Recurrent skin infections generally have an underlying cause. As the inner ear is simply a continuation of the skin surface, anything which is affecting the skin can also affect the ears, and predispose them to becoming infected.
The major causes of skin problems are:
Allergies – there are 4 main causes of skin allergies. An animal with one allergy is likely to be allergic to other things as well. The 4 main allergens are:
Atopic dermatitis – along with a flea allergy this is the most common type of allergy in dogs. This is an allergy to substances in the air, including pollens, house dust mite faeces, molds and animal sources such as cat saliva. It generally causes a seasonal pattern of skin problems and begins at 1-3 years of age.
Flea allergy dermatitis – this is an allergy to the saliva of fleas. In dogs it typically causes lesions over the tail and down the back legs. It can present in many ways in cats, often with lesions in front of the ears or scabs over the body from scratching. It is the most common skin allergy in cats.
Food allergy – an allergy to food can cause skin signs. The animal will often be vomiting or have diarrhoea as well, but they will not always have gastrointestinal signs.
Contact allergy – animals can be allergic to almost anything they come into contact with. A plant called Wandering Dew is a common cause of contact allergies.
The allergies that we have some control over are food and flea allergies. A special hypoallergenic diet can be trialled for 8 weeks to determine whether food is a likely cause, and strict flea control with a good quality flea treatment is used to eliminate any response to fleas. (All pets in the household will need to be treated and possibly the house if flea numbers are a problem)
Sometimes by controlling these 2 allergens there will be a reduced reaction to other allergens.
Mange – this is a mite infestation of your pets skin.
It is diagnosed by obtaining a skin scraping and looking for the presence of mites.
Treatment depends on the type of mite found.
Hormonal imbalances can also cause skin signs. The type suspected will depend on the lesions present. There will typically be other signs present, but this will depend on the type of hormonal imbalance present. Diagnosis is through blood tests.
Treatment for skin problems can be on-going. Therapeutic options include:
Specific treatment if an underlying cause is able to be identified. Unfortunately this is not always possible.
Antibiotics to treat any skin infections, as infection will cause itchiness and worsen the signs.
Shampoos to reduce allergens on the skin surface and to moisturise the skin.
Avoiding known sources of contact allergens.
Steroids or other immunomodulators, to modify the allergic response.
Diet, there are several prescription diets available to support the skin and help reduce symptoms.