Scratching and licking and flaking, oh my!
What do you do when you find your pup with a skin problem? The first step is to get a correct diagnosis by your vet, which you should do right away for the comfort of your pet. Check out these 10 common skin issues in dogs, and get the scoop on which conditions could be serious.
1. Allergic Dermatitis
Just like people, dogs can be allergic to things like medicines, shampoos, food, pollen, or bug bites. Also like people, evidence of the allergy may come in the form of scratching and an itchy rash. For many pets, the simple elimination of the allergen will solve the problem.
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is the most common skin condition in dogs, and it’s the result of an allergic reaction to flea saliva. When an allergic dog is exposed to flea saliva, the area will become red, bumpy, and inflamed.
If you notice scaly or inflamed circular bald patches on your dog, they may have ringworm (which isn’t actually a worm, but a fungal infection). The infection is more commonly found on a dog’s head or legs, but it can spread to the rest of the body as well. Ringworm is highly contagious and should be treated immediately to avoid infecting other pets or people.
Another skin issue that can cause scaly, bald patches on your dog is mange, typically affecting areas around the dog’s ears, belly, and chest -- although it can appear anywhere on your dog’s body. Mange is caused by an overabundance of mites, or when a dog comes in contact with an invasive species of mite. Click here to read about two types of mange.
Contact your vet immediately if you see symptoms of Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiellosis), a mild but highly contagious condition characterized by dandruff that appears to move on your dog’s body, caused by mites carrying flakes of your dog’s skin.
A bacterial infection of the skin resulting in a presence of pus is called pyoderma. If your dog has an underlying skin condition that causes them to scratch, the scratched skin can become home to a bacterial infection. Your dog may scratch their skin due to any of the following:
5. Yeast Infection (Malassezia Dermatitis)
Symptoms of a yeast infection on your dog include itchy, irritated skin, commonly around the ears or toes. While yeast dermatitis is not contagious, your dog should be treated to cure the condition and to restore their comfort. Depending on the severity of the infection, it can be treated topically with a shampoo or cream, via an oral medication, or a combination of these treatments.
If your dog has a wound that just won’t heal, this could be a symptom of cancer. It’s more treatable when caught early, so take your dog to see the vet if you notice your dog has a wound that doesn’t heal in a normal amount of time. Other signs of canine cancer include lumps, tumors, lameness, and enlarged lymph nodes.
Most common in puppies, impetigo is a bacterial infection that causes pus-filled blisters that may break and crust over, typically on the hairless lower belly. It’s not usually serious, and is treated easily with a topical cream.
8. Acral Lick Dermatitis
High energy breeds are more prone to acral lick dermatitis, or lick granuloma. This is a self-inflicted injury caused by obsessive licking of a leg or foot that results in hair loss and redness, or even an open sore. Obsessive licking is an anxiety-related behavior that could be a result of boredom or inactivity, separation anxiety, lack of socialization, past cruelty, or other stress.
It’s possible that your dog’s vet could prescribe an anti-anxiety medication to help your dog stop injuring themselves while you make changes to your pet’s routine or environment.
9. Hot Spots
A hot spot is a painful, circular patch of red, swollen skin, typically 1-4 inches across. A hot spot my ooze with pus or a watery discharge, may have an unpleasant odor, and you may notice hair loss on and around affected area. Hot spots are extremely painful, and your dog may react with fear or aggression when approached.
Hot spots are caused when your pet excessively licks, bites, or scratches their skin due to an underlying condition. Because hot spots are so painful, your vet may need to sedate your dog in order to administer treatment. While all animals can suffer from hot spots, pets with long hair or heavy coats are more susceptible.
Dandruff, or flaky skin, is a common symptom of skin issues of varying types. The most common causes include a cold or dry climate, grooming, or diet. However, pet dandruff can also be a sign of a more serious concern, like a hormonal imbalance or parasites. If your dog’s dandruff is chronic or severe, then they should be examined by a veterinarian to determine the cause and treatment.
More on Dog Skin Health
DIY Dry Skin Treatment (And Handy Medications)
14 Of The Best Dog Shampoos For Any Situation
Pruritus Causes: Cats And Dogs