German shepherds frequently have skin problems. Two skin disorders that are commonly seen in shepherds are lick granulomas (acral lick dermatitis) and allergic dermatitis. Lick granulomas are raw open areas resulting from a shepherd's excessive licking in one area, removing several layers of skin. German shepherds are notorious for this condition. In the past, the theory was that lick granulomas were the result of a neurotic dog. This may not be so far from the truth; many dogs that are bored, anxious, or stressed do exhibit this damaging behavior.

If your shepherd has a flea allergy, it may take only one bite from one flea to initiate an allergic response. This is the one allergy, however, that can be easily controlled. Certain tick and flea medications not only kill all life stages of the flea, but also repel fleas to the point where one may not even hop onto your shepherd.

German shepherds are also one of the breeds noted for the high appearance of allergies. Inhalant allergies, food allergies, and flea allergies will all show up as itchiness in the dog's skin. Dogs do not sneeze and sniffle as people with inhalant allergies do; rather, they will chew, lick, and scratch themselves, sometimes resulting in secondary bacterial infections.

The most common locations for dogs to itch are their paws, armpits, groin, flanks, ears, and heads. To determine what is causing a shepherd's allergies, a specialist will need to test the dog. Once the underlying allergy is determined, the shepherd can be treated much more effectively.

Serious Skin Issues

Two skin conditions that plague the German shepherd almost exclusively are nodular dermatofibrosis and perianal fistula. Nodular dermatofibrosis appears innocuously as lumps on the shepherd's head, neck, legs, and/or between her toes. Unless the lump ulcerates or breaks open, the condition is not considered painful for the dog. If a shepherd has this condition, however, she must be tested every three months for the presence of malignant kidney tumors — or, in the case of an intact female, uterine cancer. The type of kidney tumor that develops is cystadenocarcinoma, which is highly aggressive and requires immediate surgery to remove the tumors if the shepherd is to have any chance of recovering.

Is the chronic infection on the bridge of a shepherd's nose really caused by digging or rooting in the dirt?

Nasal pyoderma was once considered to be a disease of long-nosed breeds, such as the shepherd, and was blamed on digging or rooting behavior. It is now thought to be an immune disorder. Your veterinarian will be able to offer you the latest therapies available.

Perianal fistula or perianal pyoderma is most common to German shepherds and Irish setters. Though this disease appears to be a horrid bacterial infection (causing draining lesions surrounding the shepherd's anus), it isn't bacterial at all. For years, veterinarians tried to treat this disease with antibiotics — with no lasting response. Surgeries have had marginal success. Researchers continue to delve into this painful condition; hopefully an effective therapy will be developed in the near future.

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