12 Skin Conditions Commonly Found in Dogs
The sight and sound of your furry friend licking or scratching its paws constantly can be very irritating. But it's not always their fault. They could be suffering from any number of itchy, and sometimes painful, skin conditions.
From parasites to allergies or even a chronic illness, there are oh so many possible reasons your pup is uncomfortable in his own skin.
If your little guy has skin problems, it’s always best to check in with your vet to rule out any serious conditions.
In the meantime, take a look at these 12 common skin problems found in dogs:
- Yeast infection
- Alopecia (hair loss)
- Mange (Mites)
- Dry, flaky skin
- Acral lick dermatitis
- Immune disorders
What’s that smell? And why is Brutis licking and chewing on his feet so much? Sounds like he could have a yeast infection.
Not to worry, it’s pretty common, albeit unpleasant. Yeast, when balanced, is supposed to be on his skin. It’s when that balance gets out of whack that the excessive itching, licking and biting starts.
The infection usually affects areas where yeast has a warm, damp, cozy space to grow, like between the toes or in the ears.
Fortunately, yeast infections are easy to diagnose and often respond well to a topical cream. In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe oral drugs or medicated baths.
Folliculitis is an infection that causes sores, lumps and bumps, and scabs on the skin. Again, though, it’s fairly common and relatively easy to treat.
Folliculitis is easier to see on short-haired dogs. If your dog has longer hair, you may notice his coat looks a little dull. Upon closer inspection, you could also see more shedding than usual, or even some scaly skin underneath his fur.
Folliculitis often occurs in conjunction with other skin problems, such as mange, allergies, or even an injury.
Treatment of folliculitis may include oral antibiotics and antibacterial ointments. Check with your vet to be sure it isn’t anything more serious.
A bacterial infection that tends to manifest in puppies. It causes pus-filled blisters that can burst open and spread.
The blisters typically develop on the hairless portion of a dog’s tummy. It’s rarely serious and can often be treated with a topical solution. In a small number of cases, however, the infection can spread or persist.
If topical treatment isn’t clearing things up, call your vet for alternative solutions.
Seborrhea causes a dog's skin to become greasy and makes skin flakey, causing dandruff.
In some cases, seborrhea is a genetic disease that can persist throughout a dog’s entire lifetime. For other dogs, seborrhea can be caused by another medical issue, like allergies or a hormone imbalance.
The seborrhea itself is generally treated with medicated shampoos.
Some people think ringworm is caused by worms. It’s not.
The name ringworm describes a fungal dog skin condition that appears in circular patches. They can crop up anywhere on your dog’s body, but are most frequently found on the head, paws, ears, and front legs.
Inflammation, dry skin, and bald spots tend to surround the lesions.
Puppies less than a year old are most susceptible to ringworm. And it’s contagious. The infection can spread quickly between dogs in a kennel or even to pet owners at home!
Treatment for ringworm depends on its severity.
Mild cases require topical solutions, like creams and ointments, applied to the affected area. Medicated shampoos twice a week may also be recommended.
In extreme cases, topical therapy is backed with antifungal oral medications, such as griseofulvin. However, newer drugs such as itraconazole or terbinafine (Lamisil) are being used more frequently and are often preferred because they have fewer side effects.
Shedding and Hair Loss (Alopecia)
Pets shed. Some more than others, but most of them do it just the same.
How much shedding is normal depends on breed, time of year, and the environment. But sometimes stress, poor nutrition, or illness can cause a pet to lose more hair than usual.
Alopecia itself is harmless. If abnormal or excessive shedding persists for more than one week, though, or you notice patches of missing fur, check with your veterinarian to rule out potentially serious illnesses.
Mange is a skin disorder caused by tiny parasites called mites.
Mange spreads easily between dogs. It can also spread from dogs to people. Fortunately, mites can’t survive on humans. Whew!
But if you notice symptoms like intense itching, red skin, sores, and hair loss, your dog might have mange. Mange can cause bald spots, scabbing, and sores most often on his ears, face and legs.
The approved treatments for mange include demodex, sulfurated lime or amitraz. If those don’t work, your vet may recommend a high dose prescription of Heartgard Plus Chewables (ivermectin) or something similar.
Argh, fleas! You may not see the tiny insects themselves, but flea droppings and eggs are usually visible in your dog's coat.
If your dog (or cat) is excessively licking or scratching, or you see scabs and hot spots on the skin, he might have fleas.
Severe flea infestations can cause blood loss and anemia, and can even expose your dog to other parasites, such as tapeworms.
Flea treatment may include a topical and/or oral medication. You’ll also have to use a flea-killing formula to rid your house and yard of those pesky little critters.
Like fleas, ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts. Ticks are larger, making them much easier to spot on your dog than fleas.
To properly remove a tick, grasp the tick with tweezers close to the dog’s skin, and gently pull it straight out. Do not twist when pulling or the head can get lodged in your dog’s skin, which can lead to infection.
Place the tick in a jar with some alcohol for several days. Once you’re sure it’s dead, throw it away. Better yet, flush it!
Ticks can cause blood loss and anemia. They can also transmit Lyme disease and other potentially serious bacterial infections.
Dry, Flaky Skin
Dry, flaky skin can be a red flag for a number of issues, like allergies or mange. Fortunately, more often than not, dry or flaky skin is nothing to be concerned about.
Make sure you are feeding your pup high-quality food. If you’re concerned your doggo isn’t fully absorbing all the nutrients he needs to maintain healthy skin, you can add a supplement.
PureForm’s Omega3 is ideal for dry, flaky skin.
Acral Lick Dermatitis
This frustrating skin condition is caused by compulsive, constant licking of one particular area—most often on the front of the lower leg.
The cause of acral lick dermatitis is often psychological, deriving from fear, anxiety, or an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
When pets start the cycle of licking obsessively, a wound can form and infection can set in. The affected area is unable to heal because the pet continues to lick it.
Try to discourage your dog from licking. Common treatments include using a bad-tasting topical solution or an Elizabethan collar.
In rare cases, skin lesions or infections that refuse to heal can indicate an immune disorder in your dog. One of the best known conditions is lupus, a disease that affects both dogs and people.
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, which means the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. Symptoms include skin abnormalities and kidney problems. It can be fatal if untreated.
Not all skin conditions are emergencies, yet it is important to get a proper diagnosis from a vet so the condition can be treated.
Most skin conditions respond well to treatment when they’re properly diagnosed. Still, the best way to treat skin conditions is to prevent them in the first place.
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