Life-threatening Skin Diseases in Dogs, Cats

July 12, 2018

These types of skin diseases fall into 2 categories.

"Life-threatening skin diseases in dogs and cats fall into 2 categories," says Stephen D. White, DVM, DACVD, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

"One category is that they are actually going to kill the cat or dog unless we do something, and sometimes even if we do something its not going to help. The other category is that they're so severe in how they make the animal feel, or look, or both, the people say either, 'I don't want to deal with this and I'm going to euthanize the animal,' or, 'I've tried different things and I've give up.' So, I can say that probably 99 percent of those diseases are diagnosed by biopsy, and so, that's why many times I'll tell students and friend veterinarians, you know, if you see something really strange on an animal it’s just beyond the usual periodic allergy or hair loss from a dermatophyte ringworm. I will tell them you better do a biopsy sooner rather than later in the process and find out.

And also, if the animal seems at all systemically ill do a thoracic radiographs and abdominal ultrasound, because we see what's called para-neoplastic skin diseases where there's a neoplasm, a tumor, inside the animal that's secreting something, some substance, that is making the skin either fall apart, or severe hair loss, or change of the look of the skin. Cats get a para-neoplastic process to pancreatic carcinoma and what it does is it makes them pyritic, it does make their ventral abdomen become very shiny, and then also have their fur pads scaling, crusting, even sloughing. So, again it all comes down to doing a biopsy a pathologist see there's certain clues on a biopsy from a cat like that as an example that will tell the pathologist, gee this biopsy looks a lot like a para-neoplastic problem in cats you should do an abdominal ultrasound and look for the pancreatic tumor."