Eczema covers a group of inflammatory skin conditions that include contact dermatitis, allergic dermatitis, and neurodermatitis, and no one treatment cures all. Both dry and wet eczema are accompanied by irritation, severe itchiness, redness, and thickening of the skin. In the final stage, scabs can be seen. Sometimes the skin bleeds and the coat falls out. Secondary infections easily set in under such circumstances. Several causes have been suggested for eczema. Contact dermatits occurs when the skin first comes into contact with irritants, such as detergents, tar, corrosive chemicals, or insecticides. The irritation appears in the less hairy areas of the skin. In a more localized and more specific form, it can be an irritation of the lips of a dog that feeds from a plastic bowl, which often contains anti-oxidizing agents. Flea collars, although generally harmless, may also be counted among the possible sources of irritation. The villain here may be the active agent in the collar. This form of inflammation is common when the flea collar is too tight. The resulting itch often spreads over the whole skin of a small dog. Bacteria, fungi, mites, and other organisms that invade the skin produce endopeptides (organic chemicals) that sometimes cause serious irritation. Nervousness and dietary deficiencies (lack of vitamin A or B vitamins also play a key role in eczema.
Sometimes the animal's own physical makeup can be a cause, especially among breeds where the tip of the nose may lack pigmentation, as seen in collies and German Shepherds. The sun's rays irritate the skin causing ulcers and blisters. Parasites can also cause eczema, especially on the inside of the thighs. Other frequent causes of eczema include wool, pollen, and feathers. Food allergies can cause urticaria (blisters), which develops in dogs that are allergic to eggs, horse-meat, salmon, or wheat. Even respiratory allergies caused by pollen or dust can affect the skin; in this case the eczema is limited to the face.
The basic principle of treatment is removing the cause of the trouble: A synthetic rug on which the animal sleeps, the fleas that have invaded its coat, or offending food. In the case of sunburn, keep the dog in the shade and apply cortisone ointment. Deal with any dietary deficiencies. Long-acting corticosteroid pills and injections are helpful on a short-term basis. If the eczema is localized, an application of 2.5 percent of hydrocortisone ointment will comfort the animal. Since dry skin is a predisposing factor, it is a good idea to add wheat germ oil to the diet of the eczematous dog to remedy the lack of fatty acids. If allergic reaction reoccurs, ask your veterinarian to carry out immunological tests. The results may enable the dog to be desensitized, although this treatment is not always completely effective.