It’s not uncommon for vets to see dogs with skin conditions. There are several different skin problems in dogs but, the more you know about them, the sooner you’ll be able to identify it in your dog’s skin and get it treated as soon as possible.
Every dog is different so every dog’s skin is different too. But watch out for some of the most common symptoms:
- Excessive scratching
- Hair loss and bald patches
- Greasy or flaky skin with an odor
- Chewing on their paws
- Redness of ear flaps
- Redness or rashes on the belly
- Spots or crusts on the body
If you see any of these, your dog may be facing a skin problem.
1. Dermatitis and Hot Spots
While humans react to allergies with nasal symptoms or hives, a dog’s allergic reaction is usually shown on its skin or with gastrointestinal problems. That’s because dogs have a higher proportion of mast cells. Mast cells release histamines and other vasoactive substances in the dog’s skin when facing an allergic reaction.
This allergic reaction can be caused by grooming products, pollen, insect bites, and even food. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a reaction from something the skin came in contact with, it can be a result of anything the dog ingested.
This problem becomes bigger when there’s water involved as it can lead to a more serious problem such as Hot Spots. Hot spots are also called moist dermatitis and it consists of small areas that are red, irritated, and inflamed. You’ll commonly find hot spots on a dog’s head, chest, or hips. Due to the inflammation of the skin tissue, they will feel hot when you touch them.
If your dog is showing severe skin irritation you may need to take your dog to the vet. Ideally, you’ll want to catch it early and identify what is causing the allergic reaction. Especially before it escalates to severe problems like hot spots. The most effective treatment is to avoid your dog’s exposure to whatever caused the allergic reaction.
2. Parasites, bacterial or fungal infections
A very common skin problem in dogs is related to parasites (fleas, ticks, and mites), bacterial infections (folliculitis and impetigo), and fungal infections (ringworm and yeast). All of these can cause serious allergic reactions in dogs and some dogs are more allergic to these than others.
Here’s how you can identify each one of these skin problems:
- Fleas: They’re external parasites and are difficult to spot as they’re very small insects. You’re able to see flea droppings and eggs on a dog’s coat and that’s the best way to know your dog has them. Dogs with fleas will be licking and scratching themselves excessively. They may also show some scabs and even hot spots if they’re not treated on time. A severe flea infestation can even cause anemia.
- Ticks: They’re also external parasites and they feed on the dog’s blood. They’re easy to spot and the best way to remove them is by grabbing the tick with a pair of tweezers as close to the dog’s skin as possible and gently pull it out. Pulling too hard can cause the tick’s head to remain in the dog’s skin which can lead to an infection. Besides the possibility of causing anemia, ticks can also transmit Lyme disease.
- Mites: They’re small parasites that cause a condition called Mange. This usually affects a dog’s ears, face, and legs and can cause bald spots, scabbing, and sores. The treatment will depend on the type of mange so it’s a good idea to take your dog to the vet when you start seeing scabs or bald spots on your dog’s coat.
- Folliculitis: It’s a bacterial infection that causes sores, bumps, and scabs on a dog’s skin. These symptoms are easier to stop in dogs with short hair. In dogs with long hair, you’ll notice a dull coat and hair loss with scaly skin underneath. This skin condition is often followed by other skin problems such as allergies, injuries, or mites.
- Impetigo: This is also a bacterial infection and it’s more common in puppies. It can produce pus-filled blisters that can break and crust over. They’re most commonly found on the hairless portion of a dog’s belly. It rarely turns into a serious condition and can be easily treated with a topical solution prescribed by the vet.
- Ringworm: Unlike the name suggests, this isn’t caused by a worm but by a fungus. The name comes from the round patches that can form in a dog’s skin. They’re commonly found on a dog’s head, paws, and ears. These circular patches become inflamed and scaly and, in some cases, hair loss around these patches. It’s more common in puppies younger than a year old.
- Yeast: Fungus and can cause irritated, itchy, and discolored skin. It usually strikes in the paws or ears and leads dogs to excessively scratch their ears and lick or chew their toes. Fortunately, it’s very easy to diagnose and responds well to treatment.
3. Food allergies
Food allergies are responsible for 10% of the allergy symptoms in dogs and they’re becoming more and more frequent as the number of poorly bred dogs also increases. As mentioned before, skin allergy problems in dogs can also be due to food allergies.
A food allergy occurs when dogs eat something with a particular ingredient that caused their body to defend against it. The best way to identify the ingredient that caused this reaction is to eliminate certain food ingredients from your dog’s diet one by one and track the symptoms. Some common food allergies in dogs are wheat, corn, soy, chicken, and eggs.
This condition is treated by switching the dog’s diet to one that doesn’t contain the ingredient that is causing the allergic reaction. After a while of eating the new diet, the skin problem will start to disappear.
When to See the Vet
Although the conditions discussed in this article can be unpleasant, the positive news is that most skin problems aren’t emergencies. But, although you don’t need to rush to the vet in many cases, it’s important to have the correct diagnosis so you can properly treat it. When it comes to parasites, bacterial or fungal infections, your vet will be able to prescribe preventative treatment according to your unique situation.
If you notice that your dog is scratching and licking itself excessively or notice any sudden changes on your dog’s skin and coat like scaling, redness discoloration, or bald patches, it’s time to get your dog to the vet.