March 1, 2016
Have you heard? There are new scrubs, mousses, lotions, creams, and wipes to improve your PETS’ appearance! For some reason these are not appearing in “Vogue” magazine or even “Dog Fancy”. Since I can’t skim a popular magazine in line at the grocery store without encountering pressure to rejuvenate my own skin, I don’t understand why all these products for pet appeal aren’t making big news. Perhaps skin care for animals just hasn’t caught on yet. Although I’m not entirely sure – I’ve heard there’s a blueberry facial mask out there, plus things like milk baths and rose water nail soaks for the (overly?) pampered pooch. Who knows? I heard of a doggie salon that gave the owners coupes of champagne while they waited. Perhaps that’s the force behind the trend.
For those of us in the less glitzy trenches, we refer to skin care as “dermatology” and the new mousses, wipes, etc have been formulated to address common health problems addressed daily in veterinary medicine.
Skin sores that bubble and break open on your pet may be the result of a bacterial staphylococcus infection. “Staph” is considered a normal inhabitant on the surface of the skin, until it goes rogue and breaks out as whiteheads or bubbling pus-filled lesions. In humans there is an increasing fear of an antibiotic resistant form of staph called “MRSA” (pronounce it “mersa”), which in simple terms means a staph bacteria that is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin, by extension the family of antibiotics headed up by penicillin. This bacteria takes advantage by invading the body through a wound, at a surgery site, or even a scraped elbow and is feared because it cannot be readily treated by the old tried-and-true antibiotics. The bacteria has simply found a way to survive, to overcome the tools fighting to destroy it. Because people in hospitals are at higher risk, due to their lowered immune resistance, stress, or fresh surgery sites, MRSA infections are feared. Pets can also develop a methicillin resistant staph infection, though it’s a slightly different bacterial strain called staph psuedointermedius, or MRSP (I say “mersip”. No one has corrected me yet). The veterinary community continues to monitor the prevalence of this infection and at this time it is not considered a risk to humans or other pets. When we find a skin infection not healing as expected we often recommend a culture swab be taken to diagnose both the type of bacteria and identify the best antibiotics to treat the problem. This is how we diagnose MRSP infections. One of the treatments is a mousse that cleans bacteria off the skin. It can also be used to bathe the pet, prior to an orthopedic or other major surgery, decreasing the risk of post-operative complications. There are anti-bacterial skin wipes, also.
Another new product is an eye wipe to assist dogs with epiphora, a condition where the pets’ tears spill down his or her face. A compound, porphyrin, in the tears causes a brown stain to form which is both unsightly and, staying wet, allows bacteria to breed which can lead to infection around the eye. The constantly wet skin may scald and create open sores under the eyes which is very painful. Dog and cat breeds with flat “pushed-in faces” like Pugs and Persians may be anatomically predisposed to problems of tears spilling out onto their faces. Once your veterinarian has determined that the tear ducts are open and draining properly and ruled out other medical causes, you may be directed to these wipes to keep the condition from escalating into painful sores.
Pets that are completely white haired, with no other color or pigment, are at higher risk of sun-related skin cancers as they sun bathe in our backyards here in the Central Valley. In cats red, scabby crusts may form on their ear tips or around the nose. In dogs it often begins on the thin skin of the nose or as deep purple blotches on the tummy near the back legs. Human sun screens may not be safe for your pets because they will eat it, literally, as they lick themselves! Zinc oxide (the white glob on the lifeguards’ nose) is toxic to dogs. Some dogs will tolerate hats or wear protective T-shirts, but the best idea in our hot summers is to simply keep these at-risk pets indoors during the day as much as possible.
In medicine there is always a new discovery around the corner. None of the skin care products I get to review will remove the laugh lines from Fido or Kitty but they do come with the promise of remedying a skin affliction. Please celebrate by raising your own glass of champagne.
Christine B. McFadden, DVM