis treated? Following is some information about "psoriasis" in dogs.

Dog has thickened leathery skin

Scratch, scratch, scratch, can dogs get psoriasis?

Can Dogs Get Psoriasis?

Can dogs get psoriasis? This is a very good question considering how widespread psoriasis is in people. According to the book "100 Questions & Answers about Psoriasis" psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis is known to affect more than 4.5 million people in the United States alone.

On top of this, 1 person out of 50 is estimated to get psoriasis at some point in their lives, and every year, around 200,000 new cases of psoriasis are diagnosed. So do dogs get psoriasis?

After conducting extensive research by consulting several veterinary dermatology textbooks and reputable websites run by board-certified veterinary dermatologists, we have come to the conclusion that no, dogs do not get the same psoriasis that happens in people.

Even studies seem to concur. According to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, research into this skin disease is lacking due to the deficiency of any skin disease in animals resembling this common human skin disorder. This lack of animal models imitating psoriasis could therefore explain the limited research on this condition.

More modern literature derived from the book "The Minipig in Biomedical Research" goes on to explain how psoriasis doesn't develop naturally in commonly used laboratory animals. In order to study this disease more, it is therefore necessary to artificially graft human psoriatic skin plaques into the skin of rats with compromised immune systems. The book then goes on to discussing the possibility of obtaining in the future genetically modified minipigs to replicate the skin condition and be able to study it more in depth!

And in case you are wondering "Can I give my dog psoriasis?" the answer is no. You can rest easy as psoriasis is not contagious to animals and neither is it to people. However, you should be concerned about your psoriasis creams. Dogs may develop vitamin D-like toxicity from ingesting them.

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If Not Psoriasis, Then What Can it Be?

When people see their dogs develop scaly skin or itchy red pustules, their first thought may go to psoriasis because that's simply what people are often diagnosed with. After all, the term psoriasis comes from the Greek word psora, meaning itch and iasis meaning a condition that causes a rash.

This is quite a vague description after all, considering the vast assortment of skin conditions known to affect dogs which may share these similarities. Things can get quite overwhelming, indeed. If you ever open a veterinary dermatology book you will find over 100 skin condition listed and many may show significantly striking similarities.

"If not psoriasis, then what can my dog have? " According to veterinarian Dr. Deb dogs do not develop psoriasis like people do, however, they can develop bacterial, staph skin infections that mimic this condition.

The list of differentials (possible skin conditions that may mimic psoriasis causing itchiness, flaky skin and red pustules) is quite long. Some possibilities include presence of sarcoptes mange mites, food allergies, bacterial and fungal infections and several other itchy skin problems that resemble psoriasis in that there is an immune-mediated or allergic component to them.

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"Dogs do NOT get psoriasis. However, they do get food allergies that can show up with a similar type of dermatitis."~Dr. Karen Purcell, veterinarian

The tissue sample taken from the liver is checked under a microscope.

With a skin scrape the vet will examine a small skin specimen under a microscope.

At the Vet's Office 

If you suspect your dog has "psoriasis" it would therefore be best to have your dog see the vet for a thorough examination. Your vet will likely ask you several questions such as when did the rash first appear, what things your dog was exposed to and whether your dog is itching.

He or she will perform a thorough physical exam paying particular attention to the affected area. Usually, visual inspection alone will not suffix, considering the many skin conditions dogs may develop. "There are so many possible causes to skin problems that it is imperative that we do not assume anything," says veterinarian Dr. Bruce.

A skin scrape may therefore be the next step. This is a generally, painless quick in-office procedure that allows the vet to gain a preliminary insight by looking at the sample under a microscope. A skin scrape can help rule out the presence of microscopic mange mites (SarcoptesDemodex, and Cheyletiella) and fungal skin conditions such as ringworm.

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Further testing may be needed ( a "culture and sensitivity test") to determine the presence of bacteria and fungi growing on the skin. This test also helps determine what medications work best to treat them if any infections are found.

On top of examining the skin, many vets will order blood work considering that some underlying endocrine disorders such Cushing's disease and thyroid disease are known to affect the skin.

"Psoriasis" Treatment in Dogs

Lime sulfur may be used to treat skin conditions in dogs

Special shampoos may be used to treat skin conditions in dogs

Treatment of what may look like psoriasis in dogs is obviously based on the vet's findings. For itching, the vet may prescribe antihistamines and soothing shampoos, however, it's important to get to the root cause of the itching.

Perhaps, a food allergy may be the culprit, in which case the vet may prescribe a dietary trial using a hypoallergenic prescription food. The use of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids can generally help improve the health of a dog's skin.

If there is bacterial skin infection, the vet will prescribe a course of antibiotics. Usually, veterinarians use a broad-spectrum type that covers a vast array of bacteria; however, a culture and sensitivity test may come handy so to determine the exact type of bacteria and pick the most effective antibiotic. If there is a fungal infection, then antifungal medications are prescribed, and if there is an underlying endocrine disorder this would need corrected.

As seen, there are several skin conditions in dogs that may mimic the real skin psoriasis seen in humans. If your dog has seen the vet for his rash multiple times without getting much relief, then, it may be time to see a specialist: a board-certified veterinarian specializing in dermatology.

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