Skin problems in dogs

Skin problems are common in dogs, and can range from minor irritations that usually clear up on their own to long-term conditions which can be harder to treat.

Here are some of the most common skin problems in dogs, including information on symptoms, how best to control or treat them and, if possible, how you can prevent them from occurring.

Acral lick granuloma

What is acral lick granuloma?

Acral lick granuloma, also known as lick dermatitis, is a disorder which occurs after your dog continuously licks or chews an area of skin. A lick granuloma can start as a small skin irritation, caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, mites, allergies or hot spots, or by bone or joint pain, but they can also be the result of compulsive licking, normally due to stress, anxiety or boredom. A lick granuloma will normally appear on your dog’s lower leg as a red, inflamed area of skin.

There are some breeds which appear to be more prone to developing acral lick granulomas than others, including:

  • Airedale Terrier
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Irish Setter
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Weimaraner

How to treat acral lick granulomas

Lick granulomas are very difficult to treat. If the granuloma is the result of a psychological issue, such as boredom or anxiety, your veterinarian may prescribe medication such as antidepressants, or recommend making changes to your dog’s lifestyle, for example, increasing walks and avoiding leaving your dog alone at home for long periods of time. Lasers are sometimes used to treat the lesion, as well as radiation therapy, antibiotics or acupuncture. Anti-licking ointments and Elizabethan collars or cones can prevent your dog licking the wound, however once the wound is healed, it can reoccur if your dog starts compulsively licking again. It may take some time before you identify the underlying cause and find right treatment for your dog.

How to prevent acral lick granulomas

There is nothing you can do to prevent acral lick granulomas, however paying a visit to your veterinarian as soon as you notice any compulsive licking behavior will help prevent the problem getting worse and is likely to be easier to treat.

Atopic dermatitis

What is atopic dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition caused by allergens found in pollen, dust, mold, dander and grass. Symptoms include itchy, inflamed skin and hair loss around your dog’s ears, paws, underarms and groin, and you’ll notice your dog licking, scratching and chewing the affected areas, or even lying on cold surfaces to help soothe the irritation.

How to treat atopic dermatitis

To treat your dog’s itchy skin, your veterinarian may prescribe medications such as antihistamines or corticosteroids, and anti-itch shampoos.

How to prevent atopic dermatitis

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to cure your dog’s allergy, however, your veterinarian will conduct several tests to try and determine the exact cause, so that you can try and limit your dog’s exposure to the allergen. Your veterinarian may also recommend hyposensitization therapy, which involves injecting your pet with the allergen over a period of several months to help reduce their sensitivity.

Folliculitis

What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis, or bacterial folliculitis, is the infection of a dog’s hair follicles and is normally the result of an underlying disease or skin disorder, including hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, allergies, canine acne, acral lick glaucoma, mange or fungal infections. The most common symptoms are redness, swelling, itching, pimples and hair loss. The affected areas may also be painful for your dog.

How to treat folliculitis

Your veterinarian will perform tests to help identify the underlying cause of the folliculitis and then prescribe the most appropriate treatment. Depending on the condition, this could be antibiotics, medicated shampoos, dietary supplements or topical treatments, such as aloe vera or coconut oil.

How to prevent folliculitis

Preventing folliculitis is easy once you have identified the root cause, as you can then treat the primary condition or try and eliminate the allergen from your pet’s environment to prevent future outbreaks.

Hot spots

What are hot spots in dogs?

Hots spots, also known as summer sores or acute moist dermatitis, are painful, red lesions which normally appear on a dog’s head, hip or chest. A hot spot can be caused by anything which irritates your dog’s skin, such as an insect bite, allergic reaction or underlying infection, or can even be prompted by excessive licking or chewing due to stress or boredom. As your dog licks, scratches and chews their wound, the moisture on the surface of the skin creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, causing a minor skin irritation to become a red, hot and painful wound.

How to treat dog hot spots

If your dog has a hot spot, you should pay a visit to your veterinarian who will trim the fur around the wound and clean it with antiseptic or a specially formulated shampoo. They will treat the hot spot with a topical medication, and possibly antibiotics, and leave it exposed to help it dry out and heal faster. Your dog will also probably need to wear a ‘cone of shame’ for a few days to keep them from biting or licking at it.

How to prevent hot spots

Staying on top of parasite control and keeping an eye out for signs of skin irritation will help you keep hot spots to a minimum.

Impetigo

What is impetigo in dogs?

Impetigo, also known as puppy pyoderma or juvenile pustular dermatitis, is a skin condition which is more commonly seen in puppies. It is caused by the staphylococcal bacteria, which leads to small skin infections developing on the dog’s chin or belly. The infection causes small, pus-filled blisters to develop, which can then rupture and crust over. Symptoms include itchiness and skin discoloration, and the condition will be painful for your dog.

Impetigo is contagious to other dogs, and while most puppies will outgrow the condition, it can affect the following breeds into adulthood:

  • Boxer
  • Bulldog
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Shar-Pei

How to treat impetigo

Impetigo will often clear up on its own without any treatment, however if the infection becomes worse, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or medication lotions or shampoos to speed up recovery.

Mange

What is mange?

Sarcoptic mange, more commonly known as mange, is a skin condition caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite which results in intense itching and hair loss. Mange is extremely contagious, and so is usually picked up in places such as kennels, groomers, shelters and veterinary clinics, where animals are living in close proximity. Mange can also be passed on to humans, so it’s important to keep your dog in quarantine if they are suffering from the condition.

How to treat mange

Mange is treated using a scabicide, a drug which kills the mites. Your dog’s entire body will need to be treated, and so they will normally be dipped or shampooed over a period of several weeks to ensure all the mites, and their eggs, are eliminated.

Seborrhea

What is seborrhea?

Canine seborrhea is a secondary skin condition which can occur as a result of allergies, parasites, autoimmune disorders, endocrine disorders or dietary deficiencies. Seborrhea causes a buildup of oil and flaky skin in the dog’s fur, which will gather around the ears, elbows, armpits, and under the belly. Seborrhea can cause itching, and if left untreated, the scratching can lead to bleeding, hair loss and skin infections.

Seborrhea is sometimes hereditary, and is more common in the following breeds of dog:

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Basset Hound
  • Dachshund
  • Doberman
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Shar-Pei
  • West Highland White Terrier

How to treat seborrhea

Your veterinarian will conduct tests to determine whether the seborrhea is a result of an allergy or digestive disorder so they can treat the underlying cause. They will prescribe medicated baths to treat the skin, and potentially vitamin or mineral supplements if the condition is the result of a deficiency.

How to prevent seborrhea

Unfortunately, there is no cure for seborrhea. However, your veterinarian may recommend making changes to your pet’s diet and lifestyle to help keep the condition under control.

Yeast infection

What is a yeast infection in dogs?

A yeast infection occurs when there is an overabundance of yeast on a dog’s skin, which can be the result of an underlying problem such as an allergy or hormonal disorder. Symptoms include greasy or scaly skin, swelling, redness, odor, itching, licking, head shaking, and hair loss.

How to treat a yeast infection

To treat your dog’s yeast infection, your veterinarian will first have to determine the underlying cause to help prevent future outbreaks. They will normally prescribe anti-fungal medications, as well as disinfecting and degreasing shampoos to help clear the infection.

How to prevent yeast infections

There are several things you can do to prevent the build-up of yeast on your dog’s skin. Swimming and over-exercising can cause moisture to remain on your dog’s skin, creating the perfect conditions for yeast to grow. A high-carb diet can also encourage yeast growth, so try and avoid pet foods and treats which contain potatoes, wheat, rice and honey, and try and bathe your dog regularly using anti-fungal dog shampoo, particularly during the summer months.