7 Common Dog Skin Problems (And How To Cure Them)

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Dog itchingThe extreme conditions of summer and winter tend to be brutal when it comes to our pups and their skin health. As if allergies weren’t enough, the drastic climate conditions (dry spells, humidity, temperature extremes, rain) may be wreaking havoc on your dog’s coat.

Common Dog Skin Problems

When a patient rolls into the vet office with a “skin problem,” it can be hard to diagnose. Why? Because there are so many different types of skin issues that occur for a variety of reasons.

Here are a couple of common skin problems in dogs and possibilities your vet might detect:

1. Dermatitis

Environmental dermatitis addresses skin problems that occur as a result of your dog’s interaction with the environment. Problems may arise from a change in the environment your dog interacts with – the grass, plants, dirt, bugs, etc. they come in contact with. Then there’s the issue of water, which can lead to a more serious skin problem often referred to as a hot spot.

If your dog is licking their leg or another body part furiously, and even chewing at the hair, they may leave a patch of skin exposed. If they continue to mess with this area, it could leave them vulnerable to moist dermatitis (a lesion on the exposed skin area from moisture – i.e., rain, water, or from constantly licking the wound that can get infected when exposed to bacteria). If you start to see such an area on your dog, please see your vet immediately and consider using a Benzoyl Peroxide Shampoo.

Nutritional dermatitis skin problems stem from a lack of proper nutrition. The sad thing is, there’s plenty of pet foods out there that advertise themselves as containing everything your pet needs, when in fact they are very lacking in the basics. Your dog is not meant to be a vegetarian. It’s therefore important that their food contains meat as a top, if not the first, ingredient. Vitamins and supplements containing Omega fatty acids that are approved for dog consumption can also help.

2. Fleas, Mites And Other Critters

There are a number of critters, not just fleas, but a whole variety of mite species, that can give your dog skin and health problems. Your best bet, if your dog’s skin problem does not go away, is to see your vet and let them diagnose. Several medicines can be purchased to proactively keep these pests away, especially during warmer months when fleas and ticks flourish. Frontline, Advantix and BioSpot are among the more popular brands to protect your pet. You will also need to rid your house. Learn more about how to get rid of fleas.

Reactions that occur as a result of an allergic reaction to the bite of the insect or to the insect itself require specific treatment that involves the elimination of the offending insect and treatment of the bite area with medication prescribed by your veterinarian (usually oral antihistamines or anti-itch cream.)

3. Skin Allergies

Skin allergies are one of the most common reason that pet owners take their dog to the vet. Unfortunately, an increasing numbers of dogs are being poorly bred, making them more prone to health conditions including allergies. Skin allergy symptoms are frustrating for both dogs and pet owners because there seems to be no reason for the symptoms that are being displayed. Fortunately, with a trained eye and a little detective work, it is possible to find the culprit for skin allergies in most dogs. While a vet may be needed to diagnose the issue so you can keep it from happening again, you can also treat minor skin itches with Hydrocortisone products.

An allergy is a reaction by the body to stimulant exposure. This stimulant can be something that is inhaled, something that is eaten or something that the dog is otherwise exposed to (for example, a reaction to a bite of an insect). It is important to note that a skin reaction does not necessarily result from skin contact with an allergen; it can just as easily result from consumption of an allergen. As the dog’s immune system recognizes the allergen as a “foreign body” it launches its defenses to attack the allergen and repel it from the body. In human beings, this type of allergic reaction is most often seen with sniffling, sneezing, coughing and eye-watering. In dogs, the most common display of an allergic reaction is itching of the skin.

4. Canine Atopy

Inhaled allergens, also known as canine atopy refers to allergens that a dog is exposed to by breathing them in such as pollen, mold and dust. If your dog breathes in an allergen and shows symptoms of distress, you should contact your veterinarian who may suggest administration of an antihistamine like Benadryl. It is crucial, however, that you obtain information for the correct dosing of this human medication for your dog based on their weight and current health status.

5. Food & Drug Allergies

Food allergies are caused by consumption of food containing a particular ingredient which causes the body to mount a defense against the offending ingredient. Food allergies can also include drug allergies. Food allergens are the cause of approximately ten percent of all allergy symptoms seen in dogs. The fact is that food allergies are seen with increasing frequency in dogs these days as increasing numbers of poorly bred dogs are seen.

Food allergies can usually be determined by process of elimination in which certain food ingredients are removed from the diet one at a time to track the progress of symptoms. Some of the most common food allergies in dogs include wheat, corn, soy, chicken and eggs.

It is important to note that there is a difference between a food allergy and food intolerance. Food allergies result in symptoms such as skin problems and itching. Food intolerance presents with other symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea but does not include symptoms common to allergies. Food allergies in dogs are like a human who goes into anaphylactic shock after eating something with peanuts in it. Food intolerance is like a human who gets an upset stomach any time they eat spicy food.

Food allergies can be treated by switching to an allergy-friendly variety of dog food. After a short period on the new diet, skin problems caused by the allergy will begin to clear up.

6. Contact Allergies

Unlike some of the other allergens listed, contact allergies are allergies caused by direct contact of a substance with the skin, for example, chlorine in a swimming pool.

If your dog comes in to contact with an allergen that causes skin problems, it is important to bathe your dog in an allergy relief shampoo to rinse off the allergen and consult your vet for any concerns over skin damage.

7. Hives

Hives are another skin problem that your dog may face at some point in its lifetime. Hives are a specific type of allergic reaction that affects dogs as well as humans and other animals. Hives appear as round raised bumps that itch. The fact that these bumps are raised causes the hair on the dog’s coat to stick out in spots and swelling is also common in other areas of the body such as the eyelids. Unlike some allergic reactions, hives are fast to appear and generally develop within half an hour of exposure to an allergen.

As with humans, hives in dogs can be caused by a number of factors including insect bites, topical applications and medications. For the most part, once the stimulant that caused the hives to appear has been removed, the hives will disappear within twenty-four hours. Since the causing factor of hives can generally be pinpointed due to the rapid appearance of the reaction, relief can usually be achieved quickly.

Depending upon what has caused the outbreak of hives, treatment for your dog may differ. For most instances, a veterinarian will recommend the application of an antihistamine to control the swelling and discomfort of the hives themselves. You may also wish to clean your dog’s coat with a hypoallergenic shampoo, making sure to rinse completely. In cases where hives have been caused by application of shampoo or other topical ointment to the skin, dog owners should also rinse the coat and skin to remove any excess allergen.

How To Take Care Of Your Dog’s Skin

Here are some tips you can do to help cure and prevent skin issues:

  • Leave in conditioner after bathing your dog.
  • If you recently changed up your dog’s food, they may be having troubles with the new food. Try switching them back to one that they haven’t had reactions to in the past.
  • Try giving your dog fish oil capsules at mealtime (1000mg once a day for the average size dog. Slightly less for smaller dogs, slightly more for larger dogs).
  • If they’re having trouble sleeping at night because of prolonged itching, you can try and give them some Benadryl (one milligram per pound of body weight, not to exceed 50mg twice daily).
  • If itching (pruritus in the medical world) is the biggest problem, there’s a chance your dog has fleas. You can easily check for these by combing your hand against the hair. If they’re there – you will see them jumping all over the place. Remember to administer tick and flea medications (i.e., Biospot, Advantix, Frontline) regularly during warm months.

Video: 16 All Natural Remedies

In this 8-minute video, Rocky Kanaka walks you through some natural ways to get rid of skin issues.

Has your dog been itching, had fleas, allergies or other skin problems? Any tips, advice or stories that might be helpful for other readers like you.

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Sadie is a dog mom to an adopted Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and has been dog sitting for more than 10 years. When not writing and doing graphic design for Canine Journal, she can be found traveling and doing pet photography for friends and family.

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Margit Albrecht
I have a Bichon Frise approx. 14 years old, she developed a rash on her back the area feels oily and she has little bumps. Could that come from the Palm when we go for walks?
Janice
I live in Tallahassee fl everything in bloom yr round. The vet stated because my dogs didnt grown up here they have allergies. Well my big dog going bald i have tried everything. Outside i deal with chiggers, fleas, no see um, mosquitos, poison ivy. And when it rains everything washes out of the trees over our heas. My dogs are miserable. Ive tried everything. HELP
Victoria Phillips
My Queensland pit mix has had bumps on his face and chest since we got him at 6 weeks he is extremely uncomfortable and it seems to be getting worse we have tried 6 different shampoos all kinds of home remedies nothing seems to be working and advice will be much appreciatted.
Jennifer
I have a 12 year old cocker spaniel that over the last 3-4 years has had skin issues. He has been tested and the bumps he gets are not yeast related. He has been on antibiotics and anti itch pills, but short of doing an allergy test I am at my whits end of what to do. I don’t believe its food related as he has been on vegetarian, kangaroo, crocodile – I can’t even think of any other foods he has been on and he still get the spots. I haven’t tried the raw food? His bumps just show up in random places then come to a top and just crustify. When you take the crust off, the hair comes with it, so now, on top of the bumps he also has missing patches of hair. It originally started in his groin area, but has now left that area and is on the inside of his ears and all over his back and neck. Its not contagious as I have other dogs and they don’t have any issues. The vet gave me some medicated shampoo for fungus to wash him weekly, but that doesn’t seem to be helping either…he actually seems to be getting worse. Any suggestions??
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Hi Jennifer, have you followed up with your vet about the shampoo? You could get a second opinion from this online vet service.
jennifer
i have tried 2 different kinds, both types tho are anitfungal. the last 1 i got, he said was to prevent allergens from affecting his skin.
Eileen
This sounds just like my Millie she is is coming up 15 and has been like this for years,she seems worse in the winter,I do brush her everyday to take the excess dry skin and crusty bits away she seems to be a little better in the summer ,it doesn’t look nice because as you say she has bald bits all over ,my vet said she could run tests but not necessarily find out what it is and it would cost hundreds of pounds which we don’t have.I wash her twice a week when it’s at it’s worse.I alternate the vets shampoo with a cold tar shampoo.
Michelle
This sounds like the problem I’m having with my 10 year old YorkiePoo, Rowdy. He has these scabby bumbs on his back, stomach and groin regions. He’s had them on and off (mostly on) for years. We have tried everything you and Eileen (below) have mentioned (vet shampoo, vet conditioner, Benedryl, Cytopoint shots, Convenia shots, Apoquel meds, Chlorpheniramine, etc.),to no avail.
I don’t think it’s food related because, like you, we’ve tried every protein we can think of. We’ve tried no grains, we’ve tried wet food, we’ve tried dry food, we’ve tried the very expensive food from the vet. No change. We tried the fish oil supplements and that only made him smell fishy…bleh.
As Eileen said, the testing for allergies is very expensive. I’m trying to hold off on that, if possible, but I don’t want the little guy to suffer.
I think I’m going to try a Brewer’s Yeast supplement next and see if that helps. We had a Yorkie before who had itchy skin and chewed on her paws, but didn’t have the scabby bumps. I started giving her Brewer’s Yeast everyday and after about 6 or 8 weeks she was much better. No more paw chewing and the red spots on her skin cleared up.
If anyone has any other ideas or successes, please, please share.
Connie
My Chelsea is a two year old schnowzer. Lately she has been liking her upper front of her paw. I noticed she had a hive and washed her an put some Neosporin in it and started looking good but now she has another one. I am unemployed at the moment but I want to take her to the vet. What should I do? I just don’t have funds for the vet.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Hi Connie, we always recommend seeing a vet when you think something is wrong with your pet. If you cannot take your dog to a vet, perhaps this online vet service can help.
CC | Saving Cats, Dogs and Cash
Dog itchiness is a big reason I see people needing help in the Facebook groups for natural dog health I’m a part of. Here are some possible culprits: Food. There are so many potential things in dry dog food that could be causing the itch, it would be hard to determine exactly what it is. Could be chicken, as a lot of dogs are allergic to chicken. Most people don’t know you need to rotate proteins every 2-3 months to prevent your cat/dog from becoming allergic to chicken, beef, or whatever the main protein source is. A raw, pre-made, or dehydrated diet is always best and allows for easy elimination of possible offenders. There are so many lawsuits and food recalls as well as pet deaths (Beneful, Blue Buffalo) associated with dry dog food, not to mention long-term health consequences from feeding a processed food of roadkill, non-human fit meat and animal parts, euthanized animals, china-sourced vitamins, etc., etc. feeding a better quality diet is the foundation of having a healthy pet. In addition to food, keeping toxic loads to a minimum will help keep the immune system from going haywire. MOST flea/tick meds have skin-related side effects and many have even been fatal, so going for natural treatments is the safer bet. Avoiding yard sprays, harsh cleaning products and laundry detergents and scented fabric softener, as well as environmental allergies are also possible culprits. Avoid the ones you can and avoid toxins like flea/tick meds, yearly vaccinations (titer instead to see if your pet even needs them, as most do not and they can be harmful with all the dangerous ingredients they contain). If you do research, you’ll find most dogs are immune for years and even life from the initial shots and harm can be done by overvaccination. There are studies confirming that. It’s all online. Work on getting the immune system up and if after joining holistic pet groups on Facebook can’t offer you any help, consider contacting a holistic vet. They actually work to cure the reason for the health issue, not treat the symptoms like conventional vets do while prescribing meds that are potentially doing more harm than good. Being an informed pet owner has never been more important as so many dogs are suffering from so many different health issues, including 1 out of 2 from cancer. Please research everything before giving it to your pet and make sure to pay attention to what those that don’t stand to make a penny from you have to say. They aren’t influenced by money.
Brenda
Where are the links and recipes promised in the video?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
If you click through to the video on YouTube, you can find links in the description box.
Gen
Doetarra oils has a recipe 6 drops lavender 6 drops roman Camille 6 drops frankincense. In 1 cup pure coconut oil. I’m trying it in silver water so I can spray and disperse it with my fingers. He’s soo miserable you can see it in his eyes. So I’m going to try your stuff. I’ve tried some but thanks for reminding me of everything.

Oh and oh yeah ……Rylie is a 5 year old Shih Tzu terrier and I think a little poodle mix

Layman
My sugar is just past a year I make sure or attempt to keep her as safe as possible she’s good natured spoiled as could be she is an inside dog but now she have got sores on the mid side of her back by her tail and she sometimes bites the inside of her legs I take her every two weeks to wash and dipped and they tell me not one flea ever came off her I started her on diamond food I thought it was to high in protein and gave her to much energy and went to beneful with no grain can someone help she is about 103lb rotti
Nikki
Yes. 1. You are probably bathing and dipping her too much. Chemicals are terrible for their skin! 2. Diamond food is in the middle of a lawsuit for claiming to be healthy when pesticides and a bunch of other bad stuff was found in their food (just like or food). My dog ate Diamonds’ taste of the wild mist his life, just came down with a terrible rash with open wounds across his body for Candida overgrowth. As soon as he got his first tick bite, his insides were rearing to infect every space they could on the outside too. Most vets solve this with antibiotics which in the long run, makes it worse. I’ve been using organic cold pressed virgin unrefined coconut oil in his inside and outside and I can’t believe the difference in a few days. We still have a long way to go though.
Maria
Hi. I have a female pitbull who has gotten bumps that look like hives. Then it looks like they dry with a scab looking dry blood. Its on her back back legs tummy and her backside. She didn’t get these until she ate supper red beef basted on some dog biscuits I bought her. And seems to spreading. Can someone tell what this could be and remedy.
Linda
My Weimaraner have this on them too! It doesn’t seem to itch,one of them does lick his, but the other doesn’t bother it. They eat Nutrish, & Marro Bones for treats. Sometimes I put chicken on their food.
Patrice
Me too, pit bull. wheat and other food allergies. I found Instinct salmon single ingredient kibble is best found at Pets Plus on golden lantern and crown valley parkway.
Carmen
My pit is allergic to protein. My vet prescribed hydrolyzed protein food. So far it working
Good luck
Larry
Hi my little small 12 pounds rat terrier has little bumps on her back does not itch doesn’t bother her what can I do
Tina
Hi have a 5 yr old staff she’s got at their I’ve noticed she’s got bumps all over her body,just don’t know what it is ,is not clear or mites or tides cause I’ve check can you help me
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Hi Tina, have you spoken to your vet about the bumps?
Trixie
I’ve got a six month old terrier she’s got like blister rash covering her whole body losen hair n looks painful and has scabs in sine areas like she has paper thin skin n she has an oder
Lee
I have a pit bull with sores on her back. She has this at different times of the year. Changed her food, I can tell if changing her food helps as she may clear up, but never fully. I have not consulted a vet as of yet. We have tried not giving her any fowl with feathers. etc. The sores are very itchy, and get really sore looking.
Chelsea
If you want to change her food to see if its allergies i recommend the brand Halo. It helped my dog with her itching
Carmen
Try hydrolyEd protein food. It’s working for me
Lori Shambarger
I put flea powder on my carpets to kill fleas. Now my chow is having a reaction to it. Her hair is thinning and it is very tender, can anyone please recommend a site for home remedies to try first.
Amanda Drew
That’s scary that some pet foods will say that they have everything your dog needs then they actually don’t. My dog, Izzi, has recently started to have some rashes and strange bumps on her skin that seem to be itchy. Hopefully, the problem is as easy of a fix as getting her better dog food, but I think that I’ll find a pet dermatologist who’ll be able to let me know what’s wrong with Izzi and how to help her.
Shaina Redd
My 3 year old Jack Russell, just recently within the last 6 Months has all of a sudden started having sores on his mouth and nose, it was really red abs he lost his hair around his mouth and nose. He’s never showed any kind of skin condition before. We seen the vet abs we just started apoquil. Now all of a sudden in 2 days he now has the huge scabby blisters right on the edge of his lips and a huge swollen blister in his snout. , the vet says they don’t believe it’s a reaction to the meds, just looking for some advice, he looks and acts miserable, rubbing his face in the couch. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
If your vet doesn’t know what is wrong with your dog I’d suggest getting a second opinion from another vet. I hope your dog gets better soon!!
Ann Dee
Our Airedale terrier has been taking Apoquel for about 4 years. It helped him within days. We were told skin issues from allergies are not unusual for all terriers. Your description sounds like your dog is getting worse. Try to find a veterinary dermatologist. It’s expensive but worth it.
Heather Hurliman
My bulldog just went out side to go to the bathroom, and within minutes of returning inside developed hives all over his torso! raised round areas all over his body.. none on his face or neck.. just the body. He was given his second dose of Simparica on the second.. could this be a reaction. i have given him benadryl to help with the hives, should i do more?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Hi Heather, how is your dog doing now? Did you end up taking him to the vet?
Heather Hurliman
yes.. they gave him a steroid shot as the hives just kept coming. now he is taking benadryl for any lasting effects, but at least his skin is smooth and no hives!
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Wow, how scary. I’m so glad to hear he is doing better!
Gemma
My dog has been sick around 9 times in the last 20 hours , also won’t eat or drink I think he might of picked something up when I walked him last night , I’ve managed to take him out side for 2 mins he also has dhyoria now what’s the best thing to do please .
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Sorry for the late response Gemma, we do not moderate comments on the weekend and we recommend contacting a vet whenever your dog is ill. Is your dog better now?
Stephanie Howard
These forums are horrible. You give absolutely no answers so why bother
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
We are not licensed veterinarians, so it would be inappropriate and unethical for us to guess on what is medically wrong with our readers’ dogs. The last thing we want is for us to misdiagnose a dog and it lead to the dog becoming more ill or even dying. Expecting a correct diagnosis of a pet’s illness from someone who is not a vet is unrealistic. (You wouldn’t take medical advice for yourself from a journalist, would you?) Our community is a place for our readers to learn and get ideas as to what may be the underlying issue for their dog. This is not a place for readers to have their dog diagnosed with an illness. I’m sorry if that was unclear and I hope if your dog is having a skin issue that you are able to resolve it soon. Best of luck.
Cydney Otoole
I have a 13 yo French Bulldog who has had mild seasonal (summer/fall) allergies for the most part of her life. She developed follicular dermatitis and was always treated with steroids and at times antibiotics. 6 mos ago she developed Acute Pancreatitis from what I believe to be overuse of steroids. Since the pancreatitis episode her hives have been horrible, oozing, scabbing and itchy. I had to switch her to a low fat senior diet (Fromm’s Gold Coast Weight Management) I bathe her in Malaseb shampoo, give her Quercetin. Recently switched her to All Provide (gently cooked) Turkey Crumble. Her skin was doing well for a few days and is the worst ever now. She will be seeing a veterinary dermatologist in late Nov for allergy testing but for the time being, I’m at a complete loss. I just want her to be comfortable and not incessantly itch. Any advice would greatly be appreciated.
Angela
Our Staffordshire bull terrier has had sores on his back for months, he’s been treated with various courses of antibiotics and steroids by vet, but they didn’t make a difference. The sores start out looking like hives and then they open, weep a bit and heal, all within 24 hour period, in different places but only on his back and nowhere else. They are not itchy but they are sore. We changed his food after they started to identify if it was a food allergy, he’s now on Hills Science metabolic & mobility for a couple months but it’s not making a difference! Anyone have any ideas?
brandi
This sounds exactly like what is going on with our American Bulldog. No treatment we have tried from 3 different vets has worked either.
Rebecca Gonzalez
Have you tried prescription apoquel? You can google it. It works pretty well with my American pit bull, until the weather changes, then he needs an extra allergy shot to clear up the hives.
Rebecca Gonzalez
My American Pit Bull Terrier has the same problem. Bumps on his back, and sides and they don’t itch. When he gets them bad, they are like tiny scabs and when the scabs come off there’s a tiny hole like as if something bit him. He is an indoor dog so he’s not exposed to flies or mosquitos. He doesn’t have fleas because he’s taking confortis and is checked all the time. After numerous vet visits, steroids and antibiotics, the vet diagnosed it as atopic dermatitis and put him on apoquel. It has helped incredibly. I still don’t understand why he gets all these bumps in the first place. I keep wanting to rule out allergies because the sores don’t itch. But I do know that apoquel and fish oil have helped incredibly. Does anyone else’s dog have these bumps that don’t itch? Or scabs that easily come off exposing a tiny hole?
Nancy Tarnow
I have the same problem with my terrier shitzo mix. All on his back, they ooze push then go away leaving a hole. They get quite large. They remind me of a boil.
Maria
Mine look bald patches but with lil hair after the scab comes off
Jennifer
i have been dealing with this for almost 4 years now…have you found any relief for you dog? going crazy trying to figure what will work
Michelle Davis
My dog has the exact same thing. What could be causing this?
Michele
My English coonhound just started licking her paws and then the hives started. She had them last year and the vet gave her prednisone. I gave her one and the hives went away. Now it is 2 am and the hives are back and she has been licking the inside of her legs. I woke up and gave her a cool bath and washed her with non fragrant soap and gave her another pill. I sprayed her cortisonal spray but she has not settled yet.

Please help.

Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Oh no, we are so sorry for your pup Michele. Have the hives gone away? If not, we recommend seeing a vet asap!
Anonymous

From my experience a well-balanced diet is part of it, but don’t be fooled by the expensive, "natural" gourmet dog foods. Those ended up giving my dog more fits than the plain old, less expensive Nutro blue bag for large dogs. If you take good care of your dog and take them in for routine check-ups to get rid of allergic problems you shouldn’t be running into too many skin problems, diet aside.

Anonymous

I completely agree with your information. But sometimes food you’re feeding your dog could be inferior and causing these symptoms, so first identify the problem, and then look at the symptoms your dog is having. Hair loss, skin irritation, itching and scratching are likely due to nutritional problems.

Regards

Anonymous
My yellow lab has been licking at her hind legs for a while now, and I just realized that she’s gone as far as bite the hairs off her leg! At first I thought it was just an itch issue, but now it appears to be more serious. When I’m around I can remind her to not lick there, but meanwhile, I don’t want the area to get infected. Short of going to the vet (which I plan on doing) is there anything I can do in the interim?
domino
This is the summer of itchy dogs! Over 2/3 of the cases our Pet Doc is seeing in his vet office are somehow related to dog itchiness.

You can give your dog a little Benadryl and small doses of fish oil (capsules), and try to keep the area she’s licking as dry as possible until she can see the vet.

You may also want to keep her inside more, at least until the wound subsides and she’s had an opportunity to be examined.