Question: I can see my dog’s skin has cleared up, so why do I have to bring him back to the vet?
When we see your pets for skin infections, we often ask you to come back toward the end of the course of antibiotics so we can re-check the skin. We regularly have people ask if this is necessary, because to the naked eye the skin infection appears to have resolved.
To diagnose your pet’s skin condition in the first place, our vets will perform cytology (the study of cells under the microscope). This is usually taken by a swab of the infected area, a gentle skin scraping, or using sticky tape to pick up the cells off the skin (‘sticky tape prep’). All samples are then transferred to a microscope slide, stained with special dye and examined under the microscope.
This process allows vets to diagnose exactly WHAT is causing the infection on the skin. This can be different types of yeast or bacteria.
Yeast infections are often treated with prescription topical ointments or special medicated shampoos. Bacterial infections however will often require a course of antibiotics. In both cases, we will ask you to bring your pet back to the clinic toward the end of the treatment so we can re-examine what is present on the skin (again using cytology). This is to ensure the infection-causing bacteria or yeast have disappeared.
In many cases, this review will also help to diagnose an underlying cause or disorder as many infections are actually a ‘secondary disease’ with an underlying problem such as allergy, parasites or hormonal disease.
On some occasions, it appears that the infection has cleared up, but the cytology tells us that the course of treatment (e.g. antibiotics) needs to be extended because there are enough bacteria cells still present to ‘re-ignite’ the infection. In these situations, if the skin is NOT re-checked and the course of treatment not extended, the infection will flare up again and everyone involved is ‘back to square one’ with treatment. This is especially true if we fail to diagnose an underlying disorder.
Another really important reason to have your pet’s skin re-checked is the concerning topic of antibiotic resistance. In Australia we are currently facing the issue of antibiotic resistance in both the human and animal health fields. Please be aware that incomplete treatment, for example using only part of their course of antibiotics, may promote antibiotic resistance as the microorganism (bacteria) present will ‘build immunity’ against that antibiotic.
This has two implications: firstly ALWAYS finish the FULL course of antibiotics, and bring your pet back for a re-check. Please be aware that to treat certain conditions we may recommend treatments beyond the time the infection has ‘cleared up’. This could be for a number of days, or a number of weeks depending on the severity of the infection.
Secondly; avoid missing any doses – the prescribed frequency of administration and dose is important.
Antibiotic resistance is a serious and complex issue. It is not just the bacteria present at the time of administering the medication that becomes resistant to the antibiotics, it is the new bacteria that multiplies that develops READY to resist the antibiotics. To read more about the issue of antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance in Australia, visit the Australian Government Department of Health here.
If your pet has a skin condition, contact us today on 9878 3033.