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Dog Skin Problems: Skin Allergies

Updated on January 13, 2016

An Owner's Overview of Skin Problems

Dogs who repeatedly rub against furniture or continually lick and chew their coat may be suffering from a skin disorder. There are several problems that have some symptoms in common. They include:

  • Bald spots
  • Swelling
  • Scaly areas
  • Lesions
  • Rashes
  • Redness
  • Scabs
  • Drainage

Any one or a combination of these should be checked by a veterinarian.

Bacterial infections can take hold anywhere, but can often be found on a canine's chin. The indicators of bacterial infections are:

  • Red or ulcerated skin
  • Yellow pustules
  • Crusty patches

Treatment of bacterial infections is usually antiseptics or antibiotics. Often this type of infection is secondary to a hormone imbalance, allergy, or parasites.

Fungal infections are somewhat different, and can be identified by the following:

  • They often begin on a dog's head or legs.
  • Circular patches with crusted centers and hair loss can be a sign of ringworm.

A vet can take a culture or use ultraviolet light to diagnose this problem. Fungicidal rinses and shampoos are used for treatment. Humans can pick up ringworm from a dog but it is easily treated and cured.

Mites or parasites can be identified by these symptoms:

  • Dogs that obsessively scratch their ears
  • Ear mites may not be easy to see but often leave a trail of dried blood and discharge.
  • Mange is a disease caused by fleas.
  • Mild or intense itching
  • Round spots of hair loss
  • Red, scaly dermis
  • Crusty areas
  • Hair loss

Medicated shampoos, dips, and antibiotics are usually prescribed.

Allergies can also cause skin problems. Flea saliva, mold, pollen, and dust can all trigger allergies.

  • Some allergens, like flea saliva, cause skin irritation with severe itching.
  • If a dog continually licks a specific area on its body it may be a "hot spot," a patch where the dermis is especially irritated.
  • Although hot spots are often red and moist looking, they may appear normal.

A veterinarian can use a change in diet, immuno-therapy, antihistamines, and corticosteroids to treat allergies in canines.

Hormonal problems can also manifest as skin problems. As with people, sometimes a canine's thyroid, adrenal or pituitary gland starts secreting too much hormone, or too little. This can cause epidermal disease.

  • There is usually no itching but the dermis may change color and be thinner or thicker than usual.
  • The dog may lose hair from both sides of the body.

To treat this, vets first address the underlying gland disease, such as hypothyroidism.

Other causes include:

  • A dog's grooming products be specifically made for canines, human products can irritate its skin.
  • The winter season can trigger flaky, rough or dry patches on dogs and dog owners alike.
  • Dermis trouble can also erupt when dogs do not get enough mental stimulation or physical activity. The symptom for this is usually obsessive licking on the legs.

There are actions owners can take to ensure a beloved pet's well-being and prevent problems:

  • Effective flea control.
  • Regular brushing to keep the coat from matting.
  • Using natural or hypoallergenic shampoos.
  • Regular house cleaning
  • Go to the vet at the first sign of issues, as most of these problems are highly treatable when caught early.

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More About Allergies

If you have ever been around an allergies sufferer, you already know that it's uncomfortable for humans and canines alike. The licking, scratching, bleeding, cracking, and chewing are far from desirable. Here are some more tips about caring for a dog with skin allergies.

  • While it is certainly understandable that your dog is driving you crazy with all of the itching and scratching, separating him from the rest of the household is like punishing him for having allergies. Your dog relies on you for his security and sense of safety. If you suddenly take away that security and prevent him from annoying you while you watch TV you're only creating more problems.
  • Stress can also result in more hives. When you put a dog into a situation that is both physically and emotionally uncomfortable the results can actually be tragic. The typical allergic reaction that a pup will experience will be a lot like the ones their favorite human feels.
  • The most common cause of allergies in canines is dog food. Dog food that is made with byproducts, wheats or grasses tends to have a high rate of allergic responses. While any kind of dog can experience a food related reaction it is especially important that you monitor high-risk breeds. The American Staffordshire terrier is among the group of dogs who tend to have a higher rate of allergic incidents than other breeds. You can use the breed standard as a guide for how likely the food will be to induce a reaction in a new or fostered dog.
  • Allergic reactions are technically a faulty response of the airway. Allergies cause the immune system to over-saturate itself and release the chemicals in the body that will create hives, itching, and other common symptoms. The histamine is released and the skin begins to itch. The subsequent scratching is actually helping to spread the suffering around, as it moves the hormones produced by the bite or sting. Part of treating badly affected skin is to have the ability to help calm and sooth the irritation while also building trust and a real relationship with your pal.
  • Food allergies are so common that some vets will tell you to go change his food, recommend a few alternatives, and only come in if the situation doesn't improve. Depending on other things throughout the transition from one food to another, your dog may very well be just one of the canines that has to let his body catch up.
  • Skin tends to heal rather slowly, and you will want spend some time considering extra things you can do for your pup's health. Alternatives can include a raw diet for him, home-cooked diets which are really not commonly nutritionally sound, supplements, and medication in the event or as a preventative.

Dog skin allergies can be narrowed down in most cases by the breaking out, washing, scratching, and standard breathing rate if evaluated by a vet. However, many vets actually do prefer to do skin testing only after changes have been made in the dog's food. Living with this kind of problem is difficult, but it is much more difficult for your dog.


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Did anyone give Jaime D. a response to his question regarding the picture above? I am noticing VERY similar spots on our dog's abdomen.


    • profile image

      Jaime Dawson 

      8 years ago

      Hi there,

      I'm wondering what the skin issue is in the top picture. Any ideas if it's skin allergies or thyroid. My dogs stomach has this exact same thing but I'm at a loss for the cause.



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