Common skin ailments

Dog skin disorders are probably the most crucial disorders dog owners have to deal with. The dogs skin and coat are indicators for its general health. Once skin rashes occur they can be long lasting problems requiring persistent treatments. It is important for you to prevent dog skin disorders and rashes.

Dog skin ailments are indicated by itchy scalp, skin rashes, hair loss, scabs, or very dry skin.

  • Keep your dog parasite free. Internal and external parasites can cause many skin disorders. Ticks, fleas, lice, intestinal worms, or mites cause itching and skin rashes that lead to secondary skin infections.

  • Groom your dog regularly to recognize skin disorders, parasites, or skin rashes. Irritating pebbles, seeds, or skin tumors can hide and will only be found during brushing grooming.

  • Avoid frequent bathing with shampoo. It dries out the natural oils and alters the pH-level of the skin.

  • Poor nutrition and mineral deficiency weakens your dog's immune system and can lead to some skin disorders.

  • Hereditary factors sometimes play a role in skin disorders. For example, dogs with predisposition to demodectic mange can pass this to their offspring.

  • Environmental irritants can cause eczema and other dog skin disorders. This can be from a plant, fragrance, detergent, or possibly a pesticide used in the garden.

Itchy skin disorders

Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange): The most common cause of intense itching. Small red spots like insect bites on the skin of the ears, elbows and hocks. Identify mites. Typical crusty ear tips.

Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiella Mange): Puppies two to twelve weeks. Dry flakes over the neck and back. Mild itching.

Fleas: Itching and scratching along the back, around the tail and hindquarters. Fleas and/or black and white gritty specks in the hair (fleas feces and eggs). Fleas very mobile.

Lice: Found in poorly kept dogs with matted coats. Not Common. Look for lice or nits beneath mats. May have bald spots.

Ticks: Large insects fasten onto the skin. Blood ticks may swell to pea-size. Cause irritation at the site of the bite. Can be difficult to remove intact. Often found beneath ear flaps and where hair is thin.

Damp Hay Itch (Pelodera): Severe itch caused by a worm larva. Must have contact with damp marsh hay.

Inhalation Allergy (Canine Atopy): Severe itching, face-rubbing and licking at paws (hay fever-type symptoms.) Often begins at the same time each year (seasonal pollens). Certain breeds more susceptible.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis: Follows flea infestation. Pimplelike rash over the head of the tail, back of rear legs and inner thighs. Scratching continues after fleas have been killed.

Contact Dermatitis: Itching and skin irritation at site of contact with chemical, detergent, paint, dye, etc. Usually affects the feet and hairless parts of the body.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis: Requires repeated or continuous contact with allergens (i.e., flea collar). Rash may spread beyond area of contact.

Food Allergy Dermatitis: Non seasonal itching with reddened skin, papules, pustules and wheals. Found over the rump, abdomen and back of the legs. Skin becomes thickened and dark.

Lick Sores (Acral Pruritic Dermatitis): Mainly in large, short-coated individuals. Starts with licking at wrist or ankle.

Fly-bite Dermatitis: Painful bites at tips of erect ears and bent surfaces of floppy ears. Bites become scabbed, crusty-black and bleed easily.

Hormone related skin ailments

Thyroid Deficiency (Hypothyroidism): Males and females. Coat is thin and scanty. Hair is brittle and coarse and falls out easily. Tends to involve the body and neck. Skin is thick, sometimes darker.

Cortisone Excess (Adrenal Gland Hyper function): Can be caused by prolonged medication with steroids. Males and females. Hair loss in symmetrical pattern, especially over the trunk and body. Skin is thin. Does not involve the head and neck.

Estrogen Excess (Hyperestrinism): Mainly in females. Hair has greasy feel, falls out along flanks and abdomen. Buildup of wax in ears. In males, consider a testicle tumor, especially with a retained testicle. Loss of hair in genital area. Nipples enlarge. Dry skin and brittle hair.

Estrogen Deficiency (Hypoestrinism): Mainly in spayed females. Scanty hair growth (thin coat). Skin is smooth and soft, like a baby's skin.

Skin ailments with loss of hair

Zinc Responsive Dermatosis: Crusty, scaly skin with hair loss over the face, nose, elbows and hocks. Cracked feet. Caused by zinc deficiency. Arctic breeds most susceptible.

Acanthosis Nigrans: Hair loss begins in armpit folds. Black, thick, greasy, rancid-smelling skin. Mainly in Dachshunds.

Color Mutant Alopecia (Blue Syndrome): Dry, thin, brittle hair over the body, giving a moth-eaten look. Papules and pustules appear on involved skin. Has a genetic basis in blue- and fawn-colored Dobermans. Can affect other breeds.

Seborrhea: Dry type: similar to dandruff. Greasy type: hair and skin is oily; yellow brown greasy scales on skin. Hair loss in circular patches, resembles ringworm. Rancid odor.

Ringworm (Fungus Infection): Scaly, crusty and red circular patches 1/2" — 2" in size with hair loss at center and red margin at periphery of ring. Affects all parts of coat. Looks healthy unless complicated by scabs and crusts. Some cases involve a large area with hair loss.

Demodectic Mange (two forms): Localized--Moth-eaten look due to hair loss around eyelids, mouth and front legs. Patches about 1" in diameter. Dogs and bitches less than one year old. Generalized- Progression of the above. Numerous patches enlarge and coalesce. Severe skin problem complicated by pyoderma. Affects dogs of all ages, primarily young purebreds.

Calluses (Elbow Sores): Gray, hairless, wrinkled pads of skin usually over elbow but can occur over any bony pressure point from lying on hard surfaces.

Skin ailments with bumps under the skin

Papillomas and Warts: Grow out from the skin and look like warts or pieces of chewing gum stuck to the skin. Can occur in the mouth. Not painful.

Hematomas: Collections of blood beneath skin, especially of the ears. Caused by trauma.

Tender Knots: Frequently found at the site of a shot or vaccination. Resolve spontaneously. Often painful.

Cysts: Smooth lumps beneath skin. May grow slowly. Can discharge cheesy material. Become infected. Otherwise not painful.

When a Lump May Be a Cancer: Rapid enlargement; appears hard and fixed to surrounding tissue; any lump growing from bone; a lump that starts to bleed; a mole that begins to spread and/or ulcerate; unexplained open sore that does not heal, especially on feet or legs; any lump in the breast. Note: Only way to tell for sure is to biopsy the lump.