Skin complaints can flare up in any breed, particularly in summer time. In general BGVs have few skin problems. However, having shorter legs, a few are more susceptible to the various irritants found in grasses or even to insect stings or bites. Some complaints are due to flea allergies, or fox mange (sarcoptes scabiei), which may be transmitted to dogs. Nowadays this is not only restricted to rural areas but can also surface in suburbia.
What to do if your BGV has a skin problem: In general, any skin problem, particularly if involving itching, scratching and hair loss, should be seen by your vet.
What are Hot Spots?
Like a moist dermatitis, hot spots can be a problem in warmer weather. An area of skin becomes inflamed and infected, appearing as a moist, oozing, reddened area that is painful and very itchy for your dog. Any licking, chewing or scratching the area worsens the condition dramatically.
How to treat Hot Spots
They can be treated succesfully by taking the hair well away around the area to allow the skin to breathe and dry out. Then by washing with antibacterial soap and applying an antibiotic cream or antiseptic solution prescribed by your vet.
One school of thought is that garlic is a natural remedy to ward off ticks. Although used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes, its use in dogs is a slightly contentious issue as garlic contains a compound called thiosulphate. In extremely high levels this can cause haemolytic anaemia in dogs. The right dose however can not only ward off ticks but also stimulate and support immune function, trigger gastric juices for improved digestion, encourage the growth of friendly bacteria and prevent infections.
Check your BGV regularly for grass seeds. This is especially important in mid-late summer, when they are everywhere and can stick in the coat and gradually burrow into the skin.
A seed can enter the nose or get between the eye and eyelids but they are mainly a nuisance for dogs like BGVs who have longer ears and coats. One can become lodged between the hairs around the toes, with the sharp point against the dog's skin. As the dog walks, the seed gradually pierces the skin of the foot. Check your BGV's feet after a walk as this may save a lot of anxiety and heartache, let alone a big vet's bill. If the dog is taken in early, the vet is usually able to retrieve the grass seed, but occasionally it migrates up inside the leg and causes all sorts of trouble, including pain, irritation and discharge.
The insides of the ear flaps need checking too, as longer ears can flick the seed up into the ear. Every time the dog scratches, this pushes the seed higher up into the ear canal and, the further it enters, this can become very painful for the dog who may require sedation, or even anaesthetic, to retrieve the seed. Watch for head shaking, rubbing the head along the floor, head carried tilted on one side or scratching the ear frantically and persistently. These are all indications of discomfort.
Caught early, one tip is to use magnesium sulphate paste or Epsom salts, a pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulphate. This is known to flush toxins and will help draw out the grass seed.
However, unless removed early, you will need to visit a vet.
Lumps and Tumours
Bitches of any breed are prone to these tumours which may be benign or malignant. Causes are likely to be hormonal or genetic. Surgery is advisable but the tumour may be slow growing and this option does not always guarantee a cure. Depending on the age of your bitch, the type of tumour and the rate it has metastasized, your vet may remove just the tumour or surrounding tissue, lymph nodes and mammary glands as well. Spaying can reduce the risk of developing this type of cancer.
Benign or Cancerous Lumps
Parting your BGV's coat regularly will help detect any unusual lump or swelling. This should be dealt with by your vet who will, in all probability, perform a lumpectomy. This is a surgical procedure that involves removing a suspected malignant (cancerous) tumour, or lump, and a small portion of the surrounding tissue. This tissue is then tested to determine if it contains cancerous cells.
These can be difficult to detect but, by parting your BGV's coat regularly and feeling over the body, you may detect a small, unexplained lump which needs further investigation.
Mast cells are specialised cells that normally are found distributed throughout the body. They help an animal respond to inflammation and allergies. This type of tumour is among the most common type in dogs and is also the most common type of skin cancer found in dogs. Surgical removal of the entire tumour plus several cms of healthy tissue around the perimeter gives hope of capturing any stray cancerous cells that are not immediately obvious.