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Lumps, Bumps and Other Icky Skin Stuff

February 27, 2015

When is a lump something to be concerned about?  When is a bump something that will just go away?  Why is my pet’s skin so red, and why is she scratching so much?  And why does her skin just look so “icky?”

Skin issues are a major concerns among pet owners, and especially those dermatological issues that make pets scratch.  (More specifically, the chain-jingling scratching that occurs at 4am!)  So let’s discuss all those problems that make your dog or cat scratch themselves raw.

The most common problem for pets is fleas.  Fleas begin laying eggs within 24 hours of biting your dog or cat, and can lay 40-50 eggs per day.  Even a single flea bite can cause some pets to itch miserably, especially those with Flea Allergy Dermatitis, an allergic reaction to the saliva of a flea that is one of the most common dermatologic problems.  Over the past two decades there have been many advances in flea prevention and control for pets but the basic process is unchanged: 1) Eliminate the fleas on the pet (and all pets in the household), 2) eliminate the fleas in the pet’s environment, and 3) keep treating for at least 3-4 months.  Flea products are either oral (tablet) or topical, some kill ticks as well, and some are combined with heartworm and intestinal parasite preventives.  While there are dozens of products on the market, look for those that are FDA-certified (oral) or EPA-certified (topical).  At West Kendall Animal Hospital, we recommend and stock the products that we think are the safest and most effective, the ones that we choose to use on our own pets.  Since many are by prescription, the best way to get your pet started is with a complete physical exam.

Some pets suffer from allergies.  The most common are environmental allergies, allergic reactions to air-borne substances such as pollens and molds.  Here in South Florida, there’s no shortage of grasses, trees, plants and flowers shedding pollens nearly year-round.  Environmental allergies will cause pets to have itchiness and redness especially around their face, ears, and/or feet, but it could be on other parts of their bodies, too.  Food allergies may cause similar symptoms, but in general, food allergies are less common than environmental allergies, and we’ll usually discuss other treatments before pursuing diet changes.  For allergic pets, their conditions need to be managed to an acceptable level – 100% cure is usually not expected, but the symptoms can be brought under control to make the pet comfortable.  If your pet has chronic skin infections, red and itchy ears or eyes, or hair loss, allergies could be one possible reason.  Scheduling a physical exam and having appropriate diagnostic testing performed could be the first step on improving your pet’s quality of life.

Now let’s discuss lumps, bumps and masses.  In general, we’re especially concerned about those that are red or bleeding, fast-growing, or causing your pet pain.  During a physical exam, Dr. Davidson can get a good initial evaluation by feeling the lump (is it hard or soft, warm to the touch, attached or detached from the skin below) and then by possibly shaving the area carefully and making a visual determination.  Sometimes, he’ll recommend that we perform a Fine Needle Aspirate of the contents of the lump, sending a sample to a pathologist for evaluation.  Depending on the results of the pathologist’s report, surgical excision may be recommended.  Other times, the lump is so clearly in a location that is causing the pet pain, or is growing so rapidly that it causes concern, Dr. Davidson will suggest going directly to surgery.  In that case, the mass will be removed and the entire mass and its tissue margins will be sent for a pathologist’s evaluation.  That report will tell us whether the mass is benign or malignant, whether it’s been thought to be completely excised or microscopically invasive, and whether or not there is a probability of recurrence.   For lumps and bumps that have a clinical appearance of being non-malignant, cryosurgery (or freezing) is an option for removal.  It’s fast, nearly painless, and can be performed in the exam room without anesthesia.  For any lump, bump, or mass, a physical exam is the first step in evaluation and treatment.

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From → Dermatology

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