Dermatological Issues: Geography and Seasons Play a Role
Pets are no different than their favorite friends, pet owners, when it comes to skin- and allergy-related issues affected by geographic and seasonal conditions. Where a pet lives greatly impacts the likelihood of dermatological and allergy problems.
"Generally, the more temperate the climate, the more likely it is that a veterinary practice has to deal with skin problems," notes Dr. Douglas DeBoer, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine, researcher and specialist in dermatology.
That may not be earth-shattering news but a practice in Wisconsin and one in Florida are going to face entirely different issues. "More time and energy needs to be spent on addressing skin problems in warmer climates, in part because of fleas," Dr. DeBoer says. "Also, any disease that itches tends to be worse when the temperature is warmer."
Dr. Lowell Ackerman, a board-certified dermatologist, author and veterinary practice consultant, adds that geographic factors are particular to certain fungal infections such as Valley Fever, which mainly occurs in Arizona and California.
Certainly, fleas are a much bigger problem in semitropical areas, while the tick population varies greatly from region to region. Dr. Ackerman and Dr. DeBoer both warn, though, that ticks can still be a problem even in the dead of winter if pets live near wooded areas.
Country Club Animal Hospital is intimately familiar with the magnitude of geographic factors, says Dr. James Bogdansky. With three facilities in the Miami, FL, area, Dr. Bogdansky and his fellow veterinarians continually battle problems with fleas and ticks.
Fortunately, products that kill fleas are much more efficient, Dr. Bogdansky notes. Of course, pet owners have to be continually educated on the importance of applying such products to prevent fleas. "It's the old, tried-and-true standard: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Ticks are a tougher battle, Dr. Bogdansky says. "Topical treatments have been wonderful. We have to tell the client, though, that often problems associated once ticks invade their pets can be a two-year battle to treat the pet and the environment. Parasite control involves treatment and education."
Pervasive across the country, the longer growing season in temperate climates generally create more problems with allergies in pets. Pollen can be present year-round in warmer climates, while seasonal areas face the toughest problems during the spring and fall. And nearly all parts of the country are breeding grounds for mold and house mites.
"The most important aspect of allergy management is to educate early and to inform the pet owner that there is no cure and that there is no fix," Dr. Ackerman says. "It's a long-term management issue. You have to prepare owners from puppies to kittens or they get very frustrated. You can keep the pet comfortable but it won't go away. Veterinarians need to let pet owners know that you can't rebuild the immune system but you can provide the proper care to keep their animals comfortable."
Lea-Ann Germinder, APR, Fellow PRSA
Germinder & Associates