Dogs are just like us. Although a blanket of fur covers their skin, it can be just as sensitive and responsive as human skin. Dogs are prone to developing many of the same skin conditions that people can develop. Most of the time, dog skin problems are treated or resolved in the same manner as common skin problems for humans.
If your dog keeps scratching, biting, licking, or chewing at the same spot, look through their fur. You might see signs of one of these eight common dog skin conditions.
And if you spot something concerning about your pet’s health, it’s probably time to call the vet. Skin conditions are one of the most common reasons for a vet visit, so you’re not alone.
How Common Are Dog Skin Conditions?
Skin conditions are widespread in dogs. Their coats can hide flaky skin, dandruff, allergens, parasites, bacterial infections, and fungal infections. Their fur traps irritants against their skin, potentially leading to skin conditions and infections.
Dog skin conditions are most common in the summer months, especially when it rains. High pollen counts and moisture in the grass can contribute to allergies, and spread common bacteria or fungi, even if your pet has a solid immune system.
It’s important to be vigilant year-round, but you should be especially mindful when the weather starts to warm up. Let’s look at easy ways to tell if your pet has an untreated skin condition.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Has a Skin Condition?
Skin conditions rarely go unnoticed. Your dog’s behavior will tell you what’s happening, and a quick look will reveal more information.
If the skin issue has been present for several days, you should be able to recognize the problem just by looking at it. If the skin is red, flaky, oozing, covered in scabs, dotted with a rash, or balding, that’s all the information you need to know something is wrong.
Excessive Licking and Scratching
Some skin conditions can be harder to spot, particularly widespread ones. If the symptoms just started, symptoms like redness or bumps may not be visible immediately. Instead of looking for visual indicators, observe your dog’s behavior.
If your dog is obsessed with the excessive licking of an affected area, it could be the itchiness of a skin condition driving them crazy. The itchy skin won’t go away, but your dog will keep trying until they find relief. Just keep an eye out for hair loss.
The 8 Most Common Skin Conditions in Dogs
Let’s look at some of the most common skin conditions in dogs and how you may be able to provide some relief as you head to the vet for further guidance.
1. Yeast Infections
Candida albicans — a fungus that generally lives on the skin and in the body — is usually harmless. It only becomes a problem when its growth goes unchecked for extended periods. Yeast infections often develop in areas your dog cannot easily groom themselves, such as the ear canal, between their toes, or the groin.
Yeast infections leave the skin red and irritated. They often have a foul, sour smell or can smell like bread yeast. Topical antifungal treatments like miconazole can be applied directly to the area.
Keeping the infected area clean and dry will help soothe the area while the antifungal treatment options work. If your pup is left unattended to lick the site, it can lead to hot spots.
Ringworm is a very contagious fungus that affects all animals and humans. It’s called “ringworm” because it often appears in red, raised circles that resemble the shape of a worm. There are no worms involved in ringworm.
If your dog has ringworm, you need to quarantine them away from other animals and people in your home. The infection can quickly spread through contact.
Your dog will need to take antifungal medication prescribed by a vet. You’ll also need to wash and sanitize everything your dog has touched. If you don’t, your dog can become reinfected.
Tick and flea bites can irritate your dog’s skin. They’re constantly biting your dog, and your dog will bite them back. The persistent itching and irritation can create a situation where the discomfort becomes progressively worse.
Check your dog for fleas and other external parasites. Even if you don’t find live fleas, you may find evidence of flea droppings. After gently scratching or combing your dog, your nails or comb may show a residue that looks like dirt. These are flea droppings.
You should launder your dog’s bedding in hot water immediately. Give your dog a lukewarm bath with medicated flea shampoo, and begin combing your dog to remove fleas and their eggs.
Your vet can give you a prescription for medical strength flea treatment or recommend an over-the-counter solution. Using flea treatments to eliminate stubborn fleas and prevent reinfestation is important.
Dogs are prone to dandruff, especially if they get dry skin in the winter. Dandruff appears as little dry flakes under your dog’s fur. The skin around the flakes might be slightly pink from irritation.
Dandruff is fairly easy to handle at home and is not considered a skin disease. Feeding your dog a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help to promote healthier skin and a shinier coat.
Regularly brushing your dog to remove loose fur and dandruff flakes can also prevent skin irritation.
Bathing your dog once a week with a gentle, moisturizing oatmeal soap can help to soothe dry skin. You might even find that your dog loves a massage with warm, soothing suds or calming ointments.
Mange is a severe condition caused by mites. Certain mites live on your dog’s skin, as well as in your dog’s ears. Overpopulation of these mites can leave your dog severely itchy with highly irritated skin.
There are several types of mange based on the mites involved, including sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange. Most dogs with mange will develop bald patches that can become scabby and crusty.
Mange is very serious. An animal with mange should never come into contact with another animal. Dogs with mange should quarantine immediately. Any bedding they’ve used or soft furniture they’ve touched may be harboring mites or mite eggs. Launder the bedding with very hot water immediately.
Your vet will need to take a skin sample from your dog to identify the type of mites causing the mange. Your vet will then typically prescribe the appropriate topical treatment to kill the mites.
Dogs with mange often have sensitive skin from the irritation. You might need help and a lot of patience to regularly bathe your dog with the medicated treatment.
6. Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune disorders like lupus can create skin lesions that take a long time to heal. If your dog has lupus, the skin condition is only a symptom of a much larger systemic condition. If your dog has skin sores that won’t heal, go to the vet immediately.
Your vet can provide an accurate diagnosis and prescribe treatment. If your dog has lupus, your vet will give you a care plan. Ask your vet what you can do to support your dog’s skin.
7. Food Allergies
Your dog isn’t likely to suddenly become allergic to the food they are eating, unless they have been eating the same protein their whole life. The most common food allergies to develop in dogs are chicken and beef, as they are most commonly found in mainstream dog foods.
If you’ve recently switched foods or incorporated new treats into your dog’s diet, they may be the culprit for your dog’s allergic dermatitis (skin symptoms from allergens).
Any food can cause an allergy, even if it’s healthy and whole like sweet potato or salmon. In some cases, artificial colorants in dog kibble can also cause a reaction.
It may help to stop giving your dog new treats and switch them back to their former food if the allergic reaction began after a diet swap. Putting things back to normal should reverse the process.
If nothing has changed in their diet, try switching to a more allergy-friendly protein like duck or turkey.
If you’re unsure what’s causing the allergy, you’ll need to work with your vet to try an elimination diet. Bring the packaging of the food and treats you use to your vet’s office. Your vet will help you create a plan to eliminate potential triggers over a few months. Your vet may also encourage antihistamine use in the meantime.
8. Contact Allergies
Contact allergies, also called atopic dermatitis, are common in people and pets. Contact skin allergies occur when your dog comes into contact with something that irritates their skin. It could be a plant they found in the yard or an essential oil in your home.
It might be a reaction to the laundry detergent you used to wash their bedding or the residue of a heavily fragranced body wash that was left behind in the bathtub before you bathed your dog.
Make sure all your dog’s bedding and clothes are laundered exclusively with dye-free, scent-free, natural detergents. Before you bathe your dog, wash your tub with dish soap to remove product residue.
Check your yard for plants your dog may have touched. Remove plants that tend to cause an allergic reaction to dogs’ skin.
Oatmeal baths can help soothe your dog’s skin while healing. Keeping your dog clean, dry, and away from potential allergen triggers can help your dog heal. Your vet may recommend allergy medications if certain allergens are unavoidable.
Hot spots (also known as pyotraumatic dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis) are a common skin issue pet owners see. A hot spot can result from various skin conditions, but a common trigger is swimming or walking in a rainstorm.
Your pup’s coat can trap moisture and not give their skin a chance to dry out and breathe. This excess moisture and the heat from their body causes irritation that your pup will want to address — the ensuing licking and scratching can cause a wet and oozing sore.
Clipping or shaving the hair around a hot spot can give the area breathing room. If your pup still won’t leave it alone to heal, a bad tasting spray can help discourage licking, or if needed trying an Elizabethan collar or cone. This will prevent any more meddling.
Call your vet if you don’t notice improvement, and they can prescribe topical ointments to get the job done.
Should I Call the Vet if My Dog Has a Skin Condition?
Your dog should go to the vet if you believe they have a skin condition. Although skin conditions are usually easy to recognize and treat at home, your dog may need prescription medications or shampoos to help their skin condition heal safely. Your vet will also want to assess the underlying cause to prevent the skin condition from recurring.
See the vet if your dog is prone to dandruff or environmental allergies. Your vet will tell you what to do if the skin condition returns. You may be able to handle future skin reactions at home by following your vet’s advice.
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