Eczema is a common skin disease of dogs characterized by a variable degree of redness or an accumulation of watery or pus-like discharges with subsequent formation of crusts and scabs. There is intense itching, frequent loss of hair, and the accumulation of a considerable amount of scurf. If the skin has a weeping appearance as a result of the inflammation, it is referred to as moist eczema. If it is dry and scaly, it is called dry eczema. Eczema exhibits a marked tendency to become chronic.
The disease is most common during the warmer seasons of the year, and for this reason the popular term of summer eczema has been applied to it. This is a misnomer. Eczema is more prevalent in the summer time because the predisposing and causative factors of the disease are more plentiful then than during the other seasons.
Eczema may be caused by an allergic reaction to foods of high protein content, or it may be due to a hypersensitivity to certain chemicals or drugs.
Such external parasites as fleas, ticks, lice, fungi, and chiggers, as well as internal parasites, may be direct or predisposing causative agents. Dietary imbalance or improper hygiene may also be responsible for it.
Anal-gland infections, discussed below, will often start eczematous manifestations.
Eczema usually starts at the base of the tail or in the hip region, and then spreads over the rest of the body. Clinically, this would appear to be due, most often, to the discomfort caused by anal gland involvements. Recent reports indicate that it might also be due to derangements of sweat glands at the base of the tail. In any case, eczema may start on any part of the body. The animal scratches intensely, and the severity of the condition depends upon the amount of damage that the animal does to itself. In long-standing cases, or chronic eczema as it is properly called, the skin becomes thickened, the irritation less intense, and the condition more resistant to treatment.
Occasionally there are spontaneous recoveries from eczema. But the average case is treated by eliminating the cause and applying soothing and healing lotions or ointments (usually made with a sulphur base) to the irritated parts. It is always advisable to evacuate the contents of the anal glands, and to administer supportive treatment in the form of blood, digestive, or general body tonics. These may be given by injection or orally in tablet or liquid forms. Often the injection of various protein substances, as an auxiliary measure, exercises salutary effects in alleviating severe eczemas. Cortisone preparations have also been very effective in treating eczemas.