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9 Vet-Reviewed Dog Skin Problems & Their Treatments (With Pictures)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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When your beloved dog starts scratching more than usual, or he literally seems to be uncomfortable in his own skin, he might be suffering from one of the common skin problems that dogs can develop. If you are looking at your dog’s skin and are trying to figure out what’s wrong, here is a comprehensive list of possible skin problems and treatments.

Some of these conditions are mild, and some are severe. At the first sign of a more serious problem, please take your dog to your vet immediately.Divider 8

Signs of Dog Skin Conditions

Before we delve into the skin problems, let’s first look at some of the typical signs that your dog might have an issue. The most common and obvious sign will be your dog scratching and licking himself much more frequently than usual.

Other signs may include:
  • Hot spots or skin sores
  • Dry, flaky skin (dandruff)
  • Swollen, inflamed skin
  • Redness/discolored skin
  • Scabs and lesions
  • Rashes
  • Hair loss/bald patches
  • Bumps or lumps

Different skin conditions will develop different symptoms. If the problem doesn’t appear serious, you may want to keep a journal to help you figure out what is causing the issue. You might discover that the skin problem seems to flare up every time you feed your dog a specific food or when you’re dusting. The more information you can present to your vet, the easier it will be for the vet to diagnose the condition.

Without further ado, here are the nine most common skin conditions that dogs experience and how you can treat them:

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The 9 Most Common Skin Conditions for Dogs:

1. Hot Spots

Hot spot on dog's neck_Tienuskin_shutterstock
Image credit: Tienuskin, Shutterstock

Hot spots are one of the most common dog skin problems overall. They are also known as acute moist dermatitis and present as moist, red, painful, irritated, and infected skin found most often on the legs, hips, neck, and face. It can be caused by excessive scratching following itchy triggers like ear infections, anal gland inflammation, allergies, bug bites, or too much leftover moisture from swimming.

Treatment: You can usually treat hot spots at home with products designed to relieve itching. Preventing further self-trauma and clipping the hair away from the lesion and the surrounding area are essential to solving the problem. The hot spot will heal more quickly if the hair is removed so that the lesion can dry properly. In more severe cases, your vet will potentially prescribe anti-itch medication and antibiotics.

2. Food Allergies

This particular allergy is usually seen in about 10% of allergy cases in dogs. Some of the signs that your dog may have a food allergy are chronic ear inflammation, gas, diarrhea, gastrointestinal issues, and itchy feet and rear end. Some of the more typical foods that could lead to an allergy in your dog may include but are not limited to beef, dairy, eggs, wheat, chicken, soy, fish, rabbit, and pork.

Treatment: Unfortunately, treating food allergies isn’t as easy as you would hope. Your vet will first need to run tests and a full physical exam of your dog to rule out any other possible cause for your dog’s skin condition. This is also where recording all of the information about your dog in a journal will come in handy.

Eliminating the food you suspect may cause your dog problems is the only way to treat this allergy. The diet will usually include one carbohydrate and one protein source that your dog has never had before. You could see an improvement as early as 4 weeks, and then a little trial and error are in order. Greater detail on this process can be read here.

3. Environmental Allergies

Fila Brasileiro Brazilian Mastiff seasonal allergy_olgagorovenko_shutterstock
Image credit: olgagorovenko, Shutterstock

Environmental allergies (also called atopic dermatitis) can be seasonal or occur all year round, depending on the allergen triggering the reaction (grass, pollens, dust, or mold). Dogs are susceptible to the same kinds of seasonal allergies, such as hay fever and asthma, as humans. Signs of environmental allergies might include skin that is itchy and irritated, particularly on the feet and face.

Treatment: There are a number of treatments available for atopic dermatitis:
  1. Hyposensitization: A number of injections of the allergens that your dog is susceptible to are given in small doses to your dog, so he will eventually develop a tolerance to these allergens.
  2. Immunomodulatory medications: This medication will eliminate itchiness.
  3. Shampoo: There are multiple medicated shampoos on the market designed to help relieve your dog’s itchy skin.
  4. Antifungal and antibacterial medications: Many dogs that suffer from atopic dermatitis are also prone to yeast and bacterial infections. These are applied directly to the skin or given by mouth.

4. Fleas and Ticks

Both of these parasites live on your dog, and their bites and saliva can cause skin irritation. Fleas usually congregate around your dog’s tail and at the base of their ears but can be found almost anywhere. Look for tiny brown insects that will move while you’re looking through your dog’s fur as well as their droppings, which look like tiny bits of black dirt. As for ticks, always check your dog after a walk in areas where ticks are known to live, such as wooded areas and long grasses.

Treatment: Ticks can be seen by the naked eye and should be removed immediately with a pair of special tick forks or tweezers. Be sure to pull the tick straight out and avoid crushing it, as you do not want any part of the tick left behind inside your dog.

There are a variety of products that can be used to prevent and get rid of fleas. These include pills, chewables, spot-on treatments, prescription as well as non-prescription medications, and special flea shampoos. Many flea treatments actually help with ticks as well. Preventing these two parasites from biting your dog is the most important thing because, in addition to skin problems, they can also transmit nasty diseases.

5. Mange

Skin diseases of a black dirty street dog_kazi suhel tanvir mahmud_shutterstock
Image credit: kazi suhel tanvir mahmud, Shutterstock

Mange is caused by minuscule mites that infect your dog’s fur and skin. There are 2 kinds of mange:

  • Sarcoptic mange: This is caused by the Sarcoptes mite that burrows into your dog’s skin and can cause severely itchy and irritated skin. The scratching behavior can cause bald patches and scabs. It is also highly contagious to other dogs and humans.
  • Demodectic mange: Usually affects younger dogs under 1 year but isn’t typically contagious since it depends on the individual dog’s immune system.
  • Sarcoptic mange is usually treated with a scabicide, a prescription drug designed to eradicate the itch mite. This can also include bathing the dog in a scabicide shampoo.
  • Demodectic mange can actually clear up on its own, which occurs in mild cases. However, in severe cases, some medications can be prescribed by your veterinarian as well as using external parasite medication (these still require a prescription).

6. Lupus

Skin lupus (Discoid lupus erythematosus as the most common type) occurs when the dog’s immune system attacks its own cells and will appear as a loss of skin pigment, lesions, sores, and ulcers. The sores typically appear around the nose and sometimes affect the ears or inside the mouth. Since this condition is made worse by the sun, it is important to avoid intense sunlight.

Treatment: The use of vitamins, antibiotics, and medication applied to the skin are some of the methods used to help with lupus. This is a serious disease that, if left untreated, can cause disfiguring lesions.

7. Yeast Infections

yeast infection and kerato-seborrhoeic disorders_ThamKC_shutterstock
Image credit: ThamKC, Shutterstock

Yeast infections are one of the more common skin infections for dogs. Yeast is a kind of fungus that is always on a dog’s skin, but an opportunistic infection will occur when the yeast multiplies. Most yeast dermatitis is secondary to skin allergies. Signs of a yeast infection include irritated, red, or itchy skin with a musty or sweet odor. Yeast infections can occur anywhere on a dog’s skin but are most commonly found on dogs’ ears and extra folds of skin, where heat and moisture get trapped.

Treatment: Treatment will depend on where the yeast infection is present. The ears require an ear cleaner, antifungal ointment or drops, or prescribed antifungal medication. The paws and skin can be treated with shampoos, wipes, and antifungal creams or, like with the ears, a prescribed antifungal medication.

8. Puppy Pyoderma

Puppy pyoderma, also known as impetigo, is a superficial skin infection caused by Staphylococcus bacteria that is commonly found in young puppies. There is no single known cause, but the predisposing factors are parasites, poor nutrition, or a dirty environment. It shows up on the more hairless areas of the puppy’s skin, such as the groin, belly, and axillae (armpit), as red bumps and yellowish blisters that may resemble pimples. These lesions are often not itchy or painful.

Treatment: You can usually clear up puppy pyoderma by using an antiseptic wash on the affected areas. In severe cases, your vet might prescribe oral or injectable antibiotics.

9. Ringworm

jack russell dog suffering from ringworm
Image Credit: Nathalie Marran, Shutterstock

There is no worm in ringworm, you’ll be relieved to hear, but it is a highly contagious fungal infection. Some of the symptoms may include scaly dandruff, crusty skin, ulcers, darkened skin, itchiness, and hair loss that may appear patchy or in a circular pattern. It can be passed on to cats and humans. It might be caused by the dog coming into contact with animals or people that already have it or by being exposed to the fungus through soil, clippers, cages, and bedding where it may live.

Treatment: Any dog with ringworm, first and foremost, must be quarantined because of the highly contagious aspect of this fungus. In mild cases, a topical treatment might do the trick, such as a skin flush. In more extreme cases, your vet will prescribe an oral antifungal medication.

Divider 2Conclusion

The most common skin problems for dogs are parasites, various types of allergies, bacterial infections, and fungal infections. It is imperative that you take your dog to the veterinarian when you notice a problem with your dog’s skin. The vet will conduct an exam and run a number of tests to determine the cause of the skin problem and provide you with medication and home care suggestions to help treat it.

Of course, if you know the condition is mild and not of a serious nature, you might be able to treat your dog at home, but please be very careful with home remedies. Not everything is meant to go on or in your dog, and some skin conditions might start out mild but turn into something more significant if you’re not careful. Ensuring your dog is in good health and comfortable is an essential part of your job as a dog owner and friend.

Featured Image Credit: Ruth Black, Shutterstock

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