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How to Diagnose and Treat Common Puppy Skin Problems

Updated on August 1, 2012

Puppy skin is velvety soft to the touch and as tender as can be. All you need to is tickle your puppy’s tummy to feel his silky skin. Unfortunately, the more tender the skin, the more likely your puppy is to suffer from common skin problems.

The good news is that most of the problems are temporary and you can help your puppy get some relief. The bad news is that sometimes, the skin problems are a sign of another disorder. If your little guy’s skin is irritated for longer than a couple of days, it’s time to call the vet.

Dog Skin Problems are Hard on Both of You


Pyroderma in Puppies

That thin tender tummy skin is at risk for developing pyrodema, a common dog skin disorder in your puppy’s first few months of life. Pyroderma can be caused by your puppy lying in urine or on the grass if it irritates his bare skin.

Symptoms of pyroderma include redness, raised welts and bumps that resemble pimples on your puppy’s tummy. At the first sign of irritation, bathe the puppy in lukewarm water and pat dry his tummy. Apply betadine to fight further irritation and keep your puppy’s bedding and kennel clean and dry.

If pyroderma bumps become larger or if they are bigger than pimples, call your vet asap. In rare cases, the pyroderma can cause a secondary infection that can compromise your puppy’s health. It’s better to err on the side of caution.

Your vet may prescribe a round of antibiotics, but if the problem persists, ask your vet if you can give your dog Benadryl, an antihistamine, that that might reduce his reaction to grass, weeds or carpet cleaners.

Eek! Mites.

No one wants to believe that their puppy has mites, but it happens. Although it’s more common in large kennel and boarding facilities, it can happen in the cleanest homes as well.

The two most common types of mites, demodectic and sarcoptic, both result in intense itching and scratching, which can sometimes be so bad that your puppy scratches or chews sores in his skin. A vet will take a skin scraping to determine if your puppy has a mite infestation and then recommend a topical and (maybe) an oral medication or injections. In many cases, if one pet has mites, all the pets in a household must be treated for mites.


You’ll know soon enough if fleas are the culprits that are making your poor puppy itch and scratch. Fleas are tiny and dark and if you lay your puppy on his back, you might see them scurrying across his tummy. Fleas spread like wildfire, so your puppy will need to be bathed in a age-appropriate flea dip product at least two times – a week apart. You must launder his bedding and if your puppy plays on the carpet, you probably should treat the carpet and upholstered furniture as well.

Topical medications, like Frontline Plus are very effective for treating your puppy, but if your puppy is under three months of age, get your vet’s permission before applying the medication. Frontline Plus comes in pre-measured treatments to treat a dog’s specific weight and you must reapply them every two to three months during the summer flea season.


The name might be foreign to you, but puppy strangles is fairly common. It occurs in puppies younger than six months and it is caused by a misfiring immune system. This condition causes the skin on a puppy’s face to swell and it’s more common in certain breeds, including Golden and Labrador Retrievers and Dachshunds. Lhasa Apsos are also prone to developing puppy strangles. If your puppy exhibits facial swelling, call your vet. He might prescribe a round of steroids or antibiotics. Luckily, this is a temporary condition and most puppies outgrow it by the time they’re six months old.

Bathe Your Puppy the Right Way

Contact Dermatitis and Allergies

Puppy skin is still developing and exposure to harsh chemicals can be very irritating. Don’t bathe your puppy more than you have to so as to avoid drying out his skin, which contributes to irritation and itching. When you do bathe your puppy, use only a conditioning shampoo made for puppies. Human shampoos are not suitable for dogs. Rinse the shampoo out completely. If your puppy has sensitive skin, even a little bit of shampoo residue can leave him itchy and miserable.

To soothe intense itching, let your puppy sit in a tub of luke-cool clear water, which can alleviate the itch. This isn’t advisable, however, if you’ve just applied a topical flea or tick treatment.

If your puppy has a food allergy, feed only a high quality anti-allergy food designed to reduce the risk of a skin reaction.

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