Identifying skin infections
Typical symptom of skin infections is red, warm and itchy skin. Wide variety of microbes can cause skin infection. These microbes can be bacteria, virus, yeast, fungus or mold. Even parasites can be causative agents in skin infections. Infection caused by microbes is managed with antimicrobic treatment. Different antimicrobic substances are effective for different microbes. To identify the correct antimicrobic substance, we recommend taking a sample from the infection site to be cultivated for diagnostic use. The information on antibiotic specificity helps to choose effective product for the infection. The treatment can be local/topical and/or systemic. An example of systemic treatment as an oral antimicrobic treatment is antibiotics or sulfa.
Povidone iodine, hexetidine, miconazole nitrate and chlorhexetidine are typical synthetic antimicrobic compounds, which destroy wide range of various microbes. There are shampoos and lotions based on these compounds. These compounds can cause skin irritation. Many natural compounds e.g. pure essential oils: lavender, mint, lemongrass, thyme, oregano and many others have antimicrobic properties.
Early diagnosis leads to better treatment outcome. Early diagnosed infections can often be treated at home with topical treatment. The aim of the topical treatment is to clear the area of infection (disinfect). Treatment consists of washing the area off from microbes and applying antimicrobic lotion.
The frequency of the treatment is dependent of the severity and the grade of the infection. How successful this treatment is depends on the effectiveness of the compound on the causative, infective microbe. Some microbe strains are resistant to common antimicrobic compounds. Antimicrobic treatment should not be interrupted too early, as it could worsen the infection and make the microbes resistant to antimicrobic treatment. Mixing or using various products only few days to treat the infection can have similar effect. Thick and greasy products should be avoided as they accumulate dirt on the infection.
Challenges of infections
Every infection is it’s own independent disease , even though they can look alike. Typical skin infection in horses is mud fever and in dogs paw infections and hotspots. In spite of the same disease name, the various animals can require different treatment for their hotspot/mud fever infection, depending on the causative microbe.
The infection can invade deeper skin layers, which can be seen as secretion of pus. These infections are usually very painful to the animals. Supportive local treatment can be applied in deeper infections of furunculosis ( “paw infection”) and hotspots. Horses’ mud fever if not treated, can invade the deeper skin layers. Shaving off the hair has been considered helpful in these deeper infections. If the skin infection is wide spread or intensive, the veterinarian will always need to evaluate the need for systemic antimicrobic medication. Localised infections can be treated locally unless they turn into a systematic infection. Localised treatment cannot effectively treat an area it does not reach.
Skin infections can become chronic problem. Local symptoms are treated locally and systemic systemically. Underlying allergy is often found in chronic skin infection, which exposes animal to infections. Thus possible allergy should be investigated and treated properly. The problem in animal’s chronic infections is the continuity. The successful treatment of the animal’s infection requires commitment of the care giver to the daily treatment till the infection is cured. Cats and dogs are usually easier to care for as they usually live in the same household than the caregiver. Horse owners will often need to arrange more care givers in order to provide daily treatment.
Veterinarian is the best person to analyse the comprehensive clinical situation and define the right treatment.