DVM, DACVD, Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison
A precise diagnosis of the causes of a skin disease requires a detailed history, physical examination, and appropriate diagnostic tests. Many skin diseases have similar signs and an immediate diagnosis may not be possible. Based on your dog’s history and the physical examination, your veterinarian may order any of a number of laboratory procedures. These may include microscopic analysis of skin scrapings and hair, cultures of hair or skin swabs, specialized skin tests, blood and urine tests, and even biopsies. It may take several days before laboratory results are available. Your veterinarian may also evaluate how your dog responds to treatment in order to diagnose a specific skin problem. More than one visit is often required for an accurate diagnosis.
Skin Disease History Checklist
When you take your dog to the veterinarian for a skin problem, you can help your veterinarian diagnose the problem by having information about the following:
1. The primary complaint—what is bothering your dog?
2. The length of time the problem has been present.
3. The age at which the skin disease started. Some diseases are more common to particular ages of dogs.
4. The breed. Some breeds are prone to specific diseases. (Also note whether related animals such as littermates have had a similar problem.)
5. Behavior of the dog, such as licking, rubbing, scratching, or chewing of the skin.
6. How the problem started and how it has progressed. For example, problems that began with itching may lead to self-trauma that develops secondary skin wounds or infections.
7. The type of skin problems you saw develop and when.
8. The season when the problem first started. Some skin diseases are related to the season of the year.
9. The area on the body where the problem was first noticed.
10. Any previous treatments and how your dog responded to treatment. For example, if your dog did not improve when given antibiotics, this helps your veterinarian exclude certain diseases.
11. How often you bathe the animal and when you last bathed it. Recent bathing may obscure or change skin problems. Excessive bathing and wetting of the skin can worsen some skin diseases.
12. The presence of fleas, ticks, or mites and what you use for routine control of these problems.
13. The health of other animals with which your dog has been in contact.
14. The environment of your dog. Changes in your dog’s environment can influence the development of certain skin diseases. Any travel within the last 6 to 12 months should also be mentioned.
15. The presence of any additional signs (such as increased thirst or urination, change in appetite or energy level, or increased panting). The skin can be the first place that signs of a body-wide illness are noticed.
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