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Health & Wellness

8 common dog skin conditions

The treatment options vary depending on the skin condition.

Whether it’s rashes and scabs, flaky skin or red, irritated patches, when our best friend's skin isn't looking right, we want to do everything we can to get them back to feeling their best.

But, you should never diagnose or treat your pet's skin issues yourself — those are jobs for your vet. You can, however, research common skin conditions, so you're prepared for conversations around treatment at the checkup. And we can help you there.

What are common dog skin conditions?

If your pup is licking like crazy, biting at their skin or paws or has missing fur patches, they might be experiencing one of many common skin conditions. 

Changes in your dog’s skin are worth paying attention to and scheduling a vet visit for. Here’s what to keep an eye on, according to Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian. 

Dermatitis

Similar to dermatitis in humans, dermatitis in dogs can be a catch-all phrase for skin inflammation.

This condition’s symptoms can vary as much as the underlying cause, Dr. Singler says. Some triggers include allergies, parasites (like fleas, ticks and mange), skin infections, injuries, contact irritation and autoimmune disease.

And if you've ever heard of contact dermatitis, that just refers to the specific irritants that cause a reaction after having direct contact with skin.

Dry Skin

If you’ve ever had dry skin, then you know how itchy and irritating it can be. According to Dr. Singler, dry skin in dogs can be caused by poor nutrition, excessive bathing or not using a soap-free shampoo.

“Often, omega-3 fatty acid supplements are recommended to help with dry skin, in addition to making sure your dog is on a high-quality diet as recommended by your veterinarian,” Dr. Singler adds.

Allergies

Skin allergies in dogs can be brought on by environmental irritants (think: plants, mold and dust), food (typically animal proteins) or parasites (fleas).

Mange

Two common types of mange — demodectic and scabies — are caused by tiny mites that live in hair follicles and on the skin's surface.

“Demodectic mange is a common organism on the surface of all dogs’ skin, but their immune system typically keeps it from becoming a problem,” Dr. Singler explains. 

Unfortunately, some dogs are unable to fight off the infection easily. For example, Dr. Singler says puppies with immature or suppressed immune systems can have a harder time preventing demodectic mange. 

Scabies is very contagious from pet to pet and even to humans. “This condition commonly causes intense itchiness along with crusting,” Dr. Singler explains. “It usually starts on the ears and face, elbows, abdomen, chest and legs, but it can continue to spread over the rest of the body if it’s not treated.”

Pyoderma

Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection that's usually secondary to another health condition, like allergies, parasites, hypothyroidism, reactions to certain medications, autoimmune diseases and more.

Folliculitis

Folliculitis happens when one or more hair follicles become inflamed either through exposure to bacteria or a condition called follicular dysplasia, where the hair cavity doesn’t form properly, making it more susceptible to infection. 

Seborrhea

“Seborrhea is a keratin formation disorder on the skin's surface,” Dr. Singler explains. If your dog has this condition, they may experience excessive flaking and could have an underlying infection or inflammation.

Fungal infections

Crusty skin can alert a fungal infection, like ringworm or yeast infections. “The most common fungal dog skin condition is Malassezia dermatitis or a superficial yeast infection,” Dr. Singler explains.

Malassezia yeast lives naturally on your pup’s skin. But it can overpopulate when an underlying condition like allergies, parasites or hormone changes disrupt the skin barrier. These infections can affect any part of your dog’s body but are most common in warm, moist areas like skin folds, groin areas and between the toes.

RELATED: What to know if your dog has skin tags

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‍Symptoms of common skin conditions in dogs

Skin conditions, regardless of what type, can be irritating for dogs. But the good news is that they’re manageable. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog is showing any of the following signs: 

  • Chronic itching, scratching, licking, chewing or biting
  • Skin lesions
  • Inflammation
  • Pimple-like pustules
  • Flakey skin
  • Rashes
  • Itchiness
  • Hot spots
  • Skin darkening
  • Thick and leathery skin from constant rubbing or scratching
  • Skin crusts and scabs from itching
  • Patchy hair loss, sometimes on large sections of the body
  • Ear infections

‍Treatment options for dog skin conditions

The symptoms of common skin conditions in dogs can overlap. That’s why Dr. Singler says treatment always starts with an examination by your veterinarian.

“Your veterinarian can help determine the full extent of treatment needed and advise you which at-home treatments are appropriate,” Dr. Singler says. “They can also advise you how to best care for your dog following their treatment to minimize the risk of recurrence.”

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.

Photo by Karin Hiselius on Unsplash

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