How do you treat skin fold dermatitis in dogs?

Original Question: My Westie Finnegan has dermatitis in his mouth. What can we do to treat it? - Bobbie

How do you treat skin fold dermatitis in dogs? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Bobbie,

Thanks for the question.

Very little information was provided here, but I’ll do my best to answer. When you say Finnegan has dermatitis in his mouth, that statement in general doesn’t make sense. Dermatitis by definition means inflammation of the skin and there is no skin inside the mouth. I suspect that your dog may have a skin condition called skin fold dermatitis which is common in West Highland Terriers. It is an insidious condition that can recur repeatedly. Based on the information you’ve given me and since this condition is so frustrating and difficult to control, it’s safe to assume that skin fold dermatitis might be at play.

The skin at this location becomes folded. Any folded area of skin is at greater risk of infection because the bacteria can hide in it and the moisture gets trapped allowing for an infection to flourish. As the area becomes more inflamed and raw, the infection is further supported as the folded area becomes deeper, hotter, and moister making it even more susceptible to bacterial growth. Then when you add the fact that food particulars could be present, along with dirt and debris, this can feed the infection further. This makes it an annoying and difficult to condition to treat.

At its root, this is an infection. An allergy is sometimes a contributing factor and if they are sensitive to a product such as a food ingredient, the material the bowl is made from, or another sensitivity we don’t know about can cause inflammation at the site, which contributes to the infection. Therefore, if you can identify an item they are allergic to, you can try to eliminate it but it’s rare that pet owners can find the cause of the allergy.

Therefore, in absence of knowing the cause, we have to implement a general treatment. I would recommend that you clean the area thoroughly. You should ask the veterinary technicians at the animal hospital you visit to show you how to do this. It’s important that you perform a very thorough cleaning of the area to control the infection. I like to use an antibacterial soap on the area and then apply a layer of an iodine product, like betadine, which is an astringent that dries the area out and has an antiseptic to eliminate infection. This alone can solve the condition if you are thorough and consistent with it.

You can use a medication your vet prescribes if good husbandry alone doesn’t work. You could buy an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory cream or ointment from your veterinarian to apply. If the infection is serious, you can use an oral antibiotic for a length of time beyond the resolution of the symptoms. If there is an allergic component, you can speak to your veterinarian about the different medications we use to control allergies. My greatest advice is to be committed, consistent and thorough in your care of this condition.

I hope this helps. Good luck!

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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