Viva la difference is a wonderful French phrase which I wholeheartedly endorse. It conjures up all sorts of happy thoughts. There are differences between the human genders and much larger differences between species of animals. We may joke about how many dog owners look like their pets but in reality there are more far differences than similarities. So the French are right again, especially if you’re not really wanting to go too deep.

However similarities do exist which makes me ask if there is anything to be gained by considering them? There are many similarities between different species of mammals. That is, by definition, why they were all classified as mammals. The livers of donkeys and humans work in a similar fashion, even if they detoxify different chemicals because the species eat and drink different things.

Skin is another organ with strong similarities among mammalian species. The number and density of hairs may vary between species but they all have hairs, the manner in which the skin replaces itself every few weeks is common, how the skin reacts to chronic insult is similar, as are the diseases that result from damage.

Why is this relevant here? Because eczema is a disease which is sadly all too common in both humans and dogs. Very recently we helped The Kennel Club at their Discover Dogs show in London. They displayed numerous breeds of dog so families could better decide which would make the best addition to their household. Dogs were patted and stroked by visitors while the owners provided valuable advice. As you would expect, those dogs were all clean and healthy with no skin disease.

The dogs discussed on our stand were not so lucky. There the owners had the chance to ask about eczema within their family, in both humans and dogs. Most were pleasantly surprised to finally understand the disease and receive a good answer to the question “What is eczema?” some even showed affinity with their pets when they realised doctors and vets manage the disease in a similar fashion. The similarities between human skin with eczema and dog skin with eczema far outweigh the differences. One of the greatest similarities was that dreaded word ‘manage’ as it tends to be the only option provided.

Those who follow our blog on www.execzema.org know we’ve turned eczema into a disease of choice; you can manage it or end it. That works for both humans and dogs. What I find interesting is how quickly owners act on the option to end the dog’s eczema compared to how many parents are reluctant to do the same for their children, even when the owner is the parent – the same person. The clue lies in how strongly the medical profession says human eczema can’t be cured, a fact that induces strong limiting beliefs. It’s therefore useful to help an owner end their dog’s eczema in order to create confidence in doing the same for their child.

Dr Harley Farmer PhD BVSc(hons) BVBiol(path) MRCVS Listener, campaigner against rashes, creator of EXeczema.

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