At Animal Trust, dog skin conditions are one of the main causes of treatment at our clinics. Skin issues are fairly common, and can cause significant discomfort for your pet, from itching to soreness.
Skin problems in dogs are more common during the warmer seasons, which is when seasonal allergies (such as those to pollen and plants), insect bites and other allergic symptoms are more likely. It’s important to pay attention to any skin conditions your dog suffers from, even if they appear relatively minor. Skin symptoms in dogs – such as itching, rashes or bald patches, could be an indicator of an underlying cause or health condition that hasn’t already been diagnosed by a vet or vet nurse.
A dog’s skin condition can range from mild to severe. Many skin conditions require professional treatment to resolve and keep from getting worse. In fact, when a skin disease is left untreated for a while, the condition can often become complicated and significantly more serious. For example, an allergic reaction may become secondarily infected with bacteria, or a bacterial infection may also become infected with yeast. Some of the most common skin disorders in dogs include bacterial skin infections, environmental allergies and parasite allergies.
To help you understand the range of dog skin problems and identify the more obvious symptoms typically associated with each issue (as well as an potential underlying cause), we have summarised 10 of the most common skin conditions in dogs.
Symptoms of Dog Skin Conditions
Itching is one of the most obvious symptoms if your dog has a skin condition, but it’s difficult for pet owners to determine exactly what’s irritating your dog without a full veterinary examination.
While it is quite normal for a dog to occasionally itch, just like a person may occasionally scratch their skin, frequent or prolonged itching is a tell-tale sign of something more serious going on.
Dogs may try to relieve the itch by rubbing their head against an object or scratching the irritated area with their paws. You may also see your dog licking their paws or other areas of the body to soothe the irritated skin.
How to spot a pet with a skin condition
Check your pet regularly to spot any of these symptoms and take note as and when your dog has a reaction. You may find your pet itches specifically after mealtimes, during a particular season or if you’ve recently done any housework, all of which can indicate an underlying skin allergy or atopic dermatitis.
If you do notice any behaviour or skin conditions that seem out of the ordinary, it’s important to bring your dog to the vet for a check up. Your local vet nurses and vets will be able to take a look at your dog’s coat, skin and general condition to see what might be causing their discomfort.
The more information you can provide (from observing when your pet displays signs of irritation or allergic reactions) the better, so your vet can make a full and accurate diagnosis of an allergy or skin infection. Some of the things to make a note of when you bring your dog to the vet:
The Most Common Types of Dog Skin Conditions
The most common types of dog skin conditions include contact allergies; bacterial infections; fungal infections, and parasite allergies.
1. Environmental Allergies
A sudden onset of itching – particularly to the face, feet, chest and stomach – can indicate an environmental allergy, triggered when your dog is in contact with the cause of irritation.
This particular type of allergy in dogs is called ‘atopy’ and is similar to how people have hay fever – except that dogs show it by having irritated, itchy skin rather than watery eyes and sneezing.
Some of the most common allergens for dogs that cause skin allergies are grass, dust mites and pollen. We’ll perform a blood test to help diagnose whether your pet has a reaction. Treating environmental allergies can sometimes be difficult and in the most severe cases require shampoos, tablets and injections. Over recent years, there have been some new drugs developed that have revolutionised allergen care, and at Animal Trust we can offer a combination of treatments to help ease your pet’s symptoms effectively.
2. Food Allergies
Increased itching often involving the face, feet, ears and anus are signs of a potential dog food allergy, and are one of the most common skin conditions in dogs. Dogs can develop food allergies from the type of protein consumed as part of their diet – for example, beef, eggs, chicken and dairy – although some dogs also suffer from allergies to wheat or even vegetables.
Like humans who experience food intolerances, pets must go through an elimination diet process for 8-12 weeks to rule out different causes of the allergies. Your vet will advise you step by step on this type of treatment and how best to carry it out. It is vital that you don’t feed your dog any of the suspected allergens during the elimination process, in order to get a clear result and ensure your vet can prescribe an effective treatment process.
Folliculitis means inflamed hair follicles and often occurs when your dog is experiencing another skin problems such as mange or skin allergies, as the hair follicles become infected by the underlying skin condition. It appears on the body in sores, bumps and scabs over the skin. Shampoos, oral antibiotics and antibacterial ointments are prescribed by a vet to help treat and soothe the infection.
Puppies are more prone to impetigo, which may also indicate an underlying skin condition. As with all conditions in young animals, expert treatment is recommended as soon as you suspect something is wrong.
Impetigo lesions can appear on the dog’s belly as blisters, which can burst and scab over. Dogs can be treated for impetigo with antibiotics or washes and your vet can run a few tests to diagnose the existing problem.
Ringworm, despite its name, is not a worm but a fungus that is highly contagious to other animals and humans. The fungal infection appears as crusty, circular patches and is often found on a dog’s head, paws, ears and front legs. Your dog’s skin can also appear inflamed and red from where they have irritated the area from scratching. It’s imperative that you contact your vet straight away if you spot any signs of irritation, who can prescribe a topical treatment to kill the fungus and prevent it from spreading.
6. Yeast Infections
Warm areas on a dog’s body attract yeast infections, which love to grow in hard to reach areas, such as the ear canal, in between your dog’s toe, groin and perineum. With a yeast infection, the skin can thicken, causing your dog to itch and bite at the infected area. Yeast infections and similar skin diseases can lead to discoloured skin and tend to smell unpleasant. A topical cream, washes and tablets will help to relieve the symptoms and help cure the infected site, leading to healthy skin.
7. Ticks and Fleas
Ticks and fleas affect your dog’s skin by biting and sucking their blood. Flea saliva enters the body after insect bites, which can cause an allergic response that irritates your pet’s skin, causing them to itch profusely. Severe parasite allergy symptoms in dogs include inflamed, red skin. Pets will often scratch the bite marks, and dogs may chew at their fur to relieve the itching. In extreme conditions, their fur can fall out in patches.
Fleas are tiny parasites that can survive in our carpets and bedding, which is why it’s so important to vacuum regularly, wash your pet’s bed and make sure they’re up-to-date with their preventative treatments to kill off any bugs.
Mange is a severe skin condition caused by several species of mites that live on the dog’s hair and skin.
There are 2 main types of mange: one caused by the demodex mite ‘demodectic mange’, which tends to affect dogs under one year old, older dogs or pets with another underlying condition.
Sarcoptic mange caused by sarcoptes mites, which is an intensely itchy condition and is often first seen on the dog’s ears. Symptoms of mange include hair loss on the face and legs, along with severe itching and redness around the affected areas.
As with fleas and ticks, if your pet has mange, wash their bedding and make sure any other animals avoid contact with this pet. Mange is diagnosed by the vet looking at a sample of some of the skin under the microscope. Treatment includes tablets and dedicated shampoos to kill the mite, ease the itching and inflammation – in fact, some of the flea and worm products that vets prescribe can also protect against mange.
Like humans, dogs can get dandruff or ‘scurff’ and dry skin; this can be a sign of an underlying problem, like an infection. Some dogs are prone to having dry skin, particularly in winter and it may be affected by their diet; high-quality sources of protein, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids can all help keep the coat healthy. Simple cases of dandruff are normally easy to treat with shampoos but the vet will want to check there is nothing underlying.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease which means the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. Unfortunately for our pets, open, crusty skin sores which take too long to heal can indicate an immune disorder, these will often be seen around the nose, eyes and paws.
If left untreated, lupus can be very serious so making sure the vet gets to the bottom of any skin condition that isn’t improving is very important for your pet’s health.
If your dog is showing any symptoms of the skin problems discussed, visit your local Animal Trust clinic straight away for professional advice. Mild to severe dog skin problems all require a full examination, so your vet can make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the correct treatment for the skin condition identified.
We offer free consultations for everyone, so if you’re ever in doubt you can bring your pet in to speak to our friendly team face to face and get expert advice. Make a booking online or call us to arrange an appointment at your local surgery.