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

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Dog itching (caption: Common Dog Skin Issues & Remedies) The 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, etc.) may be wreaking havoc on your dog’s coat.

Article Overview

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

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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 (like their butt), and even chewing at the hair, they may leave a patch of skin exposed.

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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. Most dogs are not meant to be vegetarian (unless they have specific skin or GI issues that a vet prescribes vegetarian food to treat). So, if your pup is eating meat, it’s important that their dog food contain meat as one of the first ingredients. Vitamins and supplements containing Omega fatty acids that are approved for dog consumption can also help.

2. Fleas, Mites And Other Critters

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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

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Skin allergies are one of the most common reasons that pet owners take their dog to the vet. Unfortunately, an increasing number 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 the 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 the 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.

Dog allergy test (caption: Best At-Home Dog Allergy Test Kits)Food allergies can usually be determined by a 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. You could also try an at-home allergy test for dogs.

Important Note

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

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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.

Learn More About Dog Allergies

7. Hives

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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 hypoallergenic shampoo, making sure to rinse completely. In cases where hives have been caused by the application of shampoo or another 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

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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.

CBD Oil For Skin Issues

CBD is known for relieving inflammation and pain, which are common complaints from skin concerns. With your vet’s permission, CBD can be administered to dogs through CBD oil or CBD treats.

CBD is also known to help many other conditions. Learn all about the many benefits of CBD oil for dogs.

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.

About The Author:

Sadie graduated from the Moody School of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in Advertising and minor in Business. Her love of pets started from an early age with her childhood cocker spaniel, Peanut, and two cats. She is currently dog mom to Lexie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

As a professional dog sitter for more than a decade, Sadie has cared for dozens of canines of various breeds, sizes and temperaments. The responsibility of caring for others' pets has helped her understand the importance of giving animals a loving home. She has experience potty and house training as well as teaching dogs tricks such as sit and shake. Sadie is passionate about canine well-being so she feeds her pup all-natural meals and no table scraps.

Sadie and her husband live in Washington DC and enjoy walking Lexie to nearby dog parks or patios and taking her canine companion on trips. Having an adventurous, long-haired Blenheim means frequent baths and home grooming to maintain a clean coat. A small dog also requires more frequent dental care and Sadie is proactive with Lexie's oral hygiene.

She has been covering dog-related topics since 2012 and is proud to share her latest personal experience, resources and information with fellow pet parents. Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

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