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Q:  Just recently I noticed rough dry flaky spots on my dog’s back, a male Maltese.  I showed our vet and she said it’s like an eczema. She gave us a shampoo Keto Chlor medicated shampoo and a Gentaveo topical spray to use on him.  The first ones we saw seemed okay after a week of using these items. But there seems to be more and more each time I check him. We continue to use these products and even have our groomer use the shampoo now. I tried to find information about this online and can’t seem to find that much on it. There’s nothing new in the house and he doesn’t have fleas. I want to know what is causing this to happen and what we can do to prevent this from continuing. I did read about applying compresses with potassium permanganate and to add neem leaf tea and primrose oil to his food. What are these and if they’re good for him where can I get them?  He doesn’t seem to bothered by them but I’ll scratch his back and he’ll just stretch out and not move, so he must enjoy me doing that.          What else can you tell me about this and is there anything else this can be?  Any advice will be welcomed.

A: It is impossible to diagnose the skin lesions on your Maltese without examining him.  Dry flaky areas that are not itchy are most likely to be areas of superficial pyoderma.  Pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin that is most commonly caused by Staphylococcus Pseudintermedius.  This bacteria is a normal inhabitant of a dog’s skin.  Under certain circumstances the bacteria can cause an infection and skin lesions.  The lesions are most commonly on the back, abdomen, and rear.  The lesions often appear as red, circular crusted areas that are called epidermal collarettes.  The most common underlying causes of these infections (pyoderma) are: allergies, hormonal or endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), seborrhea (scaling disorders), and parasites.

            Skin scrapings should be performed to rule out parasites.  Bloodwork is necessary to diagnose hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism.  Allergies are suspected if the dog is very itchy and the itch persists when the rash has cleared.  Seborrhea is suspected if there is generalized scaling or greasiness.

The treatment of pyoderma usually includes both a 21 day course of antibiotics and medicated (antibacterial) baths and “leave on lotions”.  The best shampoos and lotions contain chlorhexidine or benzoyl peroxide.  It is important to treat the underlying cause of pyoderma or the infection will reoccur.  If your dog is found to have hypothyroidism, replacement thyroid hormone will be prescribed.  If parasites are found, these need to be treated.  Allergies can be treated and controlled but not cured.  Frequent medicated baths are the most effective way to prevent infections from reoccurring.  There are many natural products which can be soothing to the skin but I am not aware of any that can treat skin infections.  Evening primrose oil contains omega 6 fatty acids which are known to be beneficial for the skin and coat.

Laura Bucklan, DVM

Dr. Bucklan graduated from The Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine. She is a member of our general practice group of fine veterinarians. Dr. Bucklan has a special interest in dermatology. Dr. Bucklan enjoys spending time with her family, aerobics and cooking.