Our veterinary team at Northcote Animal Hospital (nOah) have a wealth of experience and knowledge when it comes to treating skin and ear diseases. The most common conditions we see are itchy skin, rashes, ear problems, skin lumps, nail problems, scooting (itchy bottom) and paw licking. We diagnose the underlying cause of these problems and put them into specific categories – allergies, infections (bacterial, yeast, fungal), immune-mediated conditions, wounds, and cancer. Once diagnosed, we can then proceed with appropriate treatment options and implement long term strategies for control and prevention in the future.
Diagnosing Skin and Ear Problems
The first step to diagnosis is to perform a thorough examination during your pet’s consultation. We are qualified and able to perform a range of tests which enables us to define your pet’s problem.
In our consultation room we have a high quality otoscope that we use to examine ear canals. This is placed into the ear so that we can look for ear redness, infection, assess the ear drum and take samples of discharge if necessary. Examining the ear canal thoroughly is very important to ascertain the severity of disease and gauge how long the recovery will take. When the ear drum is ruptured, middle ear disease can follow and requires a different set of diagnostic tests and treatment. Some ear medications can be harmful, therefore it is always recommended to examine the ear canal before prescribing a particular ear medication.
Animals can be allergic to plants, pollens, dust mites, food, insects and mould spores just like people can. At nOah we are able to do a blood test which identifies all of those things. Alternatively, we may consider it more appropriate for your pet to have intradermal skin testing at the specialist. We are always happy to discuss at length the pros and cons of allergy testing and give you honest and practical advice about what we believe is best for you and your pet.
For complex skin diseases we may need to biopsy the area. This is performed under a sedation or anaesthetic, and the samples are sent to the laboratory for testing by a specialist.
Skin Tape Preps and Ear Swabs
This is a quick and painless test used to identify surface infections caused by bacteria, yeast and mites. The types of bacteria can be categorised according to their shape. Identifying the type of organism causing the infection allows us to prescribe an appropriate medication, therefore leading to a better and quicker resolution of your pet’s skin or ear infection.
Fungal infections can lead to itchy bald patches. Diagnosis of fungal infections is done by plucking some infected hairs and implanting them on a culture medium to see if a fungus grows.
Ultraviolet Light Examination
UV light is most commonly used to detect ringworm infections. It is another quick and painless procedure. UV light is shone on the affected skin and causes ringworm to fluoresce bright green.
Some mite infections, such as Demodex, burrow deep into the skin layers and can only be identified with skin scraping. This procedure is performed during the consultation and samples assessed immediately.
Treatment and Management of Skin and Ear Problems
There are many different options for treatment both medically and surgically. When deciding the best option, we take into account the practicality of medicating with tablets, creams or shampoos (even if we are willing to do this, your pet may have different ideas!), how effective each is likely to be, and also the cost of these medications. At nOah we always take the time to discuss treatment options with pet owners, explaining the benefits or drawbacks of each, and together come up with a treatment and management plan which works and which will be sustainable over a longer period of time because ear and skin problems are often ongoing or reoccurring issues.
Here we describe a few lesser-known treatment options.
Ear Canal Cleaning/Flushing
Sometimes the ear canal is so blocked up/clogged that we need to perform an ear flush under anaesthetic to clean the ear canal and check the ear drum and canal for damage. Our video otoscope camera helps us clearly visualise the ear canal and ear drum, and is able to save photos so we can show you too.
Once-Weekly Ear Medication
Medicating ears is often not easy and certainly is not enjoyable for either you or your pet. At nOah we have a special long-acting ear medication designed to last for a week, which can be applied during the consultation. You won’t need to give any further medications at home!
Surgical Removal of Skin Cancer or Lumps
We are very experienced with surgically excising skin lumps and cancer. We start with categorising how benign or aggressive the lesion is so that an appropriate amount of surrounding skin/tissue is removed in order to achieve a complete cure. The tissue is then sent to the laboratory for testing of skin margins to ensure the edges are cancer-free.
Cryotherapy for Skin Cancer
Cats with white noses and ears are very susceptible to skin cancer caused by sun exposure. It is best to treat these cancers before they grow too large. We use cryotherapy to freeze the cancer and halt its growth.