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Ask the Vet: Happy King Charles Spaniel has crusty pimples

By Craig Reilly

My nine-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has lots of crusty pimples all over his back. He is quite thirsty and hungry, and he's getting very fat. He seems very happy though, and doesn't seem unwell. My mum says I need to take him to the vet but I'm not sure. Do you think I need to get him looked at?

Catherine, Newtownabbey

It's likely that his symptoms are all connected, Catherine. Your mum is right, as mums usually are! In dogs, most crusting rashes have a bacterial component, possibly what is called a pyoderma (literally pus in the skin). Most normal adult dog skin doesn't get such infections, certainly not as widespread as you describe. I would be looking for an underlying or predisposing cause for the breakdown in normal skin defences.

There is a relatively common endocrine (hormonal) problem called Cushing's Disease which involves a high level of stress hormone (cortisol) in the blood. This can reduce his immunity, and allow pyoderma to develop. Weight gain, thirst and hunger all are common clinical signs. This disease is completely controllable in the majority of cases with simple oral medication. Please take him to your vet, armed perhaps with a fresh urine sample and a recording of his water intake over a full 24 hours. It is really worth treating him, because left untended Cushing's Disease will advance dramatically and cause irreversible harm. One painful consequence of long-standing disease is called calcinosis cutis, where calcium deposits develop under the skin and are very inflammatory and therefore sore.

A second terrible consequence is when a clot forms in the lung (a pulmonary thrombosis). Pulmonary thrombi are painful and distressing and often fatal, too. None of these things happens if he gets treated on time: early intervention can return him to normal, so please do let your vet investigate his problem. I have seen cases presented too late – perhaps when lung injury has already occurred – and then, sadly, there may be nothing we can do, so do please act soon. Good luck.

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Craig is a partner in Cedarmount Veterinary Clinic, Bangor (cedarmountvets.co.uk). Send your pet queries to tele.vet@hotmail.com. Craig can only respond to questions through this column, and these answers cannot substitute for treatment decisions based on a full history and clinical examination by your vet

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