Dog Skin Conditions: An In-Depth Guide
You may have noticed that your dog has been really itchy lately. Or maybe when you gave them a bath, you noticed that their skin felt different. Perhaps they’ve been losing a lot of hair, or you’ve noticed that they’ve been suffering from dandruff. Whatever the reason, you want to learn more about dog skin conditions.
Just like people, dogs can suffer from a wide range of skin conditions. Some types can easily be taken care of, but others are more severe and may require more treatment. The first step in treating a condition is to identify it.
If your dog does seem to have a skin condition, you should always take them to the vet for an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment plan. Luckily, most skin conditions have specific signs you can look for. The faster you notice a problem, the faster it can get treated.
At Spot Pet Insurance, our goal is to make sure your pet stays healthy and happy. After all, pets are part of your family and deserve the best care possible. As pet parents ourselves, we know that caring for our fur babies is a lot of responsibility, so we want to help make that load a little lighter.
Read on to learn more about skin conditions that can affect your pup.
How can I tell if my dog has a skin condition?
A skin condition is probably one of the easiest problems to detect since the symptoms are often visible. Figuring out the type of skin condition takes a little more work since there is a wide range of possibilities, and it may require testing.
Signs of canine skin issues
One of the first signs of many skin conditions is excessive scratching or licking. It might mean that your pup’s skin is irritated, which can be caused by any number of problems, from allergies to infections to hormonal issues.
Another common sign of skin issues is a rash. You’ll often find these on your pup’s belly. Although they can appear in other areas, the belly is easiest to see, and the skin on the belly can have more direct contact with instigating agents.
Many rashes on the belly result from something irritating touching the skin, like poison ivy or chemicals used for lawn care. If your pup comes into contact with one of these, it’s best to wash them off as soon as possible. With plants like poison ivy, your pup might need further treatment.
Other possible symptoms are:
- Red bumps
- Red spots
- Hair loss
- Red skin
- Dry skin
Dogs can also have what are called hot spots. These areas of the skin may be matted, moist, and irritated. They can be set off by humid weather, swimming, or rainy weather. They can be caused or made worse by excessive licking.
Dogs with undercoats most commonly have hot spots, especially if the undercoat isn’t properly dried after it gets wet. Proper grooming and drying can help prevent hot spots from occurring.
When to ask a professional
Sometimes, all that’s required to treat some of these problems is better grooming or a change in shampoo. However, they could also be a sign of a more serious issue, so it’s best to consult a veterinarian.
Policyholders of a Spot Pet Insurance plan provided by Spot members haveget access to a 24/7 telehealth service powered by VetConnect™,whiskerDocs, so if you aren’t sure if there is a problem you can ask a specialist.or you aren’t able to make it to the vet, you have a way for your pup to get some of the care they might need.
Are there any common causes for skin conditions?
Although there can be a wide variety of skin conditions, some have similar causes. For example, sometimes, skin irritation can be caused by allergies. Dogs could be allergic to grains, grass, pollen, or bug bites, particularly fleas or ticks. Certain food allergies are also common in dogs, including chicken, dairy, beef, soy, and more.
Another common cause is infections. There are two primary types of infection: fungal and bacterial. The most common type of fungal infection is ringworm, which shows itself through red rings. Impetigo or pyoderma are two common types of bacterial infection.
Another possible cause is bugs. Fleas and ticks can present a challenge, but they aren’t alone. Mites can also cause a skin condition known as mange. There are many types of mange that can range in severity.
Skin conditions can also be caused by irritants, like lawn chemicals or poison ivy, or excessive licking or biting.
What are some common skin conditions?
The list of skin conditions affecting dogs is pretty long, but we’ve covered many primary ones here.
Worms are not the cause of ringworm, even though that’s what the name might suggest. Instead, it’s caused by a fungus that shows itself as reddish, circular spots or rings on your pup’s skin, usually around the forelegs, paws, ears, and/or head.
It’s commonly seen in puppies younger than one year, and it’s highly contagious. If a litter is still together and one puppy has it, it’s highly likely that all of them have it. Ringworm can also spread to humans and your pet cats too. If your dog has it, you should probably get yourself checked out too.
Pyoderma is a bacterial infection that shows itself through pus-filled bumps and red, irritated skin. It can also cause hair loss, but this isn’t always the case.
Mange is a skin infection that is caused by an overabundance of mites. Common symptoms include hair loss, itching, and red skin.
There are two types of mange caused by two different types of mites — Demodex mites and scabies mites.
Demodectic mange. Demodectic mange is caused by too many Demodex mites, which are the mites that eat hair. Normally, there are only a few mites on your dog, but if your pup has a weak immune system, is very stressed out, or doesn’t eat enough, their immune system can’t keep the mites in check.
Sarcoptic mange. Scabies mites are the culprits if your pup has sarcoptic mange. These mites also travel, so if your pup has it, it can spread to other dogs or even you and the rest of your human family.
Fleas are well known for causing itchy and irritated skin. Giving your pup flea medication should prevent these little bugs from appearing, but there’s always a chance they’ll show up. Most flea bites are found around the legs, tail, or belly. Fleas can cause non-skin-related issues like anemia and blood loss.
You may also find eggs and droppings from these nasty little bugs. The best way to get rid of them is through treatment. Then, thoroughly clean the whole house. Otherwise, they’ll just reappear uninvited again.
Ticks are most commonly known for causing issues like Lyme disease, other infections, anemia, and blood loss. Their bites may also lead to skin irritation since your dog might try to scratch or bite at them.
Yeast dermatitis is another type of bacterial infection. They occur when there is an overabundance of the yeast bacteria on the skin. These usually result from some other health issues, especially a weak immune system.
Common signs are:
- A strong smell
Yeast infections can also occur in your dog’s ears.
A lick granuloma, also known as an aerial lick granuloma or aerial lick dermatitis (different from atopic dermatitis or allergic dermatitis), doesn’t have a typical underlying cause. It’s generally caused by your pup compulsively licking the affected area on the dog’s coat, causing itchy skin and pain.
The only way to get it to heal is by preventing your pup from licking that spot, which is commonly the lower part of the front legs. You can either use an Elizabethan collar (the cones that surround your dog’s head) or a bad-tasting but safe topical ointment applied by a pet owner.
Ask your vet about possible reasons behind this compulsion, including anxiety or boredom.
Alopecia is a condition that typically causes hair loss and the skin to darken. No one is quite sure of the cause, but it seems to be hormonal and/or stress-related or caused by an underlying condition. Alopecia is also called adrenal hyperplasia-like syndrome, black skin disease, and adult-onset growth hormone deficiency.
Folliculitis, a bacterial infection, occurs when hair follicles are inflamed. It shows itself through scabs, bumps, and sores on the skin, which is pretty easy to notice on short-haired dogs. However, the first signs of folliculitis on long-haired dogs may be a dull coat and scaly skin that shows when dogs shed.
Folliculitis generally appears alongside other skin conditions rather than separately.
The first signs of impetigo could be pus-filled lesions that appear on the skin that then burst and become crusty. They tend to spread fairly quickly but aren’t a cause for huge concern. Once treated, they tend to go away.
Impetigo is commonly seen in younger dogs, and the blisters are usually on the part of the belly without hair.
Seborrhea can be caused by genetics, but most often, it’s caused by hormonal problems or allergies. It’s also possible for the cause of seborrhea to be undeterminable.
Signs of seborrhea might be oily or greasy skin and dandruff or scaly skin. While topical treatments can help, the underlying problem needs to be treated so that it doesn’t come back.
When should I take my pup to the vet?
Although it’s pretty unlikely for a skin condition to be an emergency if left untreated, you should still try to take your pup to the vet as soon as possible after noticing symptoms. A licensed vet should be able to help identify the skin condition affecting your pup and provide the best treatment options, from oral antibiotics to medicated shampoos to antihistamines.
It may not be a matter of life or death, but your dog’s comfort is also an important part of a happy and healthy life. After all, constant itching and irritation can be pretty uncomfortable for anyone.
What are some treatments for skin conditions?
The treatment for a skin condition will depend on the cause. For example, most bacterial infections will require some antibiotic to help treat them. Fungal skin infections will probably require antifungals. Allergic reactions are best treated by either avoiding the allergen (the cause of the reaction) or with allergy medication.
A hormonal cause may need something that counteracts that hormonal imbalance. The exact medication will depend on the hormone in question.
Many superficial and common skin problems will require a topical ointment or a new grooming routine, like a special shampoo and conditioner or just ensuring that your pup’s coat dries properly. Sometimes even a change in diet or adding supplements can help.
Fleas and sometimes ticks can be kept away from your pup by using preventative topical ointments. If your dog has ticks, you can remove them yourself, but pull the bug out gently so that the tick head comes out entirely.
Dogs with fleas will probably need topical treatment and thorough washing. Clean your dog’s bed and the places they hang thoroughly.
If your dog needs temporary relief before seeing the vet, you could also try an oat bath or apple cider vinegar as a spot treatment.
Helping your pup stay itch-free and healthy
Although there are a lot of potential skin health issues, many of them have similar symptoms, like excessive itching or licking, red bumps, scabs or sores, blisters filled with pus, and rashes. Some conditions are easier to identify, like ringworm, since the name gives it away.
It’s not likely for a skin condition to be life-threatening, although some are contagious and can be spread to humans, like ringworm. For your pup’s comfort, take them to the vet as soon as possible so your vet can create a treatment plan.
Depending on the reason for the skin condition, the treatment will vary. Some can be treated with a change in grooming, while others are treated with topical medication. Still, others are treated by oral medication, whether antifungal or antibacterial.
Now you are prepared to be able to help your dog if they ever have any skin problems. If you are looking for more tips and tricks on dog care, you can check out some of our educational resources.